LivingLens is one of the businesses taking part in the Platform-X accelerator that Virgin StartUp and Virgin Trains East coast have partnered to create. For the next weeks the businesses will be working closely with innovation experts to scale up and develop their ideas. Here Kat Hounsell of LivingLens describes how the experience is going so far - click here and here to read about previous weeks.

The Platform-X accelerator is rapidly approaching its conclusion. Our business cases are in, with excellent feedback from across the team. Rather than just playing a waiting game, this week’s session was all about looking forward and planning for a successful outcome.

The companies on the Platform-X journey offer a wide range of products and services. Regardless of the size and scale of the project, the key factors that need to be considered are common across them all. Two of these are risk and governance.

Risk

Risk can sound negative and a little bit scary. In fact, it’s just a way of identifying what issues may arise, how best to avoid them and how to manage them if unfortunately, they do happen. By brainstorming areas of risk and looking for solutions upfront you can put yourself on a path to succeed. It also works both ways – there are elements of risk for both parties involved. Knowing the areas of risk can help to ensure the contract negotiations are open and fair.

Governance

Governance, workflows and processes don’t necessarily jump put at you as being core to innovation. They are the areas that can seem to be holding things back - one of the reasons why corporates look to startups in the first place. In reality, when working with corporates they are essential for ensuring an innovation doesn’t remain just another idea. By understanding and planning for how your innovation will impact existing processes, you can help to minimise risk, identify champions across the business, and avoid ideas being seen as just more work to do. They help to embed an innovation within a business.

Although many factors are the same, one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to measuring success. We entered Platform-X to answer four very different business challenges, but even armed with that information, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you can instantly put a measure on it.

Success isn’t the same across all companies. A trial at two different companies could elicit the same result, but only one might be deemed a success. It’s all down to what’s important to them, and what their measurements of success are. Each project needs that personal touch. Although everyone might have a gut feel if something has gone well or not, putting hard targets against this can be a bit more challenging. A gut feel just isn’t going to cut it to drive innovation forward.

As part of Platform-X, the trial period is key. Its success will determine whether there will be a full roll-out, and not just with Virgin Trains EC, but potentially with other rail companies and Virgin Group companies too. The trial needs to be the right size and scale. Manageable enough to be considered a trial with the appropriate time and effort devoted to it, but on a scale that can demonstrate value. Value that can be measured. Without defining expectations and goals, the process can’t move forward. We have to put metrics where our mouths are, the ‘selling’ phase is coming to an end - as they say, the proof is in the pudding.

One of the benefits of being part of the Platform-X accelerator programme is that we are not in it alone. The fantastic support of the innovation team means that together we are working on the success metrics and together we are going to attempt to achieve them. It’s hard to be a success on your own, particularly in a corporate environment. You need those champions to fight your corner and help any innovation to succeed.

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