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Google Design CHallenge

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The Brief (Design Challenge Prompt)

Your school wants to improve the upkeep of campus facilities by creating a new system for reporting any facilities that may need maintenance or repair. Design an experience that allows students to report building or equipment issues on campus. Consider the process of those filing the report and of those receiving and taking action on the issues.

Concept & Solution

RamFix is a mobile platform that utilizes the power of a university community to empower students to help each other address low priority or routine maintenance requests. RamFix is designed to help alleviate the backlog of requests for the facilities management department by incentivizing students to become more self-sufficient inhabitants of their environment.

QUICKVIEW

Google Design CHallenge

Watch Trailer
Problem (Design Challenge Prompt)

Your school wants to improve the upkeep of campus facilities by creating a new system for reporting any facilities that may need maintenance or repair. Design an experience that allows students to report building or equipment issues on campus. Consider the process of those filing the report and of those receiving and taking action on the issues.

Concept & Solution

RamFix is a mobile platform that utilizes the power of a university community to empower students to help each other address low priority or routine maintenance requests. RamFix is designed to help alleviate the backlog of requests for the facilities management department by incentivizing students to become more self-sufficient inhabitants of their environment.

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Google Design Challenge

Empowering Students to Become Responsible Stewards of Their Environment

The world of facilities management may not seem like the most glamorous occupation to many people, but it is undeniably one of the most important resources of any university. To paraphrase my home institution’s (VCU) facilities management department’s mission statement, “We work hard to make sure that the University can carry out its own mission of excellence to the community”. It goes without saying then that having a robust system to process maintenance requests is imperative to keeping the university running smoothly and efficiently. For the 2020 Google Design Challenge, I decided to focus on researching and creating such a system that puts the student at the center of the solution.

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The Outcome
The Process
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Deliverable

Introducing Ramfix

Deliverable | Introducing Ramfix

Introducing Ramfix, Maintenance Requests Redefined.

Help is here. With Ramfix, VCU's new maintenance request app, students are supported  by a community ready to help at a moment's notice.

01

Request.

No need to find a phone number or search for the service portal. With the mobile app, submitting a maintenance request has never been easier. Submit from anywhere, at anytime, and upload pictures to the ticket to give a complete view of the situation.

Respond.

Receive help for routine requests quickly from trained student responders. Requests show up on a Live Request Map the moment a ticket is submitted and student responders will provide real-time updates as they come resolve the issue. No more long wait times to get a lightbulb changed or a sink unclogged.

02

Reward.

Volunteer to become a student responder and earn rewards for every routine maintenance request completed. Simply complete a brief training and certification process through the VCU Facilities Management Department. Redeem rewards for campus perks.

03

Define

Defining the problem.

Introduction

For the 2020 Google Design Challenge, I decided to tackle maintenance request prompt. Specifcically, Google gave a scenario where "Your school wants to improve the upkeep of campus facilities by creating a new system for reporting any facilities that may need maintenance or repair."

The Brief:

Design an experience that allows students to report building or equipment issues on campus. Consider the process of those filing the report and of those receiving and taking action on the issues.

Current State of VCU Facilities Maintenance Division (FMD)

01

Four Types of Requests.

There are 4 types of maintenance requests: Emergency, Expedited, Scheduled/Preventative and Routine/Reactive. Although preventative maintenance strategies were the most popular for FMDs, VCU FMD stated that most of their maintenance was reactive rather than preventative maintenance.

02

Two Reporting Methods.

Students can report maintenance issues by phone or through the Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS) portal online through a web browser. VCU FMD reported that the largest cause of reported unscheduled downtime was due to aging equipment.

03

Five Geographic Maintenance Zones.

Maintenance staff are assigned to 5 different location zones, including a dedicated Student Affairs Zone. However, the VCU FMD reported that lack of resources was the greatest challenge for improving maintenance services as they often did not have enough staff to cover all these zones effectively.

Problem Definition

These challenges led to a clear definition of the problem, mainly that the current maintenance request system was overwhelmed with reactive maintenance requests that could not be adequately fulfilled by the current staff. This in turn led to the inability to effectively execute scheduled or preventative maintenance on aging equipment, further compounding the issue of reactive maintenance requests.

The Problem:

VCU FMD lacks the time and labor resources to implement an effective preventative maintenance strategy because of the overwhelming demand of reactive maintenance requests.

Discovery

Generating Insights and Discovering opportunities.

TV viewing is social, with 93% of people engaging in some co-viewing activity on the big screen.

"Approximately 3/4 of our maintenance requests originate from the Student Affairs Property Zone."

Source: VCU Facilities Maintenance Division

Students, Studying or Servicing?

Based on the defined problem, it quickly became evident that any new system designed to improving the upkeep of maintenance facilities would require a solution to alleviate the massive overload of reactive maintenance requests the VCU FMD receives

In my conversation with the FMD, I discovered that the majority of these reactive maintenance requests originated from the Student Affairs Property Zone and that the most reported type of requests were routine requests with a toilet/sink being clogged or tripped circuit breaker being among the top two. Identifying students as being at the center of the challenges facing VCU FMD was important in moving forward to a design solution.

The Insight:

Students are at the center of the reactive maintenance request backlog with simple, yet time-consuming, routine service requests.

VCU Student Research

My next step in the Discovery phase was to speak with students and learn more about their experiences with maintenance requests and the reporting process. Using 1 on 1 interviews, focus groups, contextual observation, and a survey I was able to gather the following key findings:

Students who said they had submitted at least one maintenance request in the past 2 years that could be categorized as a routine service.
Students who said they felt confident doing basic repairs and maintenance in their own home.
Students who said they would be more confident doing a repair if they had an internet resource guiding them.
Students who said they had fixed something that was broken or tackled a DIY project within the past 2 years.
Students who said they would be more motivated to fix the maintenance issue themselves if they could with some sort of incentive.

Student Personas

Through this research I was able to generate two student personas, one of a DIY (Do It Yourself) student, in this case Abigail, and one of a repair novice student, Ben.

Students Helping Students.

These personas helped present an exciting opportunity that this new design solution could take advantage of. Namely, utilizing users like Abigail who are good with their hands and driven by a desire to help as an additional resource in responding to routine reactive maintenance requests. By providing students like Abigail with the proper tools, training, and incentive structures, the VCU FMD could facilitate a "students helping students" initiative, thus allowing the FMD to shift focus towards a more preventative maintenance strategy.

Design Opportunity:

Empowering students with a DIY mentality to serve as an alternative ground level maintenance team could help alleviate the strain on the FMD and free them up to more effectively implement their preventative maintenance strategy.

Design

Creating a student forward maitenance request system

The Concept:

A mobile application that allows students to submit maintenance requests, in addition to providing the opportunity for the students to interface with, and help each other fix the reported issue.

Students as the Solution, Not the Problem.

With the research from the Define and Discovery phase, I was able to identify an opportunity where students themselves could be a more active resource in responding to the routine reactive maintenance requests that the FMD receives. From that opportunity I was able to generate a maintenance reporting system concept where, in addition to being able to submit requests, students could also receive help from or provide help to their fellow students.

User Journeys

The first step in designing the concept involved understanding the current user journey of the maintenance reporting system, from the moment the student notices and submits a maintenance request all the way to the FMD processing the request. Thus, I broke the user journey down into two components, one from the student perspective, and one from the FMD perspective.

The Student User Journey

Student Pain Points

Student Pain Point #1 (Reporting Phase): Students only have two options to report a maintenance issue, by phone call or through the web.

Student Pain Point #2 (Reporting Phase):
Accessing the maintenance portal link was not immediately apparent at first glance.

Student Pain Point #3 (Awaiting Phase): Students frequently had to endure long wait times without real-time updates on the status of the maintenance request.


The FMD User Journey

FMD Pain Points

FMD Pain Point:  From a facilities staff perspective, it was almost impossible to get a full picture of the situation from a description over the phone or through a web form. On the web form submission, there is no place for students to attach photos.

FMD Pain Point:  Even routine maintenance requests take roughly the same time to process due to resource allocation and staff assignment leading to unbalanced request processing time vs actual repair time.

Social, by Design.

An important point we wanted to emphasize was that this social feature should integrate seamlessly into the existing Netflix product. In the past Netflix had previously implemented a "Friends" feature that felt clunky, out of place and offered no value add to the consumer. To this point, the implementation of our feature shouldn’t be a social for the sake of social, but instead designed to complement and enhance the core Netflix streaming service and provide a more holistic consumer experience.

Design Opportunity: A Netflix Private Theater

Our users noted that one of most missed activities during the pandemic was the decline in going to the movies. One important aspect of the appeal of the movie theater experience has always been the social experience. Virtual reality technology allows the opportunity to recreate that experience from the comforts and convenience of home. By targeting the design to replicate that of a traditional movie experience, we could naturally integrate a traditionally social activity straight into the existing Netflix platform.

Social By Design

An additional important point we wanted to emphasize was that this social feature should integrate seamlessly into the existing Netflix product. In the past Netflix had previously implemented a "Friends" feature that felt clunky, out of place and offered no value add to the consumer. To this point, the implementation of our feature shouldn’t be a social for the sake of social, but instead designed to complement and enhance the core Netflix streaming service and provide a more holistic consumer experience.

Design Opportunity: A Netflix Private Theater

Netflix is in prime position to be at the forefront of this opportunity. From a business value perspective, tapping into the cowatching market is highly lucrative. Since co-watching inherently reaches more users, Netflix is able to leverage this increased viewership by generating additional ad revenue. In addition, with 5G introduction, hosting content servers over the cloud not only becomes more efficient, but also significantly lowers operating and development costs. From a brand perspective, Netflix has many core value propositions it can leverage to succeed as well. These include:

Product Requirements

From the pain points I identified in both the student and FMD user journeys, I was able to summarize the core product requirements for the design concept:

Platform should be a mobile application for greatest student accessibility and convenience.

Platform UI should be designed to allow students to report maintenance issues with ease.

Platform reporting maintenance issue flow should allow users to add supporting pictures.

Platform connects student "requestors" with student "responders" and provides real-time updates.

Designing Feature Flows

Submitting Requests

Landing Page, Low Fidelity
Landing Page, High Fidelity

For simplicity to the user, I made the decision to create just two types of submission requests, Standard and Urgent. Each card has space for a brief definition of each type of request to help user identify their request type.  This first screen allows the student to immediately identify and report the type of maintenance issue at hand.

Page 3, Request Flow, Low Fidelity
Page 3, Request Flow, High Fidelity

As the student moves through the request submission form, they have the ability to add pictures or videos to help the responder better understand the situation. This option is retained later as well even after the request has been made so that the student could add new pictures to address new developments if necessary.

Accept Student Help Dialog, Low Fidelity
Accept Student Help Dialog, High Fidelity

I wanted to design an action that allowed students to choose whether or not they wanted to receive student help. I did not want to make student help a default behavior because I wanted to consider those who still wanted to have their requests fulfilled by the university staff. A dialog box pops up as the student navigates through the submission process asking if they want to accept or decline student help. The language that I chose in the dialog box was to emphasize that even if the requestor were to opt-in to accept student help, it didn’t preclude them from still receiving help from FMD.

Emergency Dialog Notification

In addition, student help could only be received on standard requests and not urgent requests. Again, the intent of student help was only to help alleviate the backlog of routine maintenance requests. At no time would students be expected or asked to resolve urgent and critical infrastructure services. A dialog also showed up immediately if a student selects urgent request to remind them that any life-threatening issues should be handled through the local emergency services authorities and not through the app.

Live Request Map

Live Request Map, Low Fidelity
Live Request Map, High Fidelity

The Live Request Map serves as the main function to facilitate student connection between those who need help and those who can provide help. A student who may need help in one service category may be able to provide help in another. The map automatically populates maintenance requests from students who have opted-in for student help so that they are visible to potential responders. The map shows requests based on distance to the current location of the user of the app. If a responder wants to help a requestor, they can offer to help.

Responder Banner Notification
Request Details Page w/ Responder Info

In order to protect the privacy and security of the requestor, this offer must be accepted by the requester before the responder can see the requestor’s exact location. This adds an additional layer of security to the requestor to ensure that the platform isn’t abused by those who may want to use this app for illicit purposes. It was my intent that at no time should the requestor be obligated to accept help from anyone they don’t feel comfortable with. Finally a small badge showing how many people the responder has helped before serves to establish trustworthiness and also certifies the responder as someone who has been properly trained by the university.

Active Requests Tab

The active requests tab is organized into two categories, requests that the user has submitted, or requests that the user is helping another student with. This dashboard lets the user quickly manage all their ongoing service requests as well.

Reward Structure

Request Completed Dialog
Responder Rewards Page

As I found out in the Discovery phase of my research, many students have the skills to fix routine requests themselves, but they lacked the incentive to do so. Therefore, having a feature in the app that rewards student responders for addressing maintenance requests is important to retaining the student support staff. Most colleges and universities have localized currency that can be used to purchase snacks or from local food vendors. At VCU, we have Rambucks. The incentivization model for this platform gives responders points for every completed request they have helped with. These points can then be used to redeem Rambucks or other goods or services such as university apparel or memorabilia.

Complete Flows and Design System

Student Requestor Flow

Student Responder Flow

Design System

I used the design system below to guide my visual design choices as I transitioned from low-fidelity to high fidelity screens. I chose the color palette to differentiate between different actions and navigation. Standard requests and all associated content are always in blue. Helping actions and navigations by responders are always in green. Finally yellow is for general platform navigation and actions. Icons were taken from Google Material resources.

Considerations

For liability reasons, student responders may need to undergo training and certification with the university to be able to understand what type of routine requests they are able to respond to and which requests may be out of their scope of work. The concept flows also focused exclusively on the scenario involving student responders. However if a student requester denies student help, the process flow for the mobile app would mirror that of the current CMMS with the exception that the student requestor may now track repair progress and add pictures within the app.

Reflection & Takeaways

Reflection

Ultimately I tried to design an experience that accounted for the needs of both students who required assistance and of students who had the motivation and the expertise to be a force of change in the community. I believe that oftentimes students aren't given enough credit in their abilities to affect change. RamFix was designed in mind to be able to empower a community of students to become more engaged in their environment as well as demonstrate their ability to be responsible and capable adults.

Students can use Ramfix to become more engaged in their environment as well as demonstrate their ability to be responsible and capable adults.

Takeaways

This design exercise was a very fun but also very challenging assignment. Not having an identifiable problem to solve meant I had to dig deep in my research to analyze current behaviors and see what could be improved upon. This was also an opportunity for me to try and design a platform that could adhere to Google’s Material Design standards. I learned so much about Google Material from this exercise which will undoubtedly help me become a better designer in the future.