How the ODI is helping Co-op Digital put data at the centre of the organisation

We recently invited groups of data experts into Co-op Digital to look at and challenge our data plans. One of these groups was the Open Data Institute (ODI). This guest post explains their thoughts on Co-op’s data work so far, and what we could be doing better.

At the Open Data Institute we work across the data spectrum helping people understand how access to data can make things better. Our dedication to making data more open and accessible puts us in a good position to advise Co-op Digital’s data team, who are aiming to improve transparency around how and why their customer data is used.

The Co-op is already getting lots right

We think there are 3 areas where Co-op Digital is already making excellent progress.

1.They recognise that data is an important asset

Data is becoming vital infrastructure for our society: just like roads help us navigate to a destination, data helps us navigate to a decision. Co-op already treats data as an asset and uses it to inform decisions. Co-op Digital has structured its data team so it doesn’t just include the standards and technical infrastructure that ensure people can access data, but also the governance, policies and guidance that ensures data is used in ethical ways.

2.They are building trust in their data

Co-op Digital have said that they want to be ‘trusted with data’. We’re pleased with this approach because we believe that ethics should be at the centre of any organisation’s work in this area. We’d like to see Co-op go further in using our data ethics canvas in their new data projects. The more people that use it and improve it, the better it will get for everyone.

3.They are working in the open

When the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into force next year, its rules on personal data will have far-reaching repercussions. It’s driving organisations to think about how they collect and manage this data. Being open is an important part of GDPR, and Co-op are talking about what it means and how its colleagues can better understand the new rules. We think GDPR is a good opportunity to build trust and loyalty, so we are pleased Co-op Digital contributed to our recent research on this subject.

Where we think Co-op can improve

There were areas we’d like to see Co-op Digital work more on, and we gave the team 3 recommendations.

1.Create data infrastructure for members and customers, not just colleagues

Data can be used to drive open innovation. It can help large organisations engage with startups to create innovative products and it can help a sector collaborate to solve social issues and create new opportunities. We’d like to see Co-op exploring how it could collaborate with others to find innovative uses for its data – not just other organisations but startups, civil society groups, members and customers. Good use of data infrastructure can empower entire communities.

2.Push for data literacy across the organisation

People need a variety of skills in order to understand how to effectively use data. The ODI has invested in training and improving data literacy and we’ve created a skills framework to help develop data professionals.

But we don’t need organisations full of data scientists – everyone in a modern organisation has a role in collecting, managing and using data. At Co-op Digital, this means building the culture and capabilities for all teams to run analysis and reporting to help them make informed decisions.

3.Lead the way on creating a more open approach

We think it’s important to build peer networks to help people share their experience and to work together to solve problems. We believe the Co-op has an opportunity to take forward not just their own businesses, but to offer insight and thought-leadership on data to the UK’s co-operative network and the retail sector. In doing this, the Co-op can make open data the default option and open the door for more creativity and innovation.

The Co-op has a chance to use data to make a difference

By working with its members, Co-op can share responsibility in managing data assets with those who are directly invested in its success. Shared stewardship of these assets, like store locations and opening times, helps to build a trusted relationship with members.

The Co-op already provides financial support to help members solve problems in their local community, particularly with the 1% cause contribution from membership. We were pleased to see data on this published under an open licence recently, using a community standard. But Co-op could also support its members in helping them be more data-informed and in understanding how data can be used to solve local challenges: this is all part of data literacy.

There’s already great work happening across the UK where local communities are using data to map wheelchair accessibility and highlight housing issues. We’d love to see the Co-op work with its members to create more of these initiatives. It’d help cement its position as a trusted authority on the ethical use of data.

We’re looking forward to seeing what the Co-op Data team does next – and we’ll be happy to help them meet their ambitions for being trusted with data to do amazing things.

Leigh Dodds, Data Infrastructure Programme lead, ODI
Amanda Smith, Account Manager, ODI
David Beardmore, Commercial Director, ODI

Adam Westbrook: life as a platform engineer at Co-op Digital

(Transcript) Adam Westbrook: So I’m a platform engineer here at Co-op Digital. I’ve been here 3, 4 months now. Day-to-day we sort of work with the development teams and the service teams and stuff like that: building out new infrastructure projects, working with the development teams on new products for membership.

There’s lots of opportunities for engineers around here to work with big engineering teams and stuff like that but there’s no other kind of companies around here they’re owned by their members and doing stuff that Co-op does for local causes and so it’s not just a normal big engineering team at a big company. You’re contributing to something a bit more.

It’s really good having everyone on one very open floor, we’re all working together, we’re able to proof of concept new products really quickly and just the of level of communication up here is really good, everyone can speak to each other, everyone knows each other everyone’s close and it’s just a really sort of good environment to get stuff done in.

So I think the thing that most enjoy about working here is being able to work with the other engineers and the other parts of Co-op Digital to really sort of push out new products and projects and things like that, really quickly. It’s a really great team here. The work that we do is really good and as such a focus on people working together and collaboratively and sort of learning and developing from each other and that’s often really difficult to come by. And just the culture here is really good that promoting that.

Adam Westbrook
Platform engineer

Responding faster on social media

The Social team has received over 580,000 social media interactions already this year. That’s over 580,000 comments and messages from colleagues, members and customers on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn and across our blogs. Of course, we want to respond as swiftly as possible, and we’ve been making our processes more efficient to help us to do just that.

How it used to work

For around 2 years, we’ve used a system called Sprinklr to bring all social media interactions together into one inbox. From there, the Social team (that’s us here in Co-op Digital) would review each interaction, answer the ones we could, and assign the ones we couldn’t to the relevant customer care team in different parts of the business.

However, we noticed that around 40% of questions and comments need a response from an expert in one of our customer care teams. Because that’s such a large chunk, manually sifting and sorting them took up a significant amount of time. To be more efficient, we decided to look at what we could do within Sprinklr to automatically assign interactions to the appropriate team.

Writing rules to speed things up

By August, we’d written a set of rules for the Sprinklr ‘rules engine’ with a series of yes/no scenarios. The sorting process sends each interaction down a flowchart and automatically assigns the interaction to the right team.

Here’s an idea of what the yes/no scenarios look like. But it’s a huge and sprawling live rules engine and it’s difficult to take a screenshot of the entire thing.

Screen 2017-11-30 at 12.26.30 The rules we’ve written work out:

  1. Who someone is, eg, a customer, member or colleague, an online influencer or a journalist.
  2. Which part of the business their interaction relates to.

From this information, we decide how best to respond.

We’re seeing positive results

So far, the new process has meant we:

  • respond 30 minutes sooner, on average
  • respond within an hour, 70% of the time, during working hours. (This is fairly good because a 2015 survey found that 53% of UK tweeters expect a response within 1 hour).
  • are able to identify when an interaction has come from a Co-op member, and if it has, we respond to them within 28 minutes, on average

Screen shot from a Co-op customer that says: Appreciate the speedy response

But it’s a work in progress

After the change, our Food customer care team noticed their response times were actually slightly slower. We realised this is largely because when people get in touch with a customer care team, they’ll say one thing over several messages. 

Previously, we would have forwarded just one of the messages to the Food customer care team and they’d have been able to see the whole conversation. Now however, each message and image automatically ends up in the customer care team’s inbox meaning we’ve basically just passed the filtering on to them to do. In response, we’re working on new ways of displaying interactions in Sprinklr to speed up Food customer care’s responses.

We want to be faster still

We’re pleased with the improvements we’ve made but things can still be better. Faster. We’re hoping to help Food customer relations respond to 95% of the messages assigned to them within 2 hours during working hours. That’s our next goal.

We’ll continue to iterate as we learn more about what colleagues, customers and members need from us on social media.

Jordan McDowell
Senior Social Media Manager

 

Making the General Data Protection Regulation easier to understand

gdpr-rights-posters (1)

The Co-op Data team has been preparing Co-op Digital for the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which will come into law next year. But we’re aware that the rules it sets out can appear complicated.

Too often, data can seem like a complex and distant subject, but it’s part of everything we do and it’s important to us that the whole business can see what we’re doing. GDPR puts consumers’ rights at the centre of data protection. As we work towards a Co-op that’s trusted with data, we believe this is exactly where they should be. And we will continue to focus on that as we build and develop our data programme.

Making GDPR more accessible

To make colleagues in Digital aware that the regulation is coming, we created posters to explain what it means in plain language. We think they’re a good way to make sure everybody knows about the rules and understands what they mean.

Screen Shot 2017-11-21 at 11.55.22

So far we’ve had a lot of feedback which shows there’s a great deal of interest ahead of GDPR coming in and real appetite to understand it better. The work that Digital has done in this area will help to inform the Co-op’s communications.

We’ve learnt a lot from the comments we received, and wanted to make sure that anyone and everyone can download our GDPR ‘rights’ posters.

It would be great to hear what you think in the comments. Or tell us how you’re making GDPR more accessible to colleagues in your organisation.

Posters: words by Rachel Murray and design by Jack Fletcher

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