Pitney Bowes

Relay Communications Hub (SaaS Product)

Pitney Bowes is a global technology company best known for its postage meters and other mailing equipment and services. Recent expansion has seen the company move into global e-commerce, software, and other technologies.

 All information in this case study is my own and does not necessarily reflect the views of Pitney Bowes

Image: Relay Communications Hub (Software)

Image: Relay Inserter (Hardware)

My contract ran for 2 years and 3 months. To concisely demonstrate my UX thinking and execution, this case study focusses on the first 7 months, from the projects outset to launch.

Project Objective

Design a global software product that sends high-volume print and digital communications to be used with Pitney Bowes Printers, Inserters and Mailing machines. For example, a local authority’s distribution of council tax bills.

Project Background

Relay Communications Hub (“Relay Hub”) is a new SAAS application that manages the preparation and delivery of print and digital communications for small-mid sized (“SMB”) businesses globally. Since its launch in 2015, the customer base has expanded across the U.S., UK, Europe and New Zealand.The product is one of many that resides in Pitney Bowes software ecosystem. The application launched globally on May 1st, 2016.

The Team

Working within an agile environment, the international project team consists of 3 Product Owners, 2 Product Architects, 1 UX & Product Designer, 1 Researcher, 14 Developers & Testers. The team is located across New York, London, Paris, and Delhi.

My Role

In September 2015, I was hired as a contractor in the position of Senior UX Designer. In August 2016, I was promoted to the Product’s UX Design Lead, responsible for both the design and research. In this role I report to the Head of SMB UX at Pitney Bowes and I have responsibility for the following deliverables;

Product Strategy

Define product strategy with the Heads of Product, Marketing & Engineering to align customer needs with business KPI’s.

Consumer Research

Orchestrate international client research in the UK and U.S. to drive roadmaps and identify opportunities to create business value and improve the user experience.

Pitney Bowes Stakeholders

Build credibility between the UX department and senior Pitney Bowes stakeholders by reporting on the Product’s progress and performance.

Visual Design

Manage and deliver the UX and visual design for the Product, ensuring the value proposition is tailored across regional markets.

Developers

Design lead for 14 developers; executing all design stages from concept to interactive prototypes in Axure, as well as post-launch monitoring and analysis.

Team Lead

Act as a mentor for junior UX personnel, providing guidance and design feedback.

Project Kickoff: October 2015

The project began over a series of workshops in London to discuss business objectives, how success would be measured and the roadmap assumptions. To validate these assumptions, I partnered with the Product’s researcher with the aim of identifying RCH’s core value proposition. We explored;

  • SMB systems and processes for creating and sending high-volume customer communications.
  • An organisation’s strategy and process around sending digital communications.
The Discovery Process

After preparing a detailed script to seek answers to the hypothesis, we worked closely with regional recruitment agencies to source participants from Pitney Bowes’ existing client base.We met with senior decisions makers across the U.S. and Europe to understand the end-to-end flow of their outgoing and incoming communications. It was evident that each region has different customer needs and revenue opportunities. For example, France and the Nordics are regulated by the government to send and promote digital massive communications (i.e utility bills) . This vastly minimises their usage of paper compared to the U.S. and UK markets.

The common themes we heard were:

Too many people are printing, folding and inserting important customer communications at their desks using pre-printed stationery. This can lead to errors and delays and our staff costs are high.

We spend around $x on postage each year sending x documents. On average our postage cost is $x per document. We need to try and reduce this

We have printers across all offices, many are expensive to lease and under-used. Maintaining this fleet is expensive and time consuming

We need to know our customer data is secure to avoid financial penalties

We need to send more digital communications to meet consumer demand.

Client: Senior Manager, Publications, New York
Responsibility: Oversee logistics including consumer mail.
Insights: Strong migration towards paperless communications.

Client: Receptionist, Utilities, Connecticut.
Responsibility: Generate thousands of invoices each month.
Insights: Unaccustomed to process change; a barrier to sales that would need to be overcome.

Defining the end users

I facilitated a workshop with the team to identify personas, the challenges they face and how Relay could support their daily tasks. The 3 personas included;

  • Facilities Manager
  • Mailroom Operators
  • Finance Clerk
How Relay Hub fits within a client's communication workflow

The conclusion from the research was that in order for Relay Hub to add value to an organisation, the product would need to offer a solution to the following:

  • Increase profitability through high-volume postal discounts.
  • Deliver bills and invoices electronically for faster and lower cost payments.
  • Improve staff efficiency allowing them to focus on core business tasks.
  • Reduce under-utilised printing and mailing hardware.
  • Avoid financial penalties and a reputation for errors.

Partnering with the product architects we mapped a typical SMB communication workflow. This enabled us to pinpoint areas of weakness and therefore, opportunities for improvement.

The diagram below outlines the end to end experience of a client that has introduced the Relay Hub to their communication workflow.

Creating the user interface through collaboration

After establishing the personas, the design process started and we began to build the experience. I presented the draft concepts to each department within the wider team, with the following discussion areas;

  • Product Management: Ensure business objectives firmly aligned with the design concepts.
  • Marketing & Research: Ensure the designs tied back to research findings.
  • Engineering: Understand any technical limitations.

Feedback was collated, designs evolved. A cross functional meeting closely followed, confirming everyone felt confident to move forward to validate the concepts to the target audience.

The Product

Mail Manager

Mail managers centralises all outgoing communications to one location (i.e mailroom). This allows companies to

  • Reduce the number of printers on the office floor.
  • Improve printing efficiency by grouping similar types of documents into bundles.
  • Provide a status on all outgoing mailpieces (E.g. “In Print Queue, Printed, Mailed, Delivered”
  • A summary of outgoing customer communications by status, ensuring the mailroom operator meets internal SLA’s.

Feature: Document Template Designer

The template designer allows companies to assign business logic to their outgoing documents and communications.

This allows companies to;

  • Correct address formats through national databases to claim postal discounts.
  • Add a 2D barcode to documents, automatically folding and inserting mail into an envelope.
  • Define mailpiece attachments (Terms & Conditions with a New Insurance policy)
  • Send mail via digital channels (Email, Bank Website) based on consumer preferences.

Design Challenge

Provide Pitney Bowes customer onboarders an intuitive tool to activate/deactivate product features based on a clients region or subscription level.

Solution: Features are designed in a modular framework, activated by a toggle in the customers account settings.

Recommendations & References

I had the pleasure of having Neil on our UX team at Pitney Bowes for more than two years. Neil is a highly talented designer and a strategic thinker who excels at both high-level conceptual design work, as well as prototyping and detailed design work. He has terrific collaboration and communication skills and has a great rapport with his entire cross-functional product team. His opinion is sought out and valued by all, especially product leadership. Neil would be a strong asset to any team lucky enough to have him, I recommend him fully and without reservation.

— Esther Raice – User Experience Research & Design Leader (Pitney Bowes)

I’ve worked with Neil for more than a year and am impressed with his proactive approach and commitment to continuous improvement. Neil quickly understands the issues and makes informed recommendations which is a huge help when dealing with complex and changing issues. Neil was an active stakeholder working alongside engineering, product management and product marketing and regularly engaged with clients and Pitney Bowes sales staff to prioritise feedback which has informed and improved the product roadmap. Following the latest client research project Neil has made a range of recommendations on our go to market strategies which are now being developed for implementation early in 2018. Great work Neil I’ve enjoyed working with you and you will be an asset to Product Managers in your next ventures!

— Matt Harding – Director Product Management (Pitney Bowes)

I have had the pleasure of working with Neil for 2 years as a Technical Manager for a SaaS product. Neil is very empathic to needs of different types of users’ of a product, which are well catered to in his designs. His designs have helped shape long term vision for our product, has won him praises from internal and external stakeholders, and has given our product competitive edge in a tough, crowded market.

Of all his talents, the one I would like to specifically highlight here is that he’s quick to grasp technical concepts, constraints, relayed by team of engineers, to inform his design choices. This is a crucial skill from my perspective – a good design must balance long term strategic vision with practical considerations such as current capabilities of underlying architecture, way it needs to evolve over iterations, need to deliver value in each iteration (release) within timescales.

— Rajesh Gurnani – Senior Technical Manager (Pitney Bowes)