PITNEY BOWES

UX Lead & Product Designer for
Relay Communications Hub (SAAS)


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.

My contract ran for 2 years, 3 months. To concisely demonstrate my UX thinking and execution, this case study focusses on the first 7 months, from the project’s 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.

UX & Visual Design

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

Developers & Axure

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

Mentoring

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

The Journey Begins

October 2015

Project Kick-off

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.

Key Takeaway
It was important to make the research a collaborative task with product owners to align interests and establish a strong working relationship with the team.

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.

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.

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

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.

Design workshop with product management, relating the designs to the personas.

Clarifying design interactions with the engineering team.

Key Takeaway
The approach to meet each department separately created a strong synergy throughout the team. Stakeholders felt comfortable providing their insights and ideas in smaller groups.

The Product

Feature: Mail Manager

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

This allows companies to;

1. Reduce the number of printers on the office floor.
2. Improve printing efficiency by grouping similar types of documents into bundles.
3. Provide a status on all outgoing mailpieces (E.g. “In Print Queue, Printed, Mailed, Delivered”)

Mailroom dashboard: provide the operator a snapshot of communications to be printed, inserted and mailed .

A summary of outgoing customer communications by status, ensuring the mailroom operator meets internal SLA’s.

Did the recipient receive their invoice? Track and trace all outgoing communications, from generation to delivery.

Feature: Document Template Designer

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

This allows companies to;
1. Correct address formats through national databases to claim postal discounts.
2. Add a 2D barcode to documents, automatically folding and inserting mail into an envelope.
3. Define mailpiece attachments (Terms & Conditions with a New Insurance policy)
4. 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.

Relay Inserters (Pitney Bowes hardware) automatically fold and insert documents into envelopes by scanning a barcode.Customers can define a barcode location using the drag and drop tool.

Customers can assign digital attachments to be printed with the mailpiece. This reduces the need to keep pre-printed stock.

Deliver documents by E-mail or directly to the recipients bank website.

Design to Build

Designs evolved into an interactive Axure prototype*, replicating the customer facing features of the product.

Over the past two years the prototype has become a fundamental asset to the evolution of the product, allowing the development team to size stories, create test cases and present ideas to senior stakeholders.

Features that didn’t make the initial release were added to the backlog for build or required further commercial validation.

The product went live in May 2016.

* Interactive prototype available upon request

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 and Design Leader

The Product – 2 years in

In March 2017, Relay Hub version 2.2 was released.

After two years on the road, I wanted the team to revisit major product features to ensure that all the parts were in sync. What about the long-term value for our customers? What was working and what wasn’t? I felt like Relay Hub could get better mileage for Pitney Bowes.

As we established during the initial research, the market demand significantly differs depending on where you’re based—not one size fits all—and I was concerned that the economics were starting to become slightly disjointed. Going forward, I wanted project managers to pay more attention to these niche markets during their decision-making. And we needed more information about the product’s performance in general

To provide updated direction, the project team conduct comprehensive, unified research and analysis before committing to the next phase. Our objective: alignment. I wanted all stakeholders—from Product Management, Innovation, Marketing, Sales and UX—to be in agreement about the following:

  • What drives Relay Hub’s ecosystem?
  • Who are our personas, and have they changed since the initial launch?
  • What are our customers saying about Relay Hub?
  • What obstacles hinder product sales

As the Lead designer, I promised a lot, telling our stakeholders,“The goal is to give you as much information as possible to make an informed decision.” Everyone agreed to give it a try.

With everyone in agreement, an interactive workshop was scheduled in New York to take place in just three weeks. Preparation was key. I devised a research plan, using a Gantt chart format to clearly list the tasks, the persons responsible and the timeframe for delivery.

Then we conducted 18 separate, internal one-on-one interviews, collating feedback from employees in client-facing environments. Business Analysts (BAs) and professionals from Sales and Customer Service each shared their unique insights and experiences with the Relay Hub product and customer usage. We asked them questions designed to unveil the internal processes which influence the product’s purchasing life cycle and its credibility to specific global markets. We sought to learn more about customer marketing and sales in general. Afterward, we documented and analyzed those insights.
We broke our research findings down into regions, depicting the strengths and weaknesses of Relay Hub geographically.

Eight senior stakeholders were in attendance for our five-hour workshop in New York. My goal was to share our research findings in an easily digestible format.

We would address short and long-term objectives for Relay Hub — guided by our roadmap, which outlined our agenda and principals of Design Thinking. We wanted to leverage research and the unique insights of department leaders to ignite collaborative problem solving for informed decision making.

The day before the workshop, I worked alongside Product Management, sifting through research findings. We turned qualitative data on its head, looking for patterns, recurring statements, and standout comments. We wrote essential information on colorful post-it notes and taped them to the conference room wall, along with screenshots of the product’s UI. Finally, we added our original user personas to our display, ready to be evolved as the workshop progressed.
The next day, a rainy Wednesday morning in March, our workshop participants arrived to a conference room stocked with donuts, bagels and coffee, and Bruce Springsteen music playing to help keep energy up.

As it turned out, everyone was “Born to Run” as they kept moving — working individually and in pairs — coming back together for collective feedback.

It was a meeting of the minds. In one paired exercise around personas, for example, the head of Marketing stood off in a corner of the room comparing his post-it notes with those of the head of Innovation.

We evolved our current personas and added two more subsets, expanding the target demographic based upon quantifiable research.

Then we organized the research results using affinity mapping exercises.

Finally, we clustered our conclusions into seven key themes prioritized from top to bottom — indicating that Relay Hub should evolve to contain the seven features. In addition, we created four measurable hypothesis statements which reflected the project team’s beliefs and values related to customer requirements, self-service templates, reporting, and back office systems.

As the workshop drew to a close, we let the dust settle—capturing notes and sketches to share with the wider project team. We sent summaries to our innovation team members who were not able to attend the workshop, so they would have insight into what would be happening over the coming months.

This format—conducting and sharing research, then working together toward a measurable hypothesis—worked really well. The findings prompted new ideas, validated our assumptions, and provided a concrete roadmap for navigation. Now, the team is able to quantify our objectives and measure progress down the line.