Co-work FILE


Client: A Co-working Facility - Ann Arbor

UX Research

Role: UX Researcher

Year 2019

Team: 5

Recommendations for a co-working facilitator to better manage their filing system.

A growing co-working facilitator in Ann Arbor is struggling with their filing and resource management systems.

The goal of the project was to identify problems in their current workflows and recommend solutions to improve the management system and increase efficiency.

We conducted contextual Interviews, created affinity wall and analysed the qualitative data to come up with relevant, implementable solutions.

Case study

The following case study highlights the problem, consulting methodology, findings, and recommendations  to solve the file management problem for our client.


Our client was a co-working facilitator based in Ann Arbor, MI that houses a professional community comprising of over 60 small and medium scale businesses, most of which are young biotechnology firms.


The firm was struggling with their file management systems. Upon further inspection of the current file management system at the facility, in our contextual inquiry interviews, we learned that for all but the newest leases, created and signed within the last six months, every relevant piece of information is made into a hard copy and stored in physical filing cabinets on site.


The problem with these physical files is that it is difficult to uniformly organize them so that they are accessible, easy to understand, and consistently updated.  

“How might we help this coworking facilitator with their file management?”


In this project, a qualitative research method called contextual inquiry was used to gather and analyze information to get the to depth of the file management problem.


Our method contained three main stages:


  • Background research

  • Contextual Inquiry

  • Qualitative Data analysis


The first step was to carry out an extensive background research on the problem statement.

I wrote a background research report  to identify the special needs of a co-working facilitator and understand their property management systems. This report highlighted needs of a co-working facilitator and technology considerations to consider those special needs when opting a management system.

Report - Analysis Of The Co-working Real Estate And Their Property Management Systems


  • We conducted contextual interviews with six employees of the co-working facility.

  • To get a different perspective of the pain points with the system, we decided to ask different interview questions according to the interviewee’s job roles. 

  • After gathering specific job roles of all six employees, we came up with 3 different interview protocols for financial managers, community managers and stakeholders.

  • Every interview was conducted by an interviewer and a notetaker together.

  • I Interviewed the CEO and the controller of the office.

  • I with my team followed the contextual interview guidelines outlined in the book Rapid Contextual Design by Karen Holtzblatt. We emphasized asking questions about specific instances of interacting with the filing and asking interviewees to walk us through these interactions rather than asking general questions about how they use the filing system.

  • The employees also gave us an office tour, which allowed us to better understand their working environment and observe the current file management system. At the beginning of every interview, we asked for permission to record the interviews and take photos of the filing system


After each interview, we held interpretation sessions where we listened to our interview recordings and produced affinity notes for each minute of the Interview, cumulating to over 500 affinity notes. 


For each interview, we documented important points, ideas and pain points.


We then clustered our notes by salient patterns to produce an affinity wall, where we were able to make key findings. 


“ Let’s put em on the wall !”



After clustering the affinity notes in different themes, we starting finding hidden insights from the interviews.

Our affinity wall came down to the following analysis, leading us to the final recommendation. 


  1. Overlapping job roles makes tracking of files necessary

  2. Employees make their own summaries of information important to them

  3. Employees prioritize convenience over systematic organization of communication

  4. Employees make their own individual filing systems for easy reference




Our solution was to bring structure to the employees’ work flows. 


1. Clear delineation of Job Roles.

Our affinity notes defined one important need with respect to the job roles, leading us to this recommendation - clear delineation and definitions of  each job role. Job roles was defined recently, but there was still a lot of overlap in the workflows, leading to confusion. Solidifying the responsibilities and file types that go along with those responsibilities are essential.  Most importantly, a standard protocol for each job role with respect to the file system was necessitated.  


2. A centralized protocol for organizing files is to be put in place. 

Keeping the faced paced growth of the organisation in mind, The first solution was to create a centralised protocol to manage the files that can be scalable with the growing number of employees at the organisation. This would keep the flexibility and convenience for each employee to manage their file system but at the same time make the transition to digital files in the future much more smoother.


Each job role’s protocol will follow the general format of ID → Store → Track → Dispose:


  • ID - categorize files to facilitate file navigation

  • Store - once new files are created, input them into the filing system under the appropriate category

  • Track - once files are updated or change, mark these updates

  • Dispose - once file expirations are implemented, dispose of files that have exceeded expiration to mitigate rapid file

  • system growth


The flow charts below describe this protocol clearly.


Through the course of this project, I gained the ability to conduct contextual interviews and perform qualitative data analysis effectively. Using an affinity wall to cluster and bundle the information was the most fun thing I learned! I started applying this to the smallest of decisions and found it super helpful and effective. (Barring the waste of paper!)

This class project, with a real client and a  randomly assigned group gave me an opportunity to work with a team of exceptional people hailing from different backgrounds and reinforced my team-working capabilities. Most importantly, this project gave me an opportunity to address a real life problem! 

Designed with ❤ by Ruchita