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

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

My Schedule. Task Manager. How do I? 3 alphas aiming to help Food colleagues

Food’s ‘Leading the Way’ team said back in March that there were 14 potential alphas that came out of a 3-week discovery. Since then, we’ve been working on 3 of those alphas. These are:

  1. My Schedule – a service to help colleagues see which days they’re working, book holidays and request extra shifts.
  2. Task Manager – a digital way to organise tasks.
  3. How do I?  – a single, accessible source of information to help colleagues find out how to do things in stores.

Here’s where we’re up to.

Empowering colleagues with My Schedule

In the discovery, our research showed there was a need for colleagues to see which days they were scheduled to work, request overtime, review their holiday days and book holidays from their own devices. If colleagues could do these things independently, managers would be more free to spend time on things that would be more valuable to their colleagues and customers.

We’re now 5 weeks into a 12-week alpha to explore this. We’re researching and validating our assumptions by designing and building a working prototype with real data, and taking it into stores.

At the moment, colleagues check paper schedules to see when they’re working, and rescheduling or swapping shifts happens through informal channels like WhatsApp.

Our prototype allows colleagues to see their schedules on their own devices. We’re also working on ways to allow customer team members (CTMs) and managers to request and approve holidays, swap shifts and approve any overtime.

Image shows 2 photographs of real paper schedules in stores plus a photo of a colleagues phone with text messages between a colleague and a manager discussing changes to a shift. The right hand side of the image show the prototype.

So far, the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, but we’re taking everything onboard and will keep iterating.

Taking time back with Task Manager

The discovery showed that regular in-store tasks were taking longer than they would do if they were better organised and all in the same place. There’s an inconsistent system for reminding colleagues to complete tasks and for letting other colleagues know that something’s been done. There are also several channels for tasks so it’s confusing to know where to look.

Since then, we’ve visited colleagues in Manchester stores to find out about their day-to-day routines: how they work together, what they get done and especially what they struggle to get done. We found that there are 76 tasks that need completing regularly.

In order to start designing a product that will be useful, we’re going to run a 5-day design sprint. As with all agile projects, we’re starting small. We’ve chosen one of the 76 tasks: a tool to check the dates on ambient products. We’re going to explore how we can make it easier for colleagues to complete all the necessary date checks.

After 5 days of understanding the current process, mind mapping, sketching ideas and designing we’re confident we’ll have a prototype we can take into stores and test with colleagues. We’re still in the planning stages but we’ll talk more about what we learn when we start testing.

Making information easier to find with ‘How do I?’

The discovery showed that finding out how to do things in store, for example, loading a date gun to transferring stock between stores, was taking colleagues more time than it should.

All the information is on a system called Citrus. At the moment, it’s often buried in a much longer policy, and that policy is often hard to find. A lot of the time it’s not written in plain English either which could be confusing – especially if you’re new to Co-op or English isn’t your first language.

So we’re working on a way to help colleagues find out how to do things quickly and easily. We’ve built a test website which includes a few redesigned, user-focused procedures in different formats. We’re doing regular research in stores to see how colleagues use and react to the information and if something doesn’t work, we change it.

Our early findings have been positive. Colleagues seem to trust it, understand it and feel able to do the thing they didn’t know how to do before.

But, we need to do more work to understand how (and if) colleagues would use the site. There might be better ways to get the information to them at the point they need it. Testing in more stores and having more content on the site should help us with these questions. So we’re working with a team of 6 colleagues seconded from stores to help us write more procedures and we’re expanding our testing group to 40 more stores.

We also have questions around what we call the product, how colleagues can access it securely and how it’ll be hosted. We’re working on the answers.

A good start

At this stage, as with all alphas, there are still unknowns. We’re hoping that by the end of the year all Food store colleagues will be benefiting from at least one of these projects.

Susanne Husebo, agile coach on My Schedule
Louise Nicholas, interaction designer on Task Manager
Hannah Horton, content designer on ‘How do I?’

How we went from a 3-week discovery to 14 potential alphas

Running a food shop is simple in theory. You need to make sure there’s food on the shelves, there are colleagues available to help customers if they need it, and you’ve got to make sure customers can hand over their money when they want to buy something.

In fact, running a branch of a supermarket is pretty complicated. Even within that first statement, ‘make sure there’s food on shelves’, there’s a whirlwind of complexity. Getting food on the shelves involves logistics like knowing when a delivery is arriving, best before dates and in house baking.

At the beginning of March we completed a 3-week discovery to find out how we could make life simpler for our colleagues in stores. After the success of the Product Range Finder, one of our previous alphas, we wanted to find other opportunities for us to help. Now, we’re at the end of the discovery phase and we’ve proposed 14 alphas that we could work on.

Here’s how we got to this point.

Getting the right team together

We needed the right mix of people working together. It was just as important for us to collaborate with people with first-hand experience of the shop floor as it was for us to work with people with digital skills. The ‘Leading the way’ team from the Food business joined us. The purpose of their group is to help colleagues ‘go back to being shopkeepers’ by taking away some of the administration involved in running a store. Four of them joined the Co-op Digital team for the whole 3 weeks, and importantly, 3 of them had been area managers or shop managers within the last 12 months. Like we did for the first 3 Food alphas, we teamed up with digital product studio ustwo too.

Learning how things work in store

During week 1, we had around 20 colleagues from the Leading the way team come and work in Federation House to map out what happens in a Co-op store, and what goes into running one day to day.

We learnt about everything from walking around the store in the morning, ‘facing up products’ and cashing up, about what happens to unsold magazines when the issue expires, and a whole lot more. The purpose of the workshop was to uncover any assumptions. Doing this meant that anyone who didn’t have first-hand experience in store could get a decent understanding of how things work which in turn meant that our research would be less biased and more thorough.

Using filters to figure out potential

In our first week we also set up some team principles and some filters to evaluate each alpha idea on.

“Yes” ideas were ideas that we thought were good enough to carry forward to the alpha phase. Each one would:

  • have a clear user need
  • have potential for lasting value
  • empower colleagues and decentralise processes
  • keep colleagues on the shop floor

On the other hand, we had some ideas we wanted to ditch. “No” ideas were the ones that:

  • had a poor effort to value ratio
  • would add to colleagues’ workloads
  • didn’t actually need a digital solution

image shows 3 columns of post-it notes. The first column shows criteria for a 'yes' idea, the second for a 'no' idea and the third for ideas that might be good to pursue at a later date.

Week 2 and crossing the half-way point

In the second week of the discovery we spent around 30 hours in store doing ‘Lend a hand’ which is exactly how it sounds: we lent a hand to colleagues. We interviewed them and their store managers in different parts of the country. We also interviewed customers, to find out what they like about Co-op, and what they think could be improved.

After each store visit and interview, we shared what we’d learnt with the rest of the team, and we started to see themes emerge from the things we were seeing and hearing from colleagues.

image shows 3 colleagues sharing their feedback and arranging post-its on a wall.

We used those themes to create some prompting questions which we then asked over 60 Food colleagues at ‘sketching sessions’. For example, one of the themes that came out of the feedback was that it’s not always clear to colleagues how they can progress their career at the Co-op, so we asked colleagues at the sketching sessions “how can we help staff to progress?” They’d then draw something in response.

Here’s an example sketch in response to the question, “how can we sign up customers for membership at the store?” 

Sketch from colleague Phil Hesketh shows a machine that you can put your temporary card into, a screen where you choose the cause you'd like to support, and a real card will popping out of the bottom of the machine.

By the end of the sessions, colleagues had produced a whopping 562 sketches.

Getting our priorities straight

We put them all through the filter and managed to whittle the ideas for solutions down to 41. Then we fleshed them out, before prioritising them by asking:

  1. How risky is the idea?
  2. How much evidence for the opportunity do we have?

We figured the sweet spot was where we had both evidence and low risk. After looking at the 41 ideas through that lens, we got to 14 – a more manageable number!

Where we’re at now

Last week we presented back our ideas to the wider team.

group of colleagues from across the Co-op and ustwo gathered around whiteboards to hear the feedback on the 14 potential alphas.

Now it’s up to the Leading the way team to figure out which they want to go forward with, because we won’t be doing 14 alphas all at once. Just like last year’s discovery, we found a lot of opportunities, but we know we’ll solve a problem best if we can solve them one at a time.

Anna Goss
Product lead

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

Product Range Finder

Hello, I’m Claire Carroll. My teams speak to thousands of our members and customers every day in our member and customer contact centre.

A picture of Claire Carroll
Claire Carroll

One of the most common calls to our stores and our customer care team is whether or not a particular product is stocked in a store. Our stores stock slightly different products because:

  • they are different sizes
  • customers in different locations have different needs

When we get calls about what products are in a particular store, it takes the team a little time to find the answer. Advisers needed to look in a few different places for the information. The system we used was clunky, taking around 10 minutes to locate a store. Knowing it would take too long, advisers would often tell customers that they would need to call customers back. This was a poor experience for our members, customers and colleagues.

A few months ago, with their service design partner UsTwo, the digital team began a discovery with our Food business to choose 3 alpha projects.

hoto 05-07-2016, 11 05 30 am.jpg
Product Range Finder Show & Tell


One of the chosen alphas was Product Range Finder. The alpha project was to build a simple prototype, allowing my team to have a single tool to use when answering queries on product range, and to see if this tool improved our efficiency and experience.

The new prototype is much easier to use than the old system and provides more information. For example, it tells customers how many stores stock a particular product, and how many of those stores are in a 15 mile radius from them.

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Product Range Finder – showing list view of the products, and how many stores stock the listed product
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Product Range Finder – map view of stores that stock the product selected

We receive 200 queries a month about finding product ranges. The prototype saves us approximately 10 minutes on each one. This equates to an extra 7 hours a week.

We’ve found this prototype so invaluable that we requested changes are done out of hours. We didn’t want any down time during the day.

My team’s enjoyed working as part of the product team to test the prototype and suggest improvements. The advisors have loved being the experts and have been amazed how quickly their feedback has led to improvements to the system.

Next for the product team is the beta phase. They’ll make a technically sound, scalable version of the prototype. They’ll make sure the the data feeds are right, look at adding availability information, and take some steps towards making the tool customer facing.

Claire Carroll
Head of Member & Customer Services

Lending a hand in-store

On 21 September we launched our new membership, meaning our members now earn 5% back on Co-op products and services as well as 1% back for their community. Colleagues from our 1 Angel Square support centre lent a hand in-store, picking up the slack and keeping the stores running whilst frontline in-store colleagues took the time to explain our new membership to existing and potential members.


Michael helped Cardigan Road’s Co-op in Leeds

Cardigan Road is a really busy store and was in the busiest week of its trading year as the local freshers arrived the week before. Being back in-store reminded me of just how hard it is on the shop floor: breaking down outer cases, working trolleys of product and keeping the shelves stocked.

There’s a lovely team at Cardigan Road, with some very loyal, long-serving Co-op colleagues. It was really good to see our new packaging coming in too.

Nathan went to his local Co-op in Grappenhall

I spent a day with a great team who had really put the extra effort in to support our membership launch. Friday was delivery day and seeing how the team have to manage the store, customers and shift changes whilst not really knowing what time deliveries would arrive, gave me a great appreciation of how hard it is for store teams to balance everything.

I personally managed to sign up six new members in a 30 minute slot, when I wasn’t stacking shelves.

Catherine spent the day in Camley Street’s Co-op

Catherine Brien

Catherine with Umesh and his team

I spent the day stocking shelves, marking down product and serving customers on the tills. I was most struck by how much juggling my in-store colleagues need to do. Camley Street is a small store, so colleagues need to jump between shelves and tills minute by minute.

My high point of the day was signing up five new members. After an 8 hour shift I was exhausted, I have tremendous respect for my colleagues on the frontline day in, day out.

Russell went to Grosvenor Street’s Co-op in Rochdale

I was joined by Adam, a new starter learning the ropes. Adam didn’t know much about the Co-op, but was fascinated by membership and – by the end of his first shift – was a real advocate.

All the colleagues I met seemed genuinely pleased with our new brand, new membership and new products.

Sophy helped Glentworth Road’s Co-op in Morecambe

Store manager Dave had me helping out with stock reports when I arrived and soon I was chasing round the store hunting for products that had run out and for gaps on the shelves.

Dave, Linda and the rest of the team make me feel welcome. Still, the work is complex and I was slow, (I spent 15 minutes searching for a product called a ‘Sour Cup’ with the chilled ready-meals. It turned out to be a pot of mixed sweets.)

Linda visited West Street’s Co-op in Leek

I helped the team take in their deliveries and restock the shelves. The store manager, Christian, was excited to hear about the digital projects that came from our service design workshops with Food and how they could help stores and customers alike.

Ian went back to his home city, Peterborough, to help Werrington’s Co-op

It was great to see store manager Richard and Debbie, the store’s community pioneer, getting involved in events. The team found some extra budget to create a fantastic Halloween display and had begun planning an afternoon tea, with games and prizes, for the local community residents’ group, (which Richard was coming in to support on his day off.)

Richard has also been supporting other stores in the area which don’t currently have full store manager cover, some nearly an hour’s drive away. Richard stepped up without complaint, confident his team would continue to do what‘s right for customers and members in his absence.


Together colleagues from across our Co-op helped to inform existing members about their new membership and also recruited nearly 500,000 new members.