Project Outcome Section In this module, our team

Project Outcome Section

In this module, our team generated a lot of ideas in the way of design our thinking and accordingly create an innovational approach to solve an up-to-date business case.  Through these ten weeks, I understand how to conduct innovation process in four steps individually, which are idea generation, development, commercialization, and delivery. Also, I grasp the skill to create an app based prototype via accessing IBM Bluemix. This module enables me to develop my commercial awareness in a project team-based approach to increase my attractiveness to employers. Our scenario is an innovation team for a train company offers various commuter services and long distance services between towns and cities in the UK. Main weaknesses that we are facing is better deliver customer services including both ticketing and on-train service as the company needs to avoid a negative impact on the business. One key innovative challenge when we are developing is the consideration of the impact and feasibility of the proposed ideas. Initially, a range of potential solutions are proposed which are additional carriages such as double-decker train carriages in Paris, stable and faster Wi-Fi connection, “top-up as you go” system, TV screen for each seat and a fully functional app provides all kind of information and services. However, the CEO would most concern the cost in a real-life situation. In terms of additional carriages generation like double-decker train carriages, although it can increase the passenger capacity and generate additional revenues in the future, it seems unrealistic as the train company needs to replace its train fleets and the government regulation may involve so the train company may face an extremely high capitalized cost. Also, a “top-up as you go” system means all the railway ticket gates need to install this technology to enhance the passenger turnover. The cost of this technology is hard to predict and create an economic uncertainty in the future development. Nevertheless, after we expressed our ideas to the tutor, it seems is inappropriate to conduct all these improvements in the same time due to the extra costs will rise in the future and less likely to persuade our clients. Then we come out the idea to concentrate some of these distinct ideas to a single idea which creates an app combines some functions from the range of entertainments to seat availability checking. This implied the idea of deliberating the factor of existing ideas in a different context. I realized what innovation specifically means in the commercial world for the first time.

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Relevant evidence can be found on an industrial scale. Average one out of five rail passengers in the UK complains about the poor customer services. Passengers’ complaint ratio increases year after year. Train passengers pay a large amount of money on the ticket and receive an unmatched outcome. What is worse, there are penalty policies apply for those do not meet the desired standard (Chaplam, 2017). All these findings lead to a core competence of better user experience. To conquer this dilemma, we decide to develop a better Wi-Fi connection and create an app with a key entertainment program consisting of TV shows, games, train schedule, web browsing and alarm that notify you when the train is approaching your destination.


From now on, the initial idea was settle and what we did next is visualizing our key ideas on the digital prototype. To me, a prototype is a key element that makes you are different to your competitors. In our case, we developed a GPS tracking system for the rail online so people can have the clue of knowing where they are on the map. By clicking the train symbol on the map, the system can offer you a specific explanation of which train the passenger on board and a list of information including the timetable, the station that will via and the delay time before approaching each station.


It is always important to present your value proposition as a mean to persuade your clients. In our case, we proposed “Relax with Rail-X. No longer plan your rail journeys or worry about preparing for delays. An app now does it for you”. In real life situation, trains are often delayed and customers are always struggling to find an alternative solution. The aim of this app is to minimize the customer’s stress by notifying customers when the train is delayed and timely providing alternative routes. All these processes can be done within one single app rather than switching between different apps. Personally, I believe this project is successful with a huge commercial value and market prospect. First of all, this functional app can make commuters free stress with rapid and potential solutions. It is also capable to reduce complaints from angry customers and increase brand loyalty. It can further improve customer service by no longer queuing up to ask both train attendant and information desk. People are not necessary to crowding around departure board and they are less confusion on knowing where to go and what they should do. If train delayed, the app automatically changes your current ticket to allow you to get a later train. However, there are some expected costs and risks that we need to consider and the train company need to accordingly adjust its strategy and operation. For instance, the app should be cheap to implement but it cost developers to create the app. During the development process, some technology patents may involve such as coding. Also, it is important to pay the developer for the app maintain and the system upgrade. Employees training is another factor that needs to be concerned when customers order food via the app on board. The potential risk may generate when the development costs are greater than the financial benefits. In this way, the train company may less concern when commuters can get a better experience. To sum up, this project will generate a significant cost at the beginning operation but the cost will minimize and benefit to the customers in the long run due to the economics of scale. Therefore, I believe our clients are likely to progress this innovational project through to delivery and commercialization.


Lesson Learned

Major contents of the outcome including before and after storyboard, introduction and value proposition, prototype, demo, business case, and conclusion. Each stage takes some time to research, analyze and develop which means we all working the business case under time pressure every week. I always stay motivated and productive to achieve my best results when I work under time pressure as it helps me gain experience. But at first, we should not avoid considering what sponsors really care about of our projects. In the sixth lecture, the head of innovation Ian Smith in ROQ already introduced us what factors that a sponsor needs to concern.  From my perspective, a sponsor would consider how many resources must be invested, how long the additional time needs to take when the unforeseen issues occur and the way to limit end users’ sprawling needs. After a fuller understanding of what a sponsor want and need, we can design and select the most appropriate solution center for both customers and sponsors’ needs and wants. To me, the best way for presentation preparation to our clients is to spend extra time and discuss the problems and solutions with my teammates every week. We have done this since week 6 and it is always effective to solve the problems that we could not solve in the class. We determined a minimum viable product (MVP) as the core competence of our strategy. During the discussion, everyone has a clear division of work by knowing which part they are responsible and what they are going to present to our clients in the presentation. For my part, I was concentrated on the after storyboard which needs to reflect what and how the customer benefits from the “Rail-X” app and try to present it in a funny and vivid way. In this storyboard, Andrew is going to close a business deal in Norwich but the train to Norwich has been cancelled when he is waiting for his train in Thetford station. However, the “Rail-X” app has automatically calculated alternative routes for him and he finally manages to seal the deal in the office without any cost.


Innovation Analysis

Instead of being solely considered as a major economic driver, innovation refers to discover new ways of doing business and accordingly modify the business model to adopt changes in the industry (Henderson, 2017). The majority of managers think innovation is very important in their organization’s agenda nowadays. Therefore, an understanding of motivations behind organizational innovations can assist us to better understand what customers really need and want. Key motivations behind organizational innovation including competitive advantage creation, better value for customer’s demand, partnering and supply integration (Stewart, 2006). An empirical example is Warlmart partnering with Google to compete with Amazon by allowing their users to purchase through voice order since August 2017. This alignment can boost Warlmart to regain its leadership in the e-commerce industry. Different innovations have been introduced in the first lecture. For the incremental innovation, it refers to non-transformative improvement to existing products, services, operations and business models. In case of disruptive innovation, it indicates the potential to change the entire industry and create a new business model. Examples can be found especially in the digital economy such as Uber, Amazon, and Telstar. The last innovation named open innovation and it is the most feasible one regard to the customer service improvement in the rail market. Two aspects can be divided within this innovation which are “outside in” and “inside out”. The major distinction between two aspects is one is using the external ideas and technologies to improve the firm’s innovation process, while the other is internal ideas and technologies are incorporated into others’ innovation process. It is no doubt that the “outside in” fit our strategy more accurately as we are looking for sponsorship and technology from the market to create “Rail-X” app. When we progress the open innovation, key enablers of innovation including leadership, people, process, funding and culture all need to be considered regarding our business case. Since we have established which innovation we are using, we can use the design thinking technique to generate potential ideas and then select one idea to focus on the innovation project. There are four steps need to be accomplished in this technique, namely end user and empathy map, as in scenario, big ideas, and prioritization grid. Initially, we imaged and identify a specific persona as an end user. We decided the persona is Andrew who is 35, a marketing manager is a singer without own car, works full time and take commuter service on every weekday. Then we moved on to the empathy map to think what Andrew says, thinks, does and feels about the poor customer service. Some key contents have been displayed below.

We summarised the key pain points for Andrew are poor Wi-Fi connection, low availability of seating, train tickets are over-priced and constant delayed or cancelled trains. “As is Scenario” relates to what Andrew is doing, thinking and feeling when he going to his office through the train. Some major components are displayed below.

In addition, we developed some potential solutions and review them by considering the trade-off between the degree of impact and feasibility to see which idea performs best from a prioritization grid. The result indicates both better Wi-Fi connection and instant notification when the train is delayed or cancelled are the most valuable and therefore we should concentrate on them in the next step. More specific details are displayed below.  

It is fair to say the design thinking technique is an excellent time management tool as it identifies the pain points and tests our ideas quickly and accurately by creating an empathetic scenario. These testing generate the final outcome and guarantee to meet client requirements. Also, this brainstorming approach enables us to step outside of the traditional boxes to think creatively and find new solutions when we are facing the same old issues.


Innovation Management Process

In week 2, we used the design thinking technique by identifying a persona and see what he or she says, thinks, does and feels in the scenario. Then we set a prioritization grid into two categories to consider the trade-off between impact and feasibility to see which idea is most appropriate one. In week 3, key ideas were summarised on a list also a paper prototype.

In week 6, a consideration of who is the specific user, what specific user enablement it is and what is the differentiating value of the user has been undertaken. This enabled us to update new ideas both in storyboard and business case. Since week 7, we continually prepared our presentation in the format of before storyboard, introduction and value proposition, prototype, demo, after storyboard, business case, and conclusion. To summarize, several potential next steps that I can imagine are the cost of reduction, more specific details to demonstrate in prototype, identify the amount of resource allocation and project evaluation to eliminate the uncertainty.


Innovation Step Back

Initially, we focused on the ideas of better Wi-Fi connection on board and TV screen installation with mobile connection availability on each seat without carefully consider the budget. We should narrow down our ideas next time in order to maximise the resource utilization. More ideas we have proposed, more concentration will be disrupted. Also, due to the speciality of people from the different academic background, we should let people decide what they are adept at instead of telling what he or she is going to take in charge. By doing this, a rational human resource utilization can be undertaken.


Commercial Awareness – Project Context

Ideally, due to the unfavourable performance in the rail industry, a significant improvement can be focused on eliminate pain points and enhance customer experience. Although British government keeps investing in the industry, some railway companies still make a significant loss in the market. Therefore, our proposals aim to increase revenues in the long-term through “trust equity” with customers. However, base on the character of diversified development in the market, a timescale consideration must be conducted in our business case. For instance, a tendering process may involve when the company seeking a corporative developer in the long run. Also, the premise of whether the company should launch the app on Android or IOS system or doing both should decide by a survey’s result.


Commercial Awareness – Key Lessons Learned

Sponsorship offers more competitive force by improving the firm’s public image, reputation, and credibility in the target market. Typical sources of funding and investment including clients, business unit budgets, venture capital, wider external sources, investors and internal innovation funds. But the rail industry is getting increasingly unstable as strikes, delayed or cancelled trains and fare hikes are affecting many commuters in the UK. Given an example, Network Rail and the Office of Rail and Road published the performance data indicated there are 29.5% of Southern Mainline and Coast services were late which is nearly three in every ten operations. Although Southern Mainline and Coast services were late due to a long-running strike, some train companies are performing badly as a lack of investment in the operation. For instance, research indicates insufficient investment in Ireland’s rail services caused train delayed or cancelled lead to a significant reduction in the service quality and efficiency. The insufficient demand for service cannot meet the increasing passenger numbers and therefore lead to an unprecedented large amount of complaints from passengers (MacNamee, 2017). All these findings indicate there are different factors can trigger the failure of train company’s operations and we must target the most significant pain point to survive in the long run.


Collaboration Skills

Although creative people always prefer to work individually, it is critical to pay attention to the role of interaction and collaboration with others (Fischer, 2005). Our multi-cultural team consists of people from different countries including Singapore, China and Britain and different academic backgrounds which broaden our horizons by knowing railway infrastructure from different countries. Although we do not have any real end user and clients during the project development process. We are as close to his life as possible and clarify the major pain points for him. In addition, our supervisors acted as the role of clients for us to see whether these proposals are attracting to them. In week 9, as the competitive team act as the innovation sponsor, we presented our works and received some positive feedback and suggestions so we can further improve our project quality to be more persuasive before the final presentation. In my view, I like the way that the peer team presented their ideas on an emulation app which you can click the button and the app will direct you to the appointed page. I must say their dedicated and impressive works are a salutary lesson to rethink how our digital presentation can be more attractive to our audiences.


Communication Skills

Communicating our innovation project by exchanging ideas can influence people to do what we need from them so we can move forward to the next step. Several communication methods have been used in the project planning stage, including storytelling, group meetings, social media, written documents, and presentation. In our case, we use the paper storyboard to tell a story. A demonstration of a story can assist audiences to identify key values and see how things are done in both verbal and virtual way (Shethna, 2016). Social media like Whatsapp and university email are being used as a key communication platform throughout ten-week

 learnings. It is an effective way to sharing our ideas among team members regardless the location and time. This communicational method is easily accessible and inexpensive. Also, we arranged several group meetings in Laidlaw every week.  Group meetings as a verbal communication enable us to explain clearly when something needs to be discussed in more details.