Week 41 – From Concepting towards Production

In summary, we:

  • Created value propositions
  • Began the work with the prototype
  • Cleared our vision with Lean Canvases

UX, Monday 9.10

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The lecture was held in the Makerspace in The Harald Herlin Learning Centre. The lecture was of usability and testing it. After the lecture we had a possibility of having a conversation with professor Giesecke, and to explain her how our group has been working, and how the Open Topic is, from our point of view, an amazing opportunity. We wish strongly that this option is available also the following years.

We also worked enthusiastically  with the project plan and so iterated our ideas and created a better understanding of the whole project.

The Prototype, Friday 13.10

On Friday we attended the lecture, where we gained some new ideas about prototyping a product or concept. More specifically, we understood the importance to keep prototypes simple and quick to implement so that the intended insights can be collected with reasonable efforts. This ensures that the iterative product development process remains truly agile.

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After the lecture we started to plan and implement our prototype. We decided to use a prototype platform named proto.io, because our team members had good experiences from that in some of their previous projects. It also suits our needs quite perfectly, since it allows us to build a prototype that clearly demonstrates both the functional and visual aspects of our product to our potential customers. The most important thing however, is that using the platform is quick and intuitive, which gives us a lot of agility in building and refining our prototypes.

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The Lean Canvases

During the week 40 (previous week) we created Lean Canvases according to the instructions from Risto Sarvas.

Lean Canvas

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The value propositions

To keep the goals goal clear in our minds, our team sat down and extracted the fundamental ideas behind our idea. And we would like to share here with you.

First of all:

What is the solution that we are looking for?

Make loan-market an easy option for even small investments and bring down the interest on small loans.

How is the user affected by the problem?

Entering the financial market without large capital is not seen as an option – and on the other hand getting a small loan currently is quite easy, but really expensive.

Promise of value?

We promise to connect the loanees and the loaners to create a market for healthy interest.

Using these ideas to reflect on our work, we hope to produce the best possible product before the Grand Finale.

 

The Prototype

On Friday we started building our first prototype. The weapon of choice for this section was selected to be Proto.io – a platform that allows for prototyping for screen interfaces. We settled on iPhone 6 styled UI.

With all the ideas from previous weeks in mind, we started prototyping. We ended up quickly discarding quite few of those ideas, since many of them didn’t make sense when included into the app.

Here’s a small sneak peek for the prototype

Week 40 – Gaining insight

This weeks themes were to develop a project plan, and since we are a bit ahead of other groups regarding the product development, we also gathered information and insight regarding the concept and use of PSD2 to implement our ideas. In summary, we:

  • Pitched our idea on Mondays session
  • Contacted professionals regarding the use of PSD2
  • Met on Friday to discuss about our concept in the light of the emails and develop a project plan
  • Interviewed some potential target groups/users to gain insight about their knowledge and needs
  • Created an opportunity tournament

Pitch, Monday 2.10

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The week started with a short presentation, “pitch”, about our problems and concept to an audience consisting of other SCI project groups. For us this pitch was extremely relevant, since we are an open topic group and others had no information about our topic. Thus, this was our first opportunity to introduce to topic to others and gather feedback from an larger audience outside our group (excluding course personnel). In order to understand our chosen topic, a greater review of the current market state is relevant. Therefore we chose to focus on describing the market and it’s problems (and opportunities) rather than presenting all the ideas and options we had. Even though other one of our presenters changed at the last minute, the pitch was comprehensive and relaxed. In other terms, it went really well, and we got some great feedback and questions that will be considered in the future.

Getting insights on other projects was beneficial as well. Many of the other problems and especially the solutions the groups had came up with were interesting. It’s also good to know what the other groups are doing, since they are our reference group and will help us define where we should be with the project and what to do next.

Project Plan Workshop 1 & Human centered development – Friday 6.10

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On Friday we focused on the Project Plan, since we had had some schedule issues and no other meetings during the previous week. We started by redefining our concept according to the emails from the professionals in this current field, which we had received during the week (more about the emails below). During the week we had worked on the Project Plan – structure so that it meets the course requirements and is most beneficial for us in the future. At the start, we went through the structure together, gathered ideas and finally specified certain areas for every group member to work on. We agreed to gather content during the weekend, and write the final plan on next Monday.

At the same time we had a group member listening to the lecture about human centered development, and wrap up the most important content and lessons. These included:

  • Fail fast, fail a lot. Hitting a Hole-In-One with the product is really tough. But when you do fail – the retrospect is crucial. Gather data on what went wrong and what should be done differently in the future.
  • Clearly identify the problem you wanna tackle and what is the underlying reason you want to work on this problem. Are you planning to help the customers, create a Startup that will be sold or form a deeper understanding on customer behavior.
  • Connect with the audience, their needs are the thing that should define your product. The questions need to be carefully considered in order to gain the best insight on the reasons, desires and needs of the customer. The customer itself isn’t always aware of the reasons behind their actions (e.g. [Hiring a Milkshake]).
  • WHAT customers do – WHY they do it

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Gathering materials and information (Contacting Fiva, first customer interviews)

In addition to the meetings described above, we also started to gather more information to back up our concept and develop it further. These steps are more related to the next part of the course, iterative product development, but we found it relevant for us to address these issues already at this point of the course.

Contacting FiVa

Since our idea evolves from the new PSD2 -directive it will be highly regulated. We wanted to contact the legal stakeholders and hear their feedback as early as possible so that we could ensure that we have understood the new possibilities that PSD2 enables and that our idea is also legally feasible. We contacted multiple experts from the Financial Supervisory Authority of Finland (Finanssivalvonta [Fiva]) and also the managing partner of Dottir, one Finnish law firm. As a result, we got a lot of valuable information and input that helped us to steer our concept. We got also good contacts that we can use in the future if we need professional input regarding to the legislation and regulation that will affect our project.

Meeting the customers

Inspired by the lecture given by Risto Sarvas, we decided to head over to the city and interview potential customers. We wanted to find out what drives the decisions to take a loan or invest, and what would it take for people to loan money to a stranger.

The responses were not quite what we were expecting – None of the interviewed persons had taken a small ( <2,000€ ) loan, only 28% of the interviewed people knew what P2P-loans are, and less than half of the people were investing their savings in any way.

The initial feeling of a set-back was quickly overthrown by the realization of the new opportunities that opened up. These we are planning to research on the coming week.

Opportunity Tournament

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As presented in the Uncertainty Horizon Map, we had seven (7) options what we started concepting with. As a recall, we held a brainstorming session (during and) after the opening lecture with most of the group. In the tournament, first we eliminated the ones that has no market potential, and the potential users are mostly located in Otaniemi area. These would have been interesting projects, but we felt that none of those would have solved any bigger, easily scalable problem.

So in the step two, there was left the ones related to the PSD2 directive. The battle between service for receipts, the personal accounting and small loans services combined was rather even. Still we felt that there was the biggest potential in small loans services both for lenders and borrowers. After this step we realized that these (borrowing and lending) are actually the two sides of the same service. This is how the tournament went, and how we ended up with the one we are working on now.

The big plan with the small loan services is to provide easy-access service for borrowing money with no guarantees. The reason for this possibility while keeping the interest moderate is that we are able to get the information of the bank account of the customer. From that info we are capable of analyzing the risk factor, and decide automatically whether or not the user is potential customer, and which interest rate would be used for their loans.  All of this is possible due to PSD2 directive.

Week 39 – Picking the One

During the second week of this project we dived deeper into the innovation process. In summary, we

  • Met on Monday and exercised our presentation skills
  • Got together with the entire group on Thursday and spent hours with the idea making process. We used several innovation tools and also talked about our stakeholders. Lastly, we created the basic outline for the following Monday’s presentation.
  • On Friday we met with the professor and our assistant and started working with the Uncertainty Horizon Diagram.
  • During the weekend we all worked on our own with the project.

We have also established some communication tools to handle the project. The majority of our collaboration and content is in Google Drive, and we use Dropbox for hosting any images and other media. We use Telegram for day-to-day communication, and Trello as a Kanban project management tool.

Presentation workshop (Monday 25.9)

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The workshop on performing last Monday was a great session, and in my humble opinion should definitely be a more common topic weaved into university studies. If you have a great idea or product, but can’t convince anyone of it, what’s the point of having it at all? Some trademarks of a great presentation we found on Monday were:

  • Start with a bang:  do something surprising or say something provocative to make sure you have the full attention of your audience. And don’t start if the audience is not ready! We had a great exercise where performers had to wait uncomfortably long before starting their pitch, and you could really notice the difference in how the audience was interested.
  • 3 key arguments: whether your presentation is 3 minutes or an hour long, a good rule of thumb is to have 3 key points to structure your presentation around. Remember to also tell the audience how many arguments you have – that will help you keep their full attention.
  •  A solid closer: end with something that nicely ties together your 3 key points – or if you want to surprise people, suddenly turn the whole argument upside-down and end with something completely surprising that still builds upon your previous points. Make the audience aware of when it is ok to start the applause, for example by saying “thank you”. I might add, from personal experience: your presentation really ends at “thank you”, and anything you say after that will not be registered by the audience, as they are inevitably already in applause-mode.

Innovation process (Thursday 28.9)

Since the previous blog post it has become obvious that our OTOP team has quite a special opportunity on hand. We began brainstorming from a clean slate, limited only by time and available knowledge. We quickly found ourselves in a situation where we were required to have an idea worth looking into. We rushed to identify opportunities by looking for things we could do better, things our own lives were missing and new opportunities provided by changes in legislation and technological advancements.

But with opportunity you need action. For creating workable action from the surfaced opportunities, we had a session where we tried to take the side of possibly interested groups, and assessed the impact of our product. By eliminating the less impactful ideas we decided to work towards PSD2 and peer-to-peer loans.
To avoid rushing into things, we proceeded to identify pitfalls and sectors where our idea wouldn’t shine. This ended up working out by team splitting into two subgroups, and playing the why-game: the other group would question everything with a “why?” and the other group would defend the idea against these questions. Saska, with his background in Industrial Engineering and Management, proved to be superb at stepping into the shoes of the customer and taking a neutral stance.

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To see if we could do even better, we decided to host a negative brainstorming session to come up with the worst possible execution for our idea. The ultimate idea is to come up with horrible product, then by identifying the negative aspects in that product you are able to create a better product. Our session led us to a dystopian vision of a service where customers are ignored and cheated out of their money. We really hope that we have been able to identify the biggest pitfalls and turn them to work in our advantage.

Some of the cornerstones of a great P2P loan platform we identified:

  • Assess people for their ability to pay back loans. Better payback rates – lower interest.
  • Allow as much automation as possible by integrating the loan service directly to customers’ bank accounts. Easier service, reduced costs for all sides.
  • Allow creation of loan-pools with massive dispersion to bring down the risk involved in lending money.

We also began discussing about managing our team’s work. So far, we had used Telegram for daily messaging – which has served us well – and we have really used it a lot. For collaboration – for example writing this blog post – we naturally used Google Drive, as that was a tool everyone was already familiar with. But due to the intensive discussion happening in Telegram it was soon hard to find the most relevant bits of information from the thread. That is how we identified that we would also need something else to keep track of the work that we have been doing and what is up next on our todo-list. We decided to start using Trello, a Kanban project management platform. In Kanban, the idea is to create a ticket for every task that we have identified, and add it to the backlog. Every ticket has a description, an assignee and a due date, which makes tracking our work easy. As the work flows in, the backlog is groomed and filtered, and some tickets get moved to work-in-progress, while some tickets are discarded entirely. When a task has been completed, that ticket is moved to done, and everyone can open Trello to see the status of our project at any given time.

Lecture and session on Friday (29.9)

On Friday we attended the lesson and had a chance to meet our supervisor Janne Halme who challenged our view by asking important and big questions that are necessary to clarify as early as possible. That gave us some important directions for our next steps. After the lesson we also had a chance to meet our assistant Sofia, who helped us to comprehend the point of the three-horizons-tool and how that can actually be useful for us. Just like Janne did, she also helped us to broaden our view on the topic and encouraged us to consider different approaches. One of the main points there was the need to approach the problem from personal perspective so that it is easier for us to understand the validity of our solution in later phases of the project.

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Stakeholders

We identified four important stakeholder groups for our microloan platform. Our product can be seen as a two-two sided platform that facilitates borrowing and lending between the two sides. The borrowers and lenders are obviously the two most important stakeholders and the ones that actually generate our revenue. Banks are also important, since the whole business model is based on the access to their customers’ financial data through their APIs. Facilitating interactions like this requires also an approval from national finance and insurance authorities, for example the Finnish Financial Supervisory Authority in Finland.

Uncertainty Horizon Diagram

Uncertainty Horizon Map

1 – Personal Accounting
2 – Cloud based database for receipts
3 – Global news
4 – Hassleplatform
5 – Eventplatform
6 – Small loan services for lenders
7 – Small loan services for borrowers

Week 38 – Tabula rasa

During the coffee break of SCI Project course’s opening lecture, a group of students decided to try and take actions into their own hands, and think about solutions to problems relating to their own lives. After the lecture, they gathered together and brainstormed ideas and innovations, which they presented to the course personnel. The students were devoted to trying to keep the group together, at least as far as possible. And it worked. Most of these students are now part of our “Open Topic” – group, and in addition we were reinforced with two more awesome people. We are a multidisciplinary and multi-talented group with three Computer Science students: Lauri, Niklas, & Janne, two from Information Networks: Pinja & Juuso, and last but not least Saska from Industrial Management & Engineering (don’t forget to check out the Bio page for more information about our great team!). It was immediately obvious that we have a great dynamic in this group, and we are all excited to be working together on this project. Without further ado; let’s get to work!

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Since we are an open topic group without anything predetermined, our first problem was to figure out the problem – we had a so-called tabula rasa – situation. We were – and still are – thrilled about this opportunity to be able to create this project to look precisely like us! According to Tim Brown (president and CEO of IDEO), the first phase of product development is to observe. Observe how things are now, and how they could be better in the future. And from this point of view, we had a lot of experience on observing our own lives. We had a variety of ideas after the brainstorming sessions on the first Friday, but two of them stayed in consideration:

  1. “Hassleplatform” – We acknowledged the potential of especially the Aalto community, which is shown for example in the startup – scene. But getting there requires a team and an idea, so we wanted to make creating those easier, and it didn’t have to be related to startups – building a skate ramp could be one project.
  2. “Eventplatform” – Especially in Aalto there are a lot people that would like to participate in different kinds of official and unofficial sport-events, but there is no common place where to find all the possibilities and teams in need of players. Could these possibilities be combined in one place?

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These topics stayed in consideration when the final group met on the following Friday, September 22, but we quickly realised they lack the depth that would make them interesting. Those ideas, while certainly important for our own lives did not seem like very good opportunities for learning something new. Enter PSD2: a new EU-directive aimed to change banking as we know it, and set to launch in 2018. A subject both contemporary as well as something that no one in the group was very familiar with beforehand. Instead of being on the lecture, we spontaneously gathered outside the Kaleva hall in the huge “Super Happy” chairs by Tuuli Sotamaa, and brainstormed some more with a burst of fresh excitement for our new topic. After the session, we were again left with two potential ideas:


From the banking point of view, we got a few ideas

  1. Personal finance monitoring using PSD2 – We already have services that can tell you how much money you spend and where – could PSD2 allow for more ways to tell what you are buying, to allow for better monitoring of personal finances?
  2. Crowdsourced microloans – PSD2 has potential to reinvent the loan industry by allowing automated systems to automatically loan out excess money on your bank account to people in need of a quick microloan, and give you a share of the profits that have until now been the exclusive right of the banks.

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We also sent the ideas to our topic’s director Janne Halme, who liked our PSD2 idea and though we should think about the problems it could solve in our closer circles (e.g. students). This is our approach when we will start iterating the ideas this week. After serious concepting and re-evaluating, together we evaluated the ideas from the first session, Hassle-, and Eventplatforms, as slightly too flat approaches for this course. As a team we decided to focus on subjects that have the most potential to expand the ways of thinking, which also creates most value for us as eager learners.

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