Introducing Kev: our first R&D product

Kev is a bot making life easier for the tenants at Globe Works.

Introducing Kev

As Paper we have a set of principles which guide our business. Our second principle is “Profit funds innovation” and we’re really pleased to share our first self funded R&D product: Kev.

Kev is a ‘bot’ we designed for Slack (don’t worry if you don’t know what bots and Slack are, we explain it a bit later on).

As far as we know Kev is unique which is cool. He solves car parking issues, which might be less cool. Anyway, here’s how we came up with, and delivered, the idea.

Life before Kev

We’ve really settled into our home at Globe Works but with fresh eyes noticed a few things which seemed to be causing problems for people working here. We spoke with Julian McFarlane, landlord of Globe Works, and asked whether it would be ok for us to try and solve some of the problems.

“As a multi-tenanted office complex, it was often a difficult task for us as a landlord and for our front of house team to communicate quickly and effectively to all tenants, above just knocking on each door or sending an email.

“It’s been really great working with the team at Paper on the project, taking an idea from our first chat through to delivering a solution that benefits the building and our tenants.” - Julian McFarlane

Listening to humans

We started with a broad idea of what needed fixing and which problem we might solve. But we didn’t want to leap too quickly to a solution. We take a human-centred approach to design so getting information from the tenants in Globe Works was key to really understanding how we could help.

We interviewed five businesses about how they use the building and the issues they see from day-to-day by asking open ended and non-subjective questions to elicit the best response.

We started to see a pattern of issues surrounding maintenance, communication and car parking with a lot of people saying the same things, like “I get blocked in regularly and often don’t know who to speak to” and “If I get blocked in after reception closes it’s impossible to find the car owner”.

As the Globe Works building and courtyard is Grade II* listed it means parking can’t be organised with painted lines.

Introducing Kev Putting interview feedback down on paper is great way to quickly visualise hours’ worth of conversations. It also allows you to group similar themes.

“The team at Paper were able to sit down and consult with us and to establish our needs. Rather than offer the solution that we thought we needed, they went away and suggested a solution that they thought could fit us best.” - Julian McFarlane

What’s Slack? What’s a bot?

Slack

It’s a messaging system that’s gained popularity with a lot of workplaces recently. One cool thing about it is that it’s open to people who want to create bots on it.

Bots

They’re little programs which respond to specific enquiries. So you ask questions, and the bot can respond naturally.

Prototyping

The first stage of the prototype was to write the language Kev and users might use to converse (our first prototype). We created dialogue which included what humans might say and how Kev should respond. This formed the basis of how you could speak to the bot and allow him to respond naturally.

Next we found a tool called Botkit by Howdy which does all the basic legwork and allows you to quickly spin up a bot to talk to. 8 hours later we had our first working prototype which allowed you to find the owner of a car by entering a registration number. We named the tool Kev.

If a user wants to speak to Kev they just need to include him in the message @Kev.

Here’s how it works:

An animation showing how Kev responds to questions

Results and feedback

The Globe Works Slack team launched just over a week ago and there’s already over 30 people voluntarily joined. With around 30 businesses in the building, it’s a great start.

There’s been some organic growth too, which is exactly what we were hoping for. An events channel has been created to let us tenants know when things are happening, along with a building maintenance channel.

And in the first few days Kev worked his magic several times. We are really chuffed.

What’s next? Kev can capture feedback by asking the user if they found what they needed. If not there is an opportunity to help him learn by sending feedback directly to us so we can help Kev to grow.

“What has become immediately clear is that all tenants across all levels of seniority embrace the opportunity to know what’s going on in their building and to have access, night and day, to their landlord and front of house team.

Probably the most exciting thing about the new platform is the opportunity it offers us to look at developing it to add in new services such as managing visitors, security and fire safety - it’s an incredibly exciting future for the Globe Works.” - Julian McFarlane

Ok, but why is it called Kev?

It’s an in-joke. The three of us worked on a project last year redesigning an airport website. Parking was a multi-million pound part of their business and the guy looking after all their car parks was called Kevin.

As with anything we write, we’d love to know what you think. Get in touch via email or Twitter.

If you want to know more about the team and the studio, check out our About us page.

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