Launching Posti Design System
With its e-commerce and logistics solutions, Posti keeps our economy going. Processing up and over a million packages per week? Sure. Visiting up to three million customers daily? Done.
Investing in customer experience and digital platforms is a part of Posti’s strategy. The results of these efforts are visible in a vibrant and modern digital product culture.
In summer 2019 we were invited to join Posti’s own design team and launch an end-to end design system together.
Our journey in a nutshell
When we joined Posti’s design team, management buy-in for the design system was already secured. For the first two months, we focused on the following collaborations:
- Facilitating the creation of design philosophy to guide design decisions
- Curating priorities for a design system that would fit Posti in particular
- Involving product teams and key stakeholders in the process
In its early stages, Posti’s design system was set to serve digital product teams and marketing specialists. We also knew that in growing its in-house design team, Posti would be looking for service designers who’d feel comfortable driving deep strategic impact.
Whatever was brought into the design system, would need to fit the day-to-day needs of these audiences.
We also knew that doing more design explorations and iterations would be our way to success, given the on-going brand work, Posti’s wide range of UIs, and high ambition levels.
In the following six months, we shifted into a produce - release - iterate mode:
- Onboarding all designers onto a new interface design tool to support real-time and cross-team collaboration
- Producing shared, brand-aligned digital assets and guidelines
- Map and re-distributing service and business design oriented templates across product teams
- Supporting individuals and teams adopting and contributing to shared assets
- Continuing the internal communication and awareness raising
Design libraries were opened early on for product teams to explore. In this case, a design system specific development track was opened only once design libraries had reached sufficient mass.
About eight months in, a product owner was hired for the design system. We were especially happy about this milestone, as it reflected a more long-term commitment to keep the design system evolving within Posti.
Improving operational excellence
Posti’s growth potential stems from parcel products, e-commerce services and supply chain solutions. This means serving businesses and consumers directly, as well enabling others to run their B2B, B2C, and C2C sales.
Posti is also known for its heritage role as Finland’s national postal services. However, as less documents, bills, letters, etc. are being sent, the need for finding new sources of revenue has grown year to year.
To scale new areas of business, emphasis has been set agility. Digital teams have been moving quickly, experimenting, and learning within markets. And while this has yielded tons of learnings and sweet successes, design and technological debt have also been creeping in.
- With a design system in place, teams don’t have to create everything from scratch.
- As prototyping is sped up, teams can test more ideas
- As rudimentary, recurring assets are defined once and maintained in a more centralized manner, services gain better maintainability
- Shared assets are pre-tested, reducing product teams’ time spend on component level quality assurance and bug fixes
- This also means less corners cut to make it through any release (or first launch)
- As the UI styles and front-end architecture become more alike across projects, teams have an easier time swapping optimisation insights
- If a better version or an essential addition to a style or component is found, it can be turned into a shared asset, and distributed across multiple services
We need Google Material level maturity. With Posti Design System, basically anyone can work out a functioning UI solution - and move the discussion to a customer journey level.Juho Paasonen — Posti Head of Design
Streamlining services - and shifting the role of design
Most of Posti’s digital services are tied to on-the-ground operations (e.g. delivery sorting) and physical touchpoints (e.g. parcel lockers). Optimising digital interfaces is essential, but streamlining the whole customer journey and “backstage” operations can unlock even greater wins.
However, major changes like these can’t be run overnight. They require active, continuous collaboration across various units and disciplines.
- Designers role is shifting from pixel craft to change agents and customer voice amplifiers
- Focusing on customer journeys (what customers see, do, and experience over time) helps not just designers, but also product teams spot bigger pain points
- Some of these pain points can be solved by product teams on their own, while some issues will require wider co-operation
- Design (thinking) skills speed up and facilitate these collaborations, e.g. by co-creating and communicating an inspiring vision for the future
- The better designers understand key strategic choices, the better placed they are to pick their battles - aka prioritizing work for maximum impact
The long-term-game for Posti is to ensure that anyone, regardless of their role, can apply design thinking easily in their day-to-day work.
Impact on day-to-day work was realized as soon as first design system soft releases went live:
- Designers started seeking more peer-to-peer support
- Product owners could access upcoming work easily without the need to ask team members for exports of various kinds
- Collaborations could be initiated as needed and take place asynchronously over time, reducing some of the pressure and overflow within pre-assigned and time-boxed weekly cross-team meetings
Making the process collaborative was essential:
- Establish a federated model where evolving the system is a more collective effort
- Make quality standards more tangible and discussed
- Let new working practices be practiced and honed, before it was time to start running full speed
Our journey would have been quite a different one without:
- Strong vision and design leadership within Posti
- Product owners being involved and starting to take the fledgling design system into account in their roadmaps and release plans
- Being invited to work closely with other major initiatives and leads, incl. brand and product management
- Our Idean crew being welcomed as full-inhouse team members with a stake in Posti’s future (rather than remote “satellite suppliers”)
Elisa Pyrhönen is Lead Service Designer at Idean Finland. For the past few years, she has been heavily involved in design systems and initiatives focusing on ways of working. In addition to working closely within three organizations on their design system journeys, she has co-authored a book on the organizational impact of design systems. Her special skills also include doodling and knocking over water glasses.
Read more on Design Systems:
- Forget Brand Guidelines, Think Design Systems. 2019
- Idean & Capgemini Invent, Hack the design system. 2019
- ABB Design System Practice
- British Gas: A Strategic Partnership
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