Helping Food colleagues get out of the office and onto the shop floor

At Co-op Digital we’re building products and services that’ll improve efficiency in the wider Co-op Group. Part of this is figuring out how we can give more time back to our Food colleagues in stores so they can spend time helping customers instead of shuffling handfuls of paperwork in their office. Basically, we want to make things things more predictable ie, knowing when a delivery will arrive so that colleagues can plan and use their time better.

Teaming up with ustwo

We brought in ustwo, a digital product studio, to help. At that point we needed more people power and ustwo have excellent experience in putting user needs at the forefront of everything they do. Their ethical values also made them a brilliant match for us.

Researching and learning during discovery

Our goal for discovery was to produce a set of alphas that would potentially benefit the food business. We spent time with and interviewed customers as well as our Food colleagues including store managers, colleague team members and depot managers.

We learnt about the Food business at incredible speed through qualitative and quantitative research and design techniques such as sketching. Our interviews were sometimes focused and at other times wide ranging; sometimes they were in depth and at others they were vox pops. Spending time listening to colleagues on the phones in our call centres and seeing what happens on our internal help desk helped us learn a lot too.

We took what we’d learnt from our research and proposed alphas that might help with common problems we’d encountered throughout the discovery. In the end we worked on 3 alphas with ustwo. Last year, we blogged about the product range finder which was one of them.

Now we’re talking about another one: the delivery alerts alpha.

Initial scope of delivery alerts

We posed these questions:

Can we speed up delivery turnaround times?
Can we reduce queuing during busy times?

Starting simply and cheaply

We wondered if notifying a store of the arrival time of a truck would help make stores more efficient. So we set up a simple trial by asking a driver to use one of our cheap mobile phones to send a text message when he was approaching. Straight away we found that this was useful to stores so we felt confident that if we pursued this idea to the next stage, it’d be useful. So we built a more robust prototype that would test our theory further.

At this point we realised we were crossing paths with another team in Co-op working on putting black boxes into our delivery trucks that could provide us with the data we needed.  So whilst that work was coming together with the third party supplying the black box, we pivoted slightly to focus more on this question:

Can we make important shop bulletins available to everyone, quickly?

Building a digital dashboard

With the ease of a good agile team, the delivery alerts alpha became the store dashboard alpha because delivery alerts could be a part of something bigger. We built and trialled a store dashboard, a website running on an iPad.

image shows store dashboard including tasks (for example 'return match attax champions league products'), delivery times and news.

It shows our Food colleagues:

  • urgent or general tasks to be done
  • news or information from the Support Centre that colleagues should read

By now, we had around 15 stores in Manchester and London to use the digital dashboard as an information source. We chose a mixture of big and small, city and rural.

Image shows team leader Dan and store manager Craig from the Didsbury Road store looking at the store dashboard with Kim Morley out delivery manager. They're in the store.

Helping colleagues plan better

Once we had access to the data from the black boxes in the trucks, we built our delivery alerts module that sat in the bigger, more comprehensive dashboard. Then we broadened our trial to show colleagues when deliveries were going to arrive. With the dashboard they can see if their delivery truck was stuck in traffic. This meant they could plan ahead and use their time efficiently.

We got enough insight from the delivery alerts module and our tasks and news modules to calculate that it could give store managers up to 10% more time to spend on the shop floor.

Big thumbs up from colleagues

Naz at Faircross Parade Co-op said that knowing when deliveries will arrive is the main thing that would make the system helpful to him, because he could co-ordinate his team and the floor schedule. Co-ordinating better means that Naz can free up colleague time for other activity, like reducing queues at the tills.

Gemma from Taylor Road Co-op said that she could turn her deliveries around 10 minutes quicker using our dashboard. But it means so much more than that to her, knowing when her deliveries arrive means she can allocate tasks before and after the delivery to make her store run more efficiently.

If we take this idea forward, we’ll blog about our progress. In the meantime, you can sign up to the Co-op Digital blog.

Kim Morley
Delivery manager

The importance of having a safe place to listen and learn

Six months ago, after a workshop with agile coach Emily Webber, we set up a community of practice for the delivery managers here at Co-op Digital. Emily believes that communities of practice help to connect people in organisations that are scaling their agile delivery. They also support individuals and help the group avoid duplication of work.

So a group of us who work on projects including Food, Funerals, Wills and Locations Services, starting putting a couple of hours aside each week to catch up and support each other.

To kick things off, we came up with our mission and manifesto.

blue slide with white text says: our mission is to inspire ourselves and others at Co-op and beyond by setting and continuously improving the standard of agile, collaborative delivery.

white slide says: agile delivery community manifesto. we are committed to developing a community of practice thats sets and improves the standard of agile ways of working in Co-op and beyond. We will do this by: being open and honest, respecting each other and not being judgemental, putting in the effort to help and encourage each other, making time for the community and actively contributing, focus on outcomes and making them happen, setting ourselves up for learning and continuous improvement

We talked about our goals and put everything we’d like to do on a Trello board. We thought about what we’d like to be able to tell people about being an agile delivery manager at Co-op Digital, and how we could influence groups in the wider Co-op by sharing our better practices.

Just for starters

Since then, we’ve tackled a lot of stuff on the list. We’ve:

  • organised digital masterclasses for new colleagues at Co-op Digital. These sessions are an introduction to agile at the Co-op and an overview of what it’s like to be part of a digital product team here
  • introduced a section on agile working to a training course on waterfall. Now Co-op project and portfolio managers will learn about both delivery methods
  • created a place to write about and share our experiences within the community when we try something new; when things go well and when they don’t go well
  • defined which skills a delivery manager at Co-op should have. This will help us see where we need more training and what to focus on when we recruit

Our community’s work is starting to become recognised around the wider business. That’s important because it means more people will have an understanding of what delivery managers do and how we can help teams work more efficiently. It’s good for individual teams and ultimately, it’s good for the business.

Time to reflect in a retrospective

Now we’re 6 months in, in true delivery manager style, we’ve had a retro to find out how each member of the community thought things were going. We talked about what we think has gone well and what we could do better in 2017.

We drew a timeline of the last 6 months and used green post-its to mark significant events. Then we each approached the timeline from a personal perspective and added pink post-its to mark our positives and blue post-its for personal negatives. Then we worked together to come up with actions to try and make sure the bad bits don’t happen again. After that, we each used marker pens to draw our highs and our lows. Here’s Steve in action!

Steve Bruce drawing his highs and lows on the timeline

Making time for meetups

Interestingly, the timeline showed that each community member felt more positive when we’d had regular meetings. So prioritising our meetups became an action. When the workload on your team is mega, it can be tricky to find the time to step away, even for an hour, but we’ve all found that getting together helps us not get bogged down.

The community of practice and me

I’ve learnt a lot from our meetups. They’ve been somewhere to stamp our feet, make new friends, bury ourselves in post-its, support each other by giving and taking advice. Sharing how you feel in a safe environment is invaluable. Especially when you’re with the people who are best-placed to support you with the tricky parts of your job.

I’d encourage everyone to come together with their community and try it. And let us know how useful you find it in the comments.

Kim Morley
Delivery manager