In 2013, Participacoes Morro Vermelho (PMV) hired the Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects to design the most ambitious, sustainable, and modern office buildings in Brazil, the Sao Paulo Corporate Towers. That was the first office building in Brazil to be pre-certified LEED Platinum 3.0. At the time, I was the head of the boutique web agency Zott, in Brazil, and having worked with some of the key stakeholders on a previous project, I was invited to bring to life a website on par with the grandeur of the Architect’s vision for the building.
This project was organized in two phases: A showcase website for the initial rental wave, then a broader institutional website, coupled with the building’s intranet, providing various functions to tenants and service providers. A third phase was later added, turning the building’s intranet into a full-fledged smartphone app, aiming to streamline several of the building functions, such as guest access, local business directory, meeting room reservation, fire escape route, and much more.
To comply with my non-disclosure agreement, I have omitted and obfuscated confidential information in this case study. All information in this case study is my own and does not necessarily reflect the views of Sao Paulo Corporate Towers and Participacoes Morro Vermelho (PMV).
Having been a part of this project since its foundation (literally), I was able to visit the construction site, take pictures, and have great talks with several stakeholders, that enabled me to understand the soul of the project.
During the two years project, I was responsible for UX strategy, product design, project management, and client communications. Later in the project, I started an initiative to turn the website and intranet into a multi-function app for the building, being responsible for its UX and UI design.
An office building has a long life, from 30 years and on. Our challenge was to create a foundational website and management/tenant intranet that would both accomplish the broad range of current goals, but also be ready to evolve together with the building, as new services and functions were added. At the time of the grand opening, the building had a 5-year roadmap planned ahead, with new local services, a convention center, zoned air conditioning, smart access for tenants, car parking management, services for bike commuters, and much more.
From the earlier discussions, I gathered the necessary information to define and propose the UX Strategy for the project, and divide the project into its several phases. From there, we have performed competitor research, digital and physical services planning, and then phase-1 user research focusing on defining the design and development roadmap for the planned functions, with progressive delivery, and alpha/beta tests.
Given the magnitude of the project, and the expectations of the stakeholders, I proposed a step by step approach, with discovery, ideation, prototyping and testing of each base function separately. When we arrived at a satisfactory result, that would build well into an MVP, we would holistically design the workflows to integrate it into the product. That approach allowed us to bring in new website areas and intranet/app functions at any time, without disruption or extensive redesigns, on a long-term basis.
The list of functions to be built into the intranet, and then into the app, is extensive. Here are a few examples: tenant and guest access (including mobile NFC keycard), building map and fire escape route guidance, emergency information, car and bike parking, helipad scheduler, meeting room reservation, local restaurants and commerce guide, local commerce tenant-exclusive benefits (coupons), lost and found, taxi request management, air conditioning zone temperature change requests, building maintenance requests, news and alerts, and much more.
Having known the key stakeholders from other projects, it was easy to sell the idea of a comprehensive set of surveys to be distributed to several employees of the holding company that worked across different subsidiaries, and office buildings. Understanding the users needs and wants for an office building intranet was the key factor to the success of the project.
One of the most important aspects to be found out was short- and long-term engagement for each function. What would be consistently used throughout the life of the project, and what would be considered novelty but then quickly abandoned. One interesting finding was that, within the “abandoned in the short-term” set, we understood what functions would be of value for each and every newcomer, as a worthy onboarding function.
During the competitor research, we quickly found out that none of the major office buildings in Brazil had intranets for its tenants. Furthermore, not many of the well-known multi-tenant office buildings across the world had such digital facility. Most of the building intranets found at the time were for single-company buildings.
That meant I had a true greenfield project ahead, which allowed me to innovate without many of the common stakeholder constraints. The vision was to build a “digital building” on par with an amazing sustainable office building.
Some office buildings age, others evolve. Sao Paulo Corporate Towers is definitely an evolving building. Sustainability being at its heart, the owners have a clear purpose for its future: To set the standards for what an office building can be, what it can offer, and how to do that sustainably and responsibly.
Its digital counterpart is no different, designed and built to incorporate new pieces as they become needed, this intranet and app should last the life of the building. I have no doubt that several redesigns, and maybe a few overhauls will eventually happen, but I am confident that a solid UX Strategy foundation was constructed, which will guide the future without constraining it.
Laying down a future-proof strategy has paid off. Sao Paulo Corporate Towers became reference in Brazil not only as a modern and sustainable building, but also as an office building that goes beyond physical services, offering its tenants convenient and useful digital services both via web and app.
For confidentiality reasons I have omitted the actual values for these metrics.