Building beacons in Peru

Emma Gawen and Andrew Greenway from Public Digital, with LVL and IDEO team members

Emma and Andrew with Eduardo and Camille from LVL and Barbara and Peter from IDEO

A couple of weeks ago, Andrew and I went to visit La Victoria Lab (LVL) in Lima. We were there to see the teams and run product reviews on some recent work, alongside our partners from IDEO.

LVL is the innovation lab of Intercorp, and one of Public Digital’s first clients. It was set up by IDEO back in 2014, under the leadership of Luis Cilimingras. LVL has been the engine room for a series of “beacons” – exemplar innovation projects divided up among Intercorp’s 33 member companies.

Innovation that actually delivers

Exterior photograph of an Interbank office building in Peru

Each beacon is centered on a multidisciplinary agile team, focused on something specific and solvable. So far, beacon projects have delivered things like:

  • A fast home delivery service for customers of pharmaceuticals retailer InkaFarma
  • Tunki, a payments platform for entrepreneurs (for Interbank)
  • UGOa service that connects students with people relevant to their professional growth, at the time and place of their choice (for UTP)

Intercorp is big – it operates at a scale comparable with government ministries (those 33 member companies account for 4.0% of Peru’s GDP).

Logos of Intercorp companies: Interbank, Innova Schools, InRetail, Interfondos, Inkafarma, Universidad Tecnologica Del Peru, idat, Supermarcados Peruanos SA, Oechsle, Interseguro, Promart, Realplaza, Zegel, Intercorp Retail, Provis Alimentacion, Inteligo SAB, Urbi, UCIC, Express Net, Financiera Oh!, Intercorp Financial Services, Quimica Suiza, Mifarma, Cineplanet, NGR, Casa Andina Hoteles, SMi, Intralot, Sinea

Intercorp member companies

We always advocate for a strong central team to take the lead on digital transformation in large, complex organisations. LVL is Intercorp’s answer to that, having been set up by IDEO as a collaborative, agile, multidisciplinary unit.

Pulling off the trick of achieving collaboration while maintaining momentum has come about because LVL has carefully kept the focus on delivery. It takes the lead in Intercorp by training teams and new staff, sharing best practice, and making sure the whole company stays on top of the latest moves in technology and business. And it doesn’t do this in isolation – it works in partnership with Intercorp businesses, and the result is real products shipped to real users.

As Luis Cilimingras has said: “Innovation is expensive. Transformation is cheap.” LVL’s beacons are the right way to innovate: they’re enabling and assisting the wider digital transformation of Intercorp.

A mission we can believe in

Poster in the LVL office that says 'Observe what users do, not what they say they do'

Poster in the LVL office in Lima

We love working with LVL: they introduced us to ‘tunking’, they’re wonderful, warm and smart people, and they have such an exciting mission: “to make Peru the best place in Latin America to raise a family”. That’s something well worth taking part in.

Intercorp’s Chief Innovation Officer, Hernan Carranza, is an inspiring and proactive leader. He and his colleagues are unafraid to take risks when it comes to challenging the status quo. Only 4 years in, LVL is building a strong user-centric focus that’s starting to spread across Intercorp.

An LVL poster. The printed words 'The product is not ready' have been partly crossed out and amended with handwritten text, to read: 'The product will never be ready, so just ship it.'

The LVL poster game is strong

What we’ve been doing

On our about page, we say: “We help teams on the ground focus on delivery. We make sure their management understand what good delivery looks like.” That’s exactly what we’ve been doing with Intercorp.

Among other things, we’ve helped with:

  • Setting up alpha projects and helping them scale (which includes making sure the teams are the right size and shape)
  • Hiring people with the right service design and agile coaching skills
  • Helping to scale the technology practice (thanks to James Stewart)
  • Helping CEOs and other senior leaders recognise and support digital transformation
  • Bringing together Intercorp’s technology leadership
  • Setting up Communities of Practice (with expert advice from Emily Webber)

This visit began with a day of product reviews, where we looked at specific things being built by 3 beacon teams, and did a bit of tunking. There were good vibes in that session – I was really impressed by how the teams and their CEOs responded to hard questions: they demonstrated passion for their products and a strong connection to their users. They responded with energy, positivity and determination, a brilliant indicator for the future.

Day 2 was spent helping team leaders understand how to grow and adapt their teams for where they need to be in 3 months time, and what support they will need to build around themselves. Scaling teams and projects like this is hard, so we helped with some problem-framing questions such as: “What kind of team will you need for 20 users, or 200 users, or 2000 users?” “What do the operations look like?” “How might you automate?” and “Do you really need an app for that?”

The third day was focused on wider, longer-term planning for Intercorp. We discussed ways to help the beacons make an impact on the member companies, and what further training leaders might need so that they’re better equipped to recognise good digital work when they see it. Over lunch, I did an informal presentation about the messy reality of being a product manager (particularly in big organisations). Even a great product needs to navigate team dynamics, and as the beacon teams scale they’ll need to continue to adapt.

There’s so much going on at Intercorp. They think big. (In an earlier phase of their partnership with IDEO, they built an entire new school system, and they have even bigger ideas for the future.) In our experience, there are few companies anywhere in the world that are thinking this carefully, and investing this heavily, in this sort of approach. It’s refreshing and inspiring to see, and a privilege to be part of.

An LVL poster that says: 'Think big, start small, move fast, chanck hard'

“Chanck hard” is a colloquial way of saying “Work hard”

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