James Box
A few weeks into the engagement I remember a meeting with a high-profile senior sponsor. He was keen to convey the importance of achieving an early impact, with words to the effect of: ‘As consultants you’ve got 12 weeks to make a difference. After that, you’re just another part of the furniture’. That certainly helped harness the intensity of our efforts in making an impact as soon as possible.

James Box, User Experience Director

The challenge for Nordea

In 2014, with Fintech market disruption creeping ever closer, Nordea had embarked on a large transformative programme with a huge ambition to change the nature of how they interacted with their customers via digital platforms. It was known as Relationship Banking Online (RBO): a digital service where customers could achieve a highly personal and tailored service without ever stepping into a branch; where a bank was able to pro-actively help all its customers manage their finances efficiently and effectively. Would Nordea be able to take advantage of the digital disruption transforming the industry? The time was right to take the strategic vision to the market, and Clearleft were engaged as the customer experience design partner to help make it happen.

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How do you make financial data more meaningful to people?

When we began working with Nordea, they had already undertaken a significant amount of customer and market research. It was clear from their insights that people saw finances and banking as a means to an end. Effective support from their bank to tackle the daily management of transactions (addressing their short term needs) could help them focus on their more important, long term goals: taking memorable holidays, buying a home, having a child, early retirement - the list goes on. Customers were looking for a straightforward and personal online banking platform to provide a clear service in which they could trust. Then they would be free to focus on what really mattered.

With this challenge at the forefront of our minds, we facilitated collaborative sessions across the business, turning that wealth of research into a shared, tangible vision of a new user experience that would satisfy these needs. These sessions focused on understanding the end-to-end experience across channels, storyboarding improved user journeys, and sketching potential user interface and interaction design solutions.

A critical question we asked ourselves was: ‘how will we transform raw transactional data into intelligent insights that can be made actionable by customers?’. As a result, the design team worked extensively with data visualisations and infographics to find effective ways to present back financial information in a more meaningful and understandable way for the customer.

A group of screenshots showing the new and improved design of the Nordea dashboard

How do you collaborate internationally across four countries?

Nordea has a significant banking presence across the nordic region of Sweden, Finland, Norway, Denmark and beyond. Naturally, we were keen to ensure that any geographic and cultural differences didn’t negatively impact the project, so we based ourselves in Nordea’s Copenhagen offices for two out of every three weeks for the first three months of the engagement. We also encouraged regular two to three day trips between the various team members in Brighton, Copenhagen and Stockholm.

At Clearleft, we frequently co-locate with clients - we have amassed plenty of tricks in our arsenal to capitalise on collaboration opportunities and, thus, maximise successful outcomes. The trick here was knowing how best to translate our tried and tested approaches into alternatives that would be just as effective without being in the same room; no easy task.

We ran remote design reviews to critique potential solutions, and carried out short daily stand-ups where the team share individual status updates, challenges and impediments. We also encouraged as much video chat as possible during these activities, and often paired up people from different offices to work on shared design problems so we didn’t become siloed teams. Whilst this occasionally exacerbated some friction in the process, overall, the pros outweighed the cons and we were able to work effectively as a single harmonious team in pursuit of a shared vision.

We were presenting Design Principles to an auditorium full of developers and business analysts. It was then that the reality of our achievements kicked in: six months after we had first arrived, this was actually getting built and the design of the customer experience was at the heart of the new platform.

ANDY THORNTON, USER EXPERIENCE DESIGNER

How do you keep teams aligned to your vision?

When the technical discovery and design concepts were sufficiently mature, we were at the point of scaling the development team up to begin rolling out the features that would deliver the most effective impact in the market. But we were noticing a recurring problem…

It was clear that the scale and duration of this initiative was leading to some ‘lossyness’ in the message. We needed to find the most effective way to keep everyone aligned to the original objectives: Why were we doing what we were doing? What was it going to achieve for customers? What business outcomes would be considered successful?

ANDY THORNTON, USER EXPERIENCE DESIGNER
A booklet explaining various designing solutions for Nordea

We started discussions across the team about how we would ensure the intent of what we were doing was not lost amidst the noise and intensity of a large scale enterprise level delivery programme. It was felt that a lightweight, physical artefact such as a book, conveying the essential concepts behind the work we’d been doing for the past 9 months, would be the most effective means to communicate the core idea behind everything. Unlike a PDF hidden away on a network somewhere, it needed to demand attention: be something difficult to ignore, and easy to pickup and browse through.

We decided upon creating a ‘2020 Vision’ guidebook, but were keen to ensure that it didn’t explicitly detail every nuance of the interaction design; after all, much of this was still to be finessed. It served as a guidebook to elicit the intended direction of travel only; of feature ideas based on genuine underlying user needs, and the business goals they satisfied. It invited iteration, and instilled the working principle of improving any solution by building on the work of others.

The Results

A north star vision

Our 2020 Vision guidebook helped Nordea articulate the narrative behind the big ideas at the heart of the programme, in a manner that successfully encouraged staff engagement and iterative improvement in the evolution of the product.

New ways of working

Working alongside Clearleft, Nordea experimented with new design methodologies and ways of working, suitable for large scale cross disciplinary teams and smaller experience design teams, all spanning multiple countries, cultures and mindsets.

A new design language

Key outputs of the delivery included the digitisation of their existing brand, incorporating a visual style guide for designers, a component library for developers and user experience guidelines for all, ensuring that any future evolution of the product was sustainable after our departure.

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