Steve Foreshew-Cain: The Federation is open and ‘How do I’ is live

(Transcript) Steve Foreshew-Cain: Hello, and welcome to this week’s Co-op Digital update.

This week we officially launched The Federation, as you can see behind me. It’s been amazing to see the transformation of the building into a vibrant, modern space. But what’s been even better is the community of people and organisations, both large and small, public and private that have come together.

Thank you to all the Federation team, Emer, Victoria, Lisa, Beena, Sam and Bex as well as our colleagues across the Group and NOMA that have supported us in not only the launch but the whole refurbishment of this fantastic building.

Also a big thank you to Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester who took the time to join us to mark the launch, as well as our CEO Steve Murrells.

The launch is just the beginning. There’s going to be lots going on in Federation. We’ll share all events on our social channels, and don’t forget there are really great event spaces that are available to hire for anyone as well as desks on our co-working floor.

One of those events is happening next Tuesday. Our Member Voice team are screening the Rochdale Pioneers film in The Federation. The Rochdale Pioneers tells the story of the Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers who founded the first successful co-operative retail store and whose passion and sense of fairness and justice inspired a worldwide movement with values at its heart.

I also wanted to say a big well done to our team working with colleagues in Funeralcare who received a highly commended award for workplace transformation project of the year at the UK IT Industry Awards last week. Well done.

Yesterday the ‘How do I’ service for our colleagues in Food went live and was launched into stores. 100% of the Retail Support Centre’s policy and procedure content is published on How Do I.

In the few days since we’ve launched we’ve already have over 650 colleagues accessing the new service, giving us lots of positive feedback on the service and plenty of ideas for improvement and iteration of the content.

And to give you some idea of the scale of the work, that’s 411 policies rewritten, 137 copied across from Citrus which was the old system. Absolutely stellar work from the content editor team who have been seconded in from stores and in less than 6 months have learned how to write user-focused content and how to use a content management system.

How Do I wouldn’t exist or be useful without the content, so this team, with our content designers Jo and Hannah’s help, have made it happen. So a huge thank you to Emma Nichols and her team – and to the whole team working together in partnership with our food business. That’s ‘being Co-op’ at its best.

Sadly we say goodbye to Jen Farmer this week. Jen was part of the team that brought our new brand to life, and has done a brilliant job of helping our data team start to engage with members.

Well, that’s it for this week. A big week I think you’ll agree. You’ll find our latest vacancies our blog – we’re looking for engineers, agile delivery managers, QAs and doing lots of recruitment in our data science team.

Don’t forget to subscribe for all our updates and follow us on Twitter.

See you next week.

Steve Foreshew-Cain
Group Digital Director

 

The ‘How do I’ website is now live for Food colleagues

Today we’ve launched ‘How do I’, a new digital service into all our Food stores.

We want all store colleagues to be able to find out how to do something in their store quickly and easily. ‘How do I’ is a website with up-to-date policies and procedures on it, written in a clear, user-focused way.

Screen shot of the landing page of How do I shows a search box plus 9 large categories of things colleagues need to know regularly.

How we did it

We knew that information about how to do things in stores was kept across multiple systems. Colleagues often had to search pages of policy to find the bit of information they needed. And some policies and procedures were more up-to-date than others, meaning colleagues didn’t always trust the information they were seeing. So our goal was to create a trusted source of better practices in one easily-accessible place.

To do that, we:

  • collated all existing policies and procedures
  • grouped them in a way that made sense for users
  • separated policies and procedures into actionable tasks
  • rewrote everything in a way that colleagues can easily understand – using the language that they do
  • researched with users along the way to find out if we were making something useful and understandable

Building something for users, with users

Co-op Digital builds user-centred products and services – things that make people’s lives easier. That means doing the hard work centrally to make things clearer, simpler and faster for our users. To do that we speak to users and show them what we’re building frequently. We change what we’ve designed based on how they interact with it and what their needs are.

For us, our users are colleagues in Co-op Food stores. And we involved colleagues from stores as much as possible while writing content and building the site.

In the past 6 months, we’ve visited 23 stores around the country and spoken to 46 colleagues in stores. We’ve also spoken to colleagues working in our Operations Store Support (OSS) team, who field queries from stores every day.

As well as visiting stores and showing them our works in progress, we involved store colleagues in writing the content too. Six colleagues were seconded from stores for 6 months. They worked with our content designers in Digital to learn about writing clear, simple, effective content that focuses on the needs of the user.

Using feedback to make it better

We’re building services with colleagues. We work with them, listen to their feedback and adapt services so that they’re continually useful for the people who will use them.

Since July this year, 10 test stores in Manchester have had access to an early version of How do I. In September, we also gave it to 2 other areas – Surrey, and Glasgow. That means that 47 stores have been using the website, and giving us feedback which we’ve been using to make improvements.

Every page on the website has a feedback function, so colleagues can tell us if they found the information they were looking for and whether it answered their question.

Giving people early access to what we’re doing kept us on the right path, and helped us to decide what to focus on next.

We’re still improving it

We’ve got ideas that we think will make How do I better, and we’re working through them. Here are 2 examples:

  1. Giving colleagues easier access

We learnt that most of the time, when a colleague isn’t sure how to do something, they ask someone else in their store, call another store or text a colleague. It’s easier to do that than to look it up on the existing system.

At the moment, colleagues can only access the site through the store computer. We know that this can take colleagues off the shop floor, and takes longer than asking the person next to you. We’re hoping to have a way for colleagues to sign in and access the site from any device early next year.

  1. Including Food HR policies

There’s still multiple places to look for information – on both How do I and the intranet. We’re working with our colleagues in Food HR to get their policies onto How do I, so it can become the go-to place for everything a colleague might need to know about working in a Food store.

Tell us what you think

We’re going to keep on making How do I better.

The version that’s in stores today isn’t the final version of How do I. We’ll continue to use analytics, research and feedback to improve the service so that it continues to meet the needs of the people that use it.

If you’re a store colleague, log on to your store computer and let us know what you think – we couldn’t have got this far without your input.

Anna Goss, product manager
Jo Schofield, content designer
Hannah Horton, lead content designer

The Federation is officially open

The Federation was opened by the Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham last night.

Photograph of Mayor Andy Burnham on stage speaking at Th Federation launch

We first shared our plans for The Federation back in February and since June, the building has been gradually filling up with a community of digital businesses and innovators from the north west. Federation Manager Victoria Howlett showed us around the co-working floors in the summer, but Tuesday evening marked the official launch.

Photograph of technology engagement thought leader Emer Coleman speaking on stage alongside Federation manager Victoria Howlet.
Opening The Federation wouldn’t have been possible without the dedication and vision of Federation Manager Victoria Howlett and Technology Engagement Advisor Emer Coleman

The Mayor has been supportive of The Federation’s plans to bring co-operative values to the development of the digital economy right from the start.

Last night he talked about his commitment to making Manchester a ‘smart’ city – a city that uses digital expertise to increase operational efficiency, share information with the public and improve both government services and citizen welfare.

He said: “The smartest cities don’t just make use of the digital economy, but use digital to connect people, helping tackle things like homelessness. We need to be a truly smart city to connect all our citizens.”

Our values at The Federation align well with Mr Burnham’s vision for Greater Manchester because, as he said: “The Federation is a space that brings together organisations, big and small, public and private [and,] by promoting collaboration and inclusion through digital, [we’re] building a better future for the people of Greater Manchester.”

Photograph of some of the community at the launch party.

Here’s to a thriving tech, digital and design community in the north. One which shares the Co-op’s ethical values: social responsibility, openness, honesty and caring for others.

Photograph of specially made Federation beer in bottle that was served at the launch.

You can follow The Federation on Twitter.

Steve Foreshew-Cain
Group Digital Director

We’re trialling an agile immersion course for all colleagues

Tuesday was the first session of the agile ‘immersion’ course – a free training course, put together and delivered by the team to help colleagues not working in digital experience agile working in a multi-disciplinary team.

The immersive nature of the course helps the team work collaboratively and aims to build on the foundations set by the Digital Skills Masterclasses which are more theory-based.

During the course, the group apply agile techniques and rituals to projects they’ve researched and selected. The course ends with colleagues showcasing their learnings at a show and tell in front of Co-op Digital’s heads of practice.

photograph of 4 colleagues on the course

Co-op Digital colleagues can help

The group is also required to work together outside of the sessions, with additional support provided by Digital colleagues. We’re looking for people across the communities of practice to help out with mentoring. If you have a spare 30 minutes a week for the next 2 weeks, get in touch with me.

Opening up opportunities in Digital

Since being seconded and then permanently employed by Digital last year, I’ve thought a lot about how to open up opportunities for non-Digital colleagues to experience agile ways of working, without taking time out of their day-to day-roles.

My hope is that after experiencing working in this way, colleagues would feel better equipped to:

  • introduce new ways of working to their teams 
  • apply for roles in the Digital team

We’ll listen and observe, then iterate

10 colleagues are enrolled on the trial course, all from our Support Centre in Manchester. We felt it was important to start learning about what works and what doesn’t as quickly as possible so we can make improvements and schedule another course early in 2018.

This time, the course runs 2 evenings a week for 3 weeks which means that it doesn’t interfere with day-to-day roles. Moving forward, the hope is we’ll be able to open it out, have more convenient hours and include colleagues from further afield.

The groups show and tell will be on 7 December at 12pm in Federation. Come along to see what we’ve learnt.

Annette Joseph
Delivery manager

3 reasons why sketching is useful in large organisations

Sketching can be really useful for teams working on digital products and services. It can help you quickly:

  1. Clarify your thoughts while you work through ideas, problems and potential solutions.  
  2. Communicate ideas to a wider team.

Recently, designer and illustrator Eva-Lotta Lamm came in and ran sketching workshops with the Co-op Digital Design team. Although sketching is something we already do, the sessions with Eva were beneficial because she:

  • showed us how to become more confident with our pens
  • encouraged us to be more comfortable sketching in front of the team
  • made us consider the right level of detail for what we need to communicate
  • shared tips to help us improve the quality of our sketches
  • made us consider using the technique in situations we hadn’t been using it in

Apart from these practical things listed, the workshops made us rethink the value of expressing ideas in visual ways within the Co-op – a huge organisation going through transformation.

Here’s why sketching is super useful.

1. Sketching can help us communicate more clearly

Often, there’s a lack of clarity within large teams. It’s not necessarily someone’s fault, it’s just sometimes hard to avoid Chinese whispers. However, sketching means there’s less room for misinterpretation.

Colleagues will have different learning styles, they’ll interpret things in various ways and they’re likely to communicate the same thing differently. Having something visual means there’s something tangible everyone can point to, to explain things clearly to a wider team or stakeholders. They’re showing the same thing, not their interpretation of what they heard days (or even weeks) before.

Of course, there’s something to be said for matching the level of detail in your sketch to whoever you need to convey your idea to. An abstract, visual metaphor help explain something technical to a colleague whose role isn’t technical, but if you need to talk through a webpage layout with a developer, you’ll need to include more detail.

2. It’s a quick, cheap and collaborative problem solving technique

Articulating a complex problem or idea can be tricky and sometimes, sketching it will help. However, being ‘good at drawing’ isn’t a prerequisite for giving sketching a go. Sketching has a low barrier to entry – it’s not about creating perfect works of art, it just needs to capture the spirit of what you’re trying to communicate.

Because we can sketch so quickly and cheaply, sketches can be easily iterated. We can also scrap them completely without feeling like we need to commit to anything.

3. It’s less about ownership, more about collaboration

When we’re working with people who aren’t used to working in an agile way, sketching could be a good way to introduce a more flexible way of thinking. It echoes the idea that nothing’s ‘final’ or ‘perfect’.

Teams can consider a problem and sketch ideas around it within seconds. Some will be potential solutions, some won’t. Either way, the quick pace helps us stay focused on the problem, and with each iteration we get closer to the most feasible solution. The constant discussion while various team members sketch makes the activity really collaborative.

Sure, it was the Design team that attended Eva’s sketching workshops but very few of us were super confident sketchers at the beginning of the session. Sketching isn’t a skill that should be owned by designers or even by a Digital team but it’s a technique we’d encourage all team members from Digital, policy, legal to get involved in. There’s value for everyone in it because it’s something we can use together to create visual interpretations of a problem or idea. This helps the whole team have a shared understanding which we believe could only be a positive thing for team morale.

Try it yourself

Here are 5 tips to change your note taking with sketching. You can watch Eva-Lotta’s video on the same thing too.

IMG_1674

Louise Nicholas and Ciaran Greene
Interaction designers

Aaron Omotosho shares what it’s like being a Digital Apprentice

(Transcript) Aaron Omotosho: I’m Aaron, I’m an 18-year old student. I’ve just finished college, I was planning to go to university this year but unfortunately due to being an international student and the international student fees at UK universities I’m unable to afford to go this year and I’ve decided to take a gap year to work at the Co-op.

When I first started I was with the Data Services team and then I went to the Digital Data Services team and from there I had a chance to look at what the platform team were up to. After that I got some time to spend with Membership specifically the more members team. I’ve just been moving around a lot. I’ve had the opportunity to see several job roles that I didn’t even know existed. But I think the first one I encountered was business analyst.

The Co-op works in a multi skilled team, with different people, different skills, working together and the business analysts just sort of ties that together and I would never have imagined that that’s what they do.

I’ve also gotten a chance to experience other roles like designer, I didn’t know much about what a designer did but now it’s something that I’m even looking to maybe go into in the future.

I expected a generic workplace of everyone wearing suits, being really serious, but my mind has definitely been blown ever since I started working here.

Through the Co-op I’ve organised to take a course with the Northcoders to learn a bit more about the basics of programming. So after the 3 month course when I do come back to the Co-op for the rest of the year, I have a bit more knowledge and some sort of qualification to work better with the different teams and be able to understand more in depth about what they do.

After I left college I had no idea what would come next I had just no focus or anywhere to go, but I think after starting here the Co-op it’s given me a focus, a direction.

I’ve gotten the opportunity to work in things that are like actual real problems that are being solved, actual solutions that will go out there to help people and it’s just such a fantastic feeling to know you’re working on things that actually matter.

Aaron Omotosho
Digital Apprentice

Matthew Speight: how working with Digital has been a positive disruption for Co-op Food

(Transcript) Matthew Speight: Leading the Way is the Co-op’s plan to transform the way we run our stores for our customers and members and most importantly make it simpler for our colleagues.

So the Co-op Digital team came to the Leading the Way program really early in the year and at the time, if I’m honest, I didn’t really understand how we’d work together as a team because it wasn’t clear and I didn’t know the Digital team that well, the skills and the abilities they’ve got on the team.

The first thing I think the Digital Team have done is they’ve opened my eyes actually having spent a couple years in the field, what I thought was was the truth about supporting colleagues and providing leadership is actually very different to what the reality was.

In fact we could have supported colleagues more and we should have done a better job and the Co-op Digital team have brought user-centric design to the Co-op. And they are fascinating as a team in terms of that passion to make sure that the user needs are at the forefront of any project. And before you scope an idea or a potential project they focus on what is it user need that you’re trying to fix.

My Schedule is a tool for colleagues that allows them to not only plan their holidays and look at their own shifts but start to think about working in other stores and it gives flexibility to colleagues. It disrupts the way we run our stores.

That’s one project, but this year we’re going to launch ‘How Do I‘: how do I do things, and that’s probably a real simple baseline of what the Digital Teams can do. They’ve taken our existing policies, 7,000 of them that are on Citrus which is our store process back office platform and simplified it. They provided a real simple menu option, that will improve the way our colleagues navigate problems in our stores. That will save time, it’ll improve compliance and it’ll also allow us to answer both colleague queries and customer queries in a much more efficient way.

And those sort of things together, My Schedule, How Do I, are the start. Then if you start to think about how we might run our stores and bring our IT data together, then you know digital gives the potential to really disrupt the way we run our stores and I’m hugely excited by some of those plans for next year.

I’m blown away by what they brought the program. They’re a fantastic team, hugely talented and they’ve made a real difference the program.

Matthew Speight
Retail Director, Support Centre