54 minutes | Jul 14, 2019

23. Michele Marut of CBRE Build

In this episode of Dollars to Donuts I speak with Michele Marut who leads user experience research at CBRE Build. We discuss the curation of research repositories, using research to go beyond fixing things, and building processes and tools that can be used by researchers and people who do research. The philosophy is that the trained researchers should be taking on the most critical, the most risky projects. That’s where they can add the most value. Are they going to lose a lot of money? Is this a totally new workflow? Is this really new to the world? So, really focus trained researchers in that area. – Michele Marut Show Links Medical Storytelling at the VA Bridges Gap Between Patients And Caregivers My Life, My Story: Advancing the Veteran Experience Michele on LinkedIn Michele on Twitter CBRE CBRE Build WTF is Proptech? Zillow Airtable Clubhouse Tomer Sharon on Dollars to Donuts Democratizing UX (and Polaris) WeWork Optimal Sort M.S. in Human Environment Relations, Cornell Kohler Company Consumer Products Safety Commission OXO Good Grips MVP (Minimum Viable Product) UXPA (User Experience Professionals Association) IxDA (Interaction Design Association) Follow Dollars to Donuts on Twitter and help other people find the podcast by leaving a review on Apple Podcasts. Transcript Steve Portigal: Thanks for joining me on Dollars to Donuts, the podcast where I talk with people who lead user research in their organization. As a consultant, I find myself collaborating with very different types of organizations in terms of the amount of experience they have in doing user research, or learning from user research, or acting on what we learn from doing user research. There might be strong leadership in user experience design, or product design, or service design…or that might be a completely foreign concept. That’s a significant challenge in my work as a consultant, ensuring that I’m in a position to assess and respond to that diversity. It’s also something I really enjoy, and I see working on this podcast as part of that journey, something that I’m able to share with you. And so, the best way to support this podcast is to support my own consulting business. You can hire me to lead user research projects or to coach your own team as you talk to users. I help organizations put together research roadmaps so they can prioritize their limited resources. And I run training workshops to level up fieldwork and analysis skills. Please get in touch to see what we might do together. Otherwise, if you have feedback about this podcast, email me at DONUTS AT PORTIGAL DOT COM or write me on Twitter at Dollars To Donuts, that’s d o l l R s T O D o n u t s. I was intrigued by a story on NPR last month about program created at a VA hospital in Madison, Wisconsin, called “My Life, My Story.” In this program, staff and trained volunteers conduct open-ended interviews with veterans about their lives, letting the patient decide what they want to share about themselves. The interview is turned into a thousand-word biography that the patient reviews and revises, and then is included in their medical record. Patients also can share these stories with friends and family. This particular VA hospital has been training other hospitals in the VA system over the past few years. The article describes the benefit to the patient, and the different caregivers, both in the act of telling the story, and in having this kind of softer information available for review in their medical record. The article also explains the evolution of the “My Life, My Story” program, and how they “tried having patients fill out surveys, which were useful but still left the team wanting more. Next, they tried getting patients to write down their life stories themselves, but not many people really wanted to. Finally, an epiphany: Hire a writer to interview the patients, and put what they learned on paper.” This is a primordial form of user research; there’s no sense-making of patterns across groups of users; the data gathered from a user of the system only has value when applied directly to that user’s specific experience. I mean, maybe there’s a cultural shift that comes from making this kind of information available in the medical record itself, maybe it invites providers to be hungry for this kind of data, maybe it changes the conversations internally around patients as people with rich and messy lives beyond their medical conditions. And I want to dismiss it as unscaleable – this idea of interviewing every single user, rather than a sample, but – look at the implementation here – it’s absolutely about operationalizing it so that this service, asking open-ended questions about a patient’s life, is a component of the experience for each patient. In some ways, it’s a bit threatening to user researchers, that the simple act of just asking people about themselves can benefit the delivery of services so significantly, but on the other hand it also suggests that the potential value researchers can bring is well beyond what we usually say it is. If you’re looking towards the future of user research, this may be an early signal for possible directions. Let’s get to the interview, with Michele Marut, who is leading user experience research for CBRE Build in New York city. Thank you for being on the podcast. Michele Marut: Happy to be here, Steve. Steve: Let’s start with an introduction. Who are you? What do you do? Michele: My name is Michele Marut. I am currently a lead UX researcher at CBRE and I’m working to build up a research center of excellence in the sales office. Steve: What kind of business is CBRE? Michele: CBRE does commercial real estate. You’ve probably seen their names on buildings, especially if you’re in bigger cities. But if you’re doing retail or industrial and logistics types of work you might see them. And if you’re searching for office space you might have encountered them from a broker and advisory perspective. Steve: What part of CBRE are you working in? Michele: I’m working with a group called CBRE Build and it sprung from an acquisition that happened approximately 2 years ago when they acquired a company named Floored that specialized in 2D and 3D visualization tools that were really helping brokers to help sell their buildings and spaces. And so those tools are still in existence, but since then my manager has been tasked with creating more of an innovation group and they’ve created other tools that complement the original 2D and 3D tools, as well as tools that help people calculate and anticipate space that they might need. Tools that help work with test fits and that can be used by people beyond brokers and landlords and more for helping you really figure out the right space for your needs. It’s still focused on commercial real estate. Steve: So, is this kind of a product and tools part of a larger real estate organization? Michele: It’s a digital and technology section of a larger company that’s focused on commercial real estate. A fun word to talk about is proptech, or property tech. We are very much in the property and proptech space if you see that. Some people might think it’s a buzzword, but it’s what’s happening with other parts of the industry as you’ve seen other groups – financial went through this, health care is going through this, even consumer – commercial real estate, as well as other parts, even in your home and consumer real estate is finally getting more interactive. It’s more tech savvy. And so, some of these things are finally coming to commercial real estate. Steve: I think the New York Times keeps writing about how companies like Zillow will now buy your house as well as tell you what it’s worth and there’s some technology that makes that happen. Michele: Yes, yes. Steve: So, is that proptech? Michele: That’s proptech. Proptech can be consumer, if you’re looking for a house or an apartment. And it’s also in commercial real estate. So, it’s all different things. Anything that helps take data, technology and information and make it more innovative and probably disrupting the status quo of what you’ve probably been buying and selling real estate for hundreds of years the same way. We’re kind of at that inflection point for tech now, for real estate. Steve: Okay. That’s great context. And then you mentioned center of excellence? Is that right? Michele: Yeah. Steve: What does that mean? Michele: So, some of the centers of excellence are business terms that have been around. Here what we’re trying to do is one, build a group so there’s more researchers. There was only, I think, a researcher who had come from support. Before I joined there was one or two people in the other parts. We’re certainly adding more trained and skilled researchers as part 1, literally building the team. Part 2 we are creating templates and processes so that anybody, whether they’re a trained researcher or a person who does research (PwDR) can actually leverage some of our tools. They can get started very quickly. They can find the right participants. They can use our templates. They can use interview guides. And they can probably execute a basic research plan on their own. And then the third component is understanding who else in the company is doing research, making sure that we’re connecting them and building this community so that we can continue to grow our research center of practice, but also to share like if we’re actually talking to brokers and the same people across the company. We can share what we’ve learned and we can start to share journey maps. We can start to share new insights and then try to really understand does it differ by geography? Does it differ by region, or something else? So, that we start building on a sha
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