Steve Foreshew-Cain: an app for members, training Funeralcare colleagues and an award win

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

The week started with the brilliant news that the team won the ‘Best Loyalty Initiative’ for Co-op Membership at the Retail Week Technology Awards. A massive well done to the team. Thanks to Danielle, Georgina, Anna and Dave who picked up the award on behalf of the team.

Our social media team have also been nominated for a number of awards at both The Drum’s DADIs and UK Social Media Awards in the last few weeks – so fingers crossed for them too.

On Wednesday we welcomed our Group Board to The Federation for their September board meeting. Whilst they were in the building we were able to give them a tour around and they were some of the first people to see the new Pioneer coffee shop – which is looking amazing.

It will be open for colleagues and tenants in the Federation shortly, and then open to the public after that – watch this space for more updates.

Also this week our Deputy CEO Pippa Wicks spent some time chatting openly and listening to some of our Digital colleagues. She then visited Adam Warburton and the team working on the membership app, heard about what they’ve learnt so far and even got to try it out for herself. Thanks Pippa.

Carl Burton, Helen Lawson, Michelle Monaghan and the rest of the Funeralcare digital service team have been busy this week. They’ve started to train colleagues in Funeralcare how to use the new system. If you’re a colleague and want to know more, you can at the next show and tell which is next Tuesday, 26 September at 2pm on 12th floor of Angel Square. But don’t worry if you’re not in Manchester, it will be filmed.

We’ve just said goodbye to Mark Brannigan one of our user researchers – but as they say, ‘user research is a team sport’ and thank you Mark for everything that you’ve done to really live this, and all the best for the future.

This week we it was great to say hello to some new faces. Alex Lynham joined us as a software engineer in our Data Services team and Amber Garland is our new apprentice software engineer, joining the Membership team. Welcome.

That’s it for this week. You’ll find our latest vacancies our blog. Don’t forget to subscribe for all our updates and follow us on Twitter. See you next week.

Steve Foreshew-Cain
Group Digital Director

Posters. They’re part of our culture


Our workspace in Federation House is shiny and new, open-plan and airy, and best of all it reflects our teams’ progress. Whiteboards show what we’re working on now and what’s coming next – they’re chocker with post-its.

But we’re also beginning to fill our walls with posters. Instead of showing work in progress, our posters show off overarching ideas, ones that don’t change from sprint to sprint.

We posted about our 10 Architecture Principles back in April. We’ve since made them into a series of posters. Putting them up reminds us how we’ve agreed to work and makes our workspace ours.  

Posters: words by Ella Fitzsimmons, design by Gail Mellows.

Co-op Digital team

Our Digital plan (July to December 2017)

Today we’ve published our Digital plan. It describes what Co-op Digital is working on from July to December 2017. It helps colleagues understand our priorities and provides a baseline to help us track how we’re doing with delivering our milestones.

Working in the open is important to our values so we’re publishing a non commercially sensitive version here on the blog.

Read our Digital plan (July to December 2017)

Co-op Digital team

Steve Foreshew-Cain: our Digital plan, Wuthering Bytes and good news for The Federation

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

This week we shared our Digital Plan for the rest of 2017 with our colleagues right across the Co-op and we’ll also be sharing this with our Members Council today and publishing it in the open on our blog next week.

We’re working on some great things at the moment to improve the service and experiences for our members, colleagues and customers. And an important thing that we’re doing is using digital tools to bring communities together and make it easier for them to collaborate.

Some top-line things that the plan covers are clarity on our purpose, responsibilities and the priorities of the Digital team in 2017, launching The Federation as a co-operative digital community for the north west that supports local businesses and startups, not-for-profits and other co-operatives.

And, in partnership with Funeralcare transforming at-need funeral service to give them more time to spend with clients. And in partnership with our Food business making it easier for colleagues to find information about how to do things and manage their schedules and tasks. And finally improving our Co-op’s approach to managing data so that we have all the insight we need to make informed decisions. We hope that you find it useful and of course any feedback is always welcome.

It’s been great to support Wuthering Bytes this week which is a festival of technology in the Peak District, so thanks to Andrew Back and the other organisers for letting us be involved, and plus a big thank you to Ian Drysdale for sharing his thoughts on festival day about building communities.

This week our Membership teams, including Digital Engineering, moved into their new home on the sixth floor of the Federation.

And in news just in we’re delighted that The Federation has been shortlisted as one of the most Inspired Spaces North 2017. This is brilliant news and a testament to the hard work of the whole team.

Also, this week we welcome Zirca Ali who joined our agile business community welcome to Zirca, it’s great to have you on board.

We’ve also said goodbye to a couple of colleagues in the last few weeks so I’d like to say a massive thank you and good luck to Ella Fitzsimmons who’s been doing great work helping our teams talk about their work, and to Jason Tang who helped us kickstart our journey to being trusted with data. Thank you again and please keep in touch.

Well that’s it for this week you’ll find our latest vacancies on our blog. Don’t
forget to subscribe to all of our updates and follow us on Twitter. We’ll see you next week.

Steve Foreshew-Cain
Group Digital Director

Why using jargon can alienate your wider team

Working in an agile way is now the norm for software development, IT and digital professionals (two thirds of companies describe their way of working as ‘agile’ or ‘leaning towards’ agile). And it’s how we work at Co-op Digital.

It’s a way of building products and services in gradual phases, instead of delivering it all at once, at the end. It means giving value to the people who will use the product as early as possible and letting them influence the direction of the product . It puts the user (in our case the customer, member or colleague) at the centre of the design and development process.

But agile comes with its own set of terminology and jargon. Search for ‘agile jargon’ and you’ll be met with a collection of dictionaries, glossaries and jargon-busters to help you understand the specialist vocabulary. ‘Sprint’, ‘kanban’, ‘scrum’, ‘MVP’, ‘retrospective’: there’s hundreds of terms that make up these aids.

What is jargon?

The Oxford Dictionary defines jargon as:

“Special words or expressions used by a profession or group that are difficult for others to understand.”

Sometimes jargon can be used as a shortcut to communicate a complex concept. It can be used to show that a person is a specialist in their field or connected to a certain community.

But, if we use jargon, we restrict the audience to those who understand the terms — it’s only understandable to those who know.

Why jargon’s a problem

As with many agile teams, Co-op Digital works with more traditional parts of the business. Recently, I’ve been working closely with Co-op Food. We couldn’t build a successful service without our Food colleagues’ knowledge and expertise. The least we can do in return is talk about these services in a way everyone understands.

This collaboration also gives us the opportunity to show the value that the agile way of working can add to a project and the rest of the business.

Agile often works best when it converts people — when it’s demonstrated an effective way of working to people who were initially sceptical. We should make the effort to make this transition as easy as possible for people.

But, by openly using agile jargon within a wider setting, we risk isolating the very people we want to help work in this way. If someone does not understand the vocabulary being used, it can be unnerving, alienating and mean they misinterpret an important part of what’s being said. Research shows that the less people understand, the less they trust the people telling them the information.

Using jargon can be inaccessible, ineffective and damaging.

What agile teams can do better

However we communicate, we should be inherently humble of what we assume. And good communication should not assume any specialist knowledge of the audience.

When we write for users of Co-op products and services we learn about the language that they use and make a considered effort to speak to them in a language we know they understand. We should do the same when we’re speaking to the wider team about our processes.

That means not using specialist terminology (or, at the very least, adding a plain English definition at the point any specialist terms are used) if we’re communicating:

  • publicly about our work
  • to people outside of our immediate team
  • to people who are new to a team or organisation

By doing this we’re not only removing barriers to comprehension, but showing that we’re open, transparent and respectful of our audience’s time.

Joanne Schofield
Content designer

Read more:

Steve Foreshew-Cain: a visit from the City Council and Leading the Way showcases its work

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

This week we welcomed Joanne Roney who is the CEO of Manchester City Council to The Federation, along with Alistair Asher and Ian Ellis. They were able to see the progress that’s been made, and met with one of the ‘Friends of the Federation’, Northcoders. Thanks Joanne for taking the time to come and visit us all.

And as I’ve mentioned before, we’d love to show as many of our colleagues around the building as possible. So, if you’re interested, please do get in touch. We’ll also be holding some open days just for Co-op colleagues very soon so keep an eye on the blog for more details.

On Wednesday, the Leading the Way team had the opportunity to meet with Pippa Wicks, Helen Webb and Ian Ellis from our Group Executive team at the Ashton on Mersey food store. They showed them the work they are doing as one team with our Food business to make life easier for our colleagues that work in store. Take a look at Anna Goss’s blog post from last week for an update on just some of the work that’s going on in that programme.

Last week we all gathered as a Digital team as we regularly do, and as part of that it was my pleasure to recognise 3 of our Digital colleagues for their work ‘being coop’. Thank you to Gary Traynor, who’s worked for Co-op for 30 years, Jo Schofield for working with our Food store colleagues, and training them to write great content, and especially to Scott Bennett for his work on our Prides across the country. Thank you again for ‘being Coop’.

And finally a hello to Aaron Omotosho has joined us for a few months of work experience with Danielle. It’s particularly great to welcome Aaron, as we’ve been able to support him during his studies at Loretto college. I’m sure you’ll be hearing more from Aaron on our blog.

That’s it for this week. You’ll find our latest vacancies our blog. Don’t forget to subscribe for all our updates and follow us on Twitter.

See you next week.

Steve Foreshew-Cain
Group Digital Director

We’re live! Funeralcare colleagues have started to use the digital service in Edinburgh

We reached a milestone last month when our colleagues in Edinburgh started arranging real funerals with the digital service we’d designed together. Although they’re keeping some of the existing, more paper-based ways of doing things as a safety blanket until they get used to things, our Edinburgh branches are the first to use our new ‘at need’ digital funeral arrangement service.

We’ve been testing the service with colleagues in Bolton and Edinburgh. For this post, we’ve spoken to Jamie Rafferty, a Funeral Director in Edinburgh, to find out how colleagues feel about what we’ve built so far. We recognise that Jamie is just one user and that what he’s sharing here is what he’s found to be the general opinion of the digital service so far.

Some of our Edinburgh Funeralcare colleagues in our Angel Square office helping us improve the digital service. Jamie Rafferty is second from the right.

Of course, we’re still listening to colleagues about what we need to improve before we roll things out to other branches and we’ll continue to do that.

Saving time and keeping details central and safe

When Funeralcare colleagues receive a call telling them that someone’s died, they record details of the deceased. The digital service is helping them move away from paper forms and instead asks them to add the details into a digital form. This change means the information is held safely and is available immediately so other Funeralcare colleagues can access it when they need to.

Jamie’s found that colleagues like only having to capture information once. He says, “It’ll help save time. At the moment there’s lots of duplication as we have to keep repeating information such as name, address etc in several paper forms.”

Giving everyone instant visibility

It’s incredibly important that colleagues know who they have in their care and where they are. The deceased can now be booked in and out through the digital service. It also requests that 2 people verify unique ID numbers when colleagues move them to a different location.

Edinburgh colleagues say they’re getting used to doing these things digitally rather than relying on paper records. “Previously, we’d have had to make lots of phone calls to consolidate the paper mortuary registers in all the branches,” says Jamie. Now, the transparency is making it easier to keep track of who’s where, when.

Photograph of Elizabeth, a colleague in the Edinburgh who is using the digital service on a tablet.

Knowing what’s been done

Colleagues get involved at different stages of planning and performing a funeral so communicating progress is essential. We’ve developed a new care and preparation section to show which tasks have been completed, which ones are in progress and which ones are still left to do.

Not only does this help manage the workflow, Jamie’s colleagues who speak directly to clients say it’s helping them arrange viewing appointments for family members. Now, if a client wants to come in and see their loved one, they can make an appointment straight away because colleagues don’t have to make several calls to find out about the progress.

Personalising the funeral

There’s no such thing as a typical funeral and our all colleagues want to do everything they can to help families give their loved one a personal send-off.

To help, we’ve built ‘about me’ text boxes so colleagues can make notes as they learn more about the deceased. For example, if someone was a big football fan, colleagues can make a note and might then suggest choosing flowers in their team’s colours or plan a route that goes past a certain stadium.

The boxes for extra details have been welcome additions. “It’s all about making the funeral special and making sure the wishes of the family are followed,” says Jamie.

Visibility of availability

The digital service gives colleagues access to a shared calendar which can be seen by all Funeralcare colleagues within a region. It has filters so they can see when funeral directors within their care centre are available. This means they can provide a quicker service by provisionally booking in a funeral while a client is sitting with them. “Before the digital service, colleagues had to leave the client on their own, or ring them back, because we’d have to phone a resource department in order to find out about availability,” says James.

Where next for the Funeralcare digital service?

Two colleagues from the Digital team looking at the whiteboard roadmap to see what's coming up in the future.

We’ll be coming out of beta soon and we expect to be live in 4 regions before Christmas. Then we plan to roll out the digital service across the rest of the country during 2018. We’ll also be doing more work to make things more comprehensive. As well as doing more to help colleagues we have plans to build some client-facing services. So while the service gets more users, it also keeps getting better through continuous delivery.

Funeralcare team