Using our data to improve Guardian, our Funeralcare digital service

Guardian is our digital service, designed with, and for, our Funeralcare colleagues. Next week, it will be live across our 1,059 Co-op Funeralcare branches.

That’s every single branch in England, Scotland and Wales.

At this point:

  • 4,014 colleagues across our 1,059 branches in England, Scotland and Wales are now using Guardian
  • 30,425 funerals have been arranged using the Guardian digital service so far

But the Digital team’s work isn’t complete. We’re working to continuously improve the service for our colleagues and their customers and one way we’re doing that is by looking at the data.

Improving the journey between the ‘first call’ and funeral

One of our key performance indicators in the Funeralcare business is around how much time the deceased spends in our care. Typically, families want their loved one’s funeral to take place as quickly as possible, so often, the shorter the gap between the date of death and the funeral equates to higher customer satisfaction.

From the ‘first call’ when a family member rings up to say they’ve lost a loved one, colleagues take details and the deceased is then in the Guardian system. As they move through the care process, the time they spend at each stage is calculated automatically as colleagues use Guardian.

Guardian then pulls that data through to a dashboard so we can monitor performance easily. Being able to break down the process is really useful in terms of seeing our average time for each stage – it helps us see where we’re excelling and where we can improve.

Giving colleagues autonomy

Giving time back to colleagues so they could spend more time with families has always been the most important outcome of Guardian. Everything has been focused on that.

Ideally, we wanted to build something that would help colleagues deliver the same number of funerals more quickly, ie, colleagues spent less time organising, note taking and communicating details to other colleagues, and more time with families who are going through a tough time.

Empowering colleagues to see for themselves where they’re excelling and where they could improve gives them autonomy and helps them manage themselves. Each branch will have access to their own data so they can see how they’re doing. The data is presented in small chunks and includes things like: number of customers served, breakdowns of the types of funerals, hearse and limousine use, customer satisfaction scores as well as a breakdown of the time the deceased has spent in each part of the process. 

One place for data

Back in early 2016, when we started to identify user needs, we knew we could solve a lot of problems if we could record information about the deceased and about their upcoming funerals, and make that information available to the colleagues who need to see it, at the point they needed to see it.

Early user research found colleagues inventing their own, paper-based systems to log details of the deceased and organise funerals which was time consuming. But above all, it was limiting because colleagues couldn’t easily share their notes with people who worked in the same funeral home as them and it was even trickier to keep external homes in the loop.

Paper processes limit who can work and where they can work from. Some recent feedback from a colleague highlighted this. He said: “What I like most about Guardian is that it means I get a better work life balance – I can go home and finish admin there, rather than having to go back to the office. I get to spend more time around my kids.”

Making data accessible to the right people at the right time

Because Guardian’s data is stored in one secure place, we can use it to help out other areas of the business.

For example, before Guardian, customers would call the central Funeralcare number on the website and come through to the customer service centre. Advisors weren’t able to answer respond efficiently to phone calls like: “My mother came into your care over the weekend. It was all a rush at the time. Which funeral home is she in?” This kind of information would only exist as paperwork in-branch. Advisors can only transfer the caller to a local branch, but this isn’t always the best experience because there’d be no guarantee the branch would answer.

We’re starting a pilot next month, looking at giving our call centre advisors access to relevant information on Guardian, so with a few clicks they could find out quite a lot of reassuring detail for the family of the deceased. For example: “Your mother came into our care last night at around 2am, she’s now at the Rochdale home. Would you like to speak to your Funeral Director?”

What we’ll look at soon

Now rollout is almost complete, we’re looking at what we could do with the data coming out of Guardian. We’ve been asking:

  • How could we optimise the 1,275+ vehicles in Funeralcare-owned fleet?
  • Can we predict the volume of demand for individual branches so we can ensure more customers are served first time in-branch?
  • Can we enable more customers to be served first time on the phone by leveraging the customer service centre?
  • How could we optimise the order and delivery of ten of thousands of coffins annually?

They’re all interesting problems to solve. The hard work isn’t over yet.

Jack Gray
Product Lead

Making things simpler for colleagues on colleagues.coop.co.uk

Photograph from over the shoulder of a Co-op Digital colleague who is using the update colleague site on their phone.

We’re redesigning the Co-op Colleagues website and updating its content to make the navigation easier and the information more helpful to colleagues.

The problem we want to solve

There are lots of places where colleagues can find information about our policies, procedures and working at the Co-op. This is confusing because:

  1. We’ve never flagged one channel as the single, definitive place to find information.
  2. The information we give across the different channels doesn’t always say the same thing.

We’re now working with our internal comms team to make colleagues.coop.co.uk the main place to find out about being a Co-op colleague. It will help people who work here with everything from checking when they get paid through to finding out what to do before they go on maternity leave.

Favouring a website over the intranet

When we built the site a couple of years ago, we put it straight into the public domain, even though the main audience is people who work here at Co-op. It was a quick proof of concept, to show we could be open about our policies and procedures and make them more user-friendly. Doing it this way meant one Google search from any device could get a colleague straight to the information they need, without having to get onto our network or remember log-in details.

The best way to make information available to everyone who needs it is to make it open – that’s why the right product decision was to build a website rather than pour time into redeveloping our existing intranet.

There are other problems with the intranet too. Around 80% of our staff can’t access it because they work in our stores and warehouses and don’t have a work email address to log in with. For those who can log in, the search doesn’t work very well and the navigation isn’t intuitive. It’s not surprising many colleagues can’t find what they need and end up phoning our internal call centres for help, which takes longer, causes frustration and costs us more.

We’ve created a content ‘quality filter’

To avoid the Colleagues site going the same way as the intranet, we want to empower colleagues to help themselves. So we’ve created a proposition that provides a quality filter for everything that goes on the site.

All content must:

  • have a clear user need
  • be about being a Co-op colleague
  • have a named content owner who’s committed to reviewing it at least once a year

If a piece of content doesn’t fit these requirements, it doesn’t go on.

A big culture shift

People are used to being able to publish any content they want to our colleagues – our proposition takes away that right. Everything for the site will now be reviewed, edited or created by a small team of trained editors from around Co-op. They will make sure everything fits the proposition and is designed to help users find out how to complete their task as quickly and easily as possible.

That’s why we’ve written guidelines for creating content completely open too. We’re asking a lot from people, so it’s only right that we’re completely open about what we’re doing and how we’re doing it. Then they can hold us to the standards we’re trying to set.

Where we’re going from here

We’ve already made some changes with support from Code Computer Love, but we’ll continue to add new content and restructure what’s already there over the coming months. We’ll also continue to review and iterate the guidelines to make sure they’re helping our editors to create content that meets our colleagues’ needs.

There’s a feedback button at the bottom of every page, so please let us know how we’re doing.

Hannah Horton
Content Community Lead

Karen Lindop: 5 awards plus our very own Federation bee

(Transcript) Karen Lindop: Hello, and welcome to our update on what’s happening in the Digital team.

I’ll start with some great news. Our teams working in partnership with our Funeralcare and Food businesses, as well as Equal Experts and UsTwo recently picked up five Big Chip Awards for the work they have done on Shifts, the app to help store colleagues manage their rotas and Guardian, our new Funeralcare digital service. Well done to the teams that have worked hard to get these digital solutions out to colleagues.

Our Federation bee was unveiled last week as part of Bee in the City taking place in Manchester over the summer. Our bee was created by artists Nomad Clan and shows the history of Manchester right from its beginnings as a roman fort. It now has pride of place outside The Federation. You can follow our bee on Twitter and if you’re in Manchester, check it out.

A massive thank you to Nick McLaughlin from our Funeralcare business and Carl Burton who spent time with the team, giving them insight into their business plans, strategy, market and challenges and learning. It was a great opportunity to learn more about one of our businesses, thank you both for their time.

Our next Federation Presents event is taking place next month. This time we’re exploring what humanity needs to do to make sure it survives the technological revolution with tech ethicist Shannon Vellor and other guests. The event is free and you can sign up using the link.

Some more great news. In a few weeks we’ll be welcoming back Kim Morley to the team. She’ll join Co-op Digital as our Head of Agile Delivery, covering Cara’s maternity leave. It will be great to have you back Kim!

Finally, we’ve got some vacancies for a variety of roles, you can find them all on our blog.

Don’t forget to subscribe for our updates on our blog and follow us on Twitter. See you soon.

Karen Lindop
Head of Digital Operations

Adapting traditional service management processes for our DevOps environment

Photograph of the IT service management team stood on stage at an awards ceremony celebrating their award

In June, our Digital Service team won the Special Innovation Devops award at the IT Service Management Forum (ITSMF) Professional Service Management awards.

Each year, ITSMF present innovation awards to organisations who are exploring new territory, often around the edges of traditional IT service management or those who have found innovative solutions to well known problems.

We’re proud our work has been recognised as being innovative and thought this would be a good time to share our story.

IT service management at the Co-op

When we talk about ‘IT service management’ we mean making sure we can operationally support our products and services.

Over the years Co-op has put in place IT service management policies and processes based on an IT infrastructure library (ITIL) – the industry standard framework for developing and running IT services. It includes processes to help manage incidents, requests and changes.

The principles of the framework aim to manage business change whilst maintaining stable services. And because the Co-op has been going through digital transformation and business change over the past few years, maintaining stable services whilst being able make frequent changes in an agile model has been hugely important.

Adapting traditional processes for an agile environment

ITIL processes were created before working in an agile way was commonplace and the Co-op service management policies and processes were originally written for traditional, on premise, waterfall applications. So recently, the Co-op Digital IT service management team have been adapting them so they’re better suited to our fast-paced, cloud-hosted, agile world.

Here are some of the ways we’ve been working innovatively.

Working collaboratively (especially when things go wrong)

Typically, development teams are separate from the IT service management teams who operate live services. But we’ve been involving them. For example, our monitoring systems continually check the health of our services and when something breaks, we’ve set up alerts so that problems are automatically posted into incident chat rooms. We’ve made these visible to the whole Digital team. This way, the wider team can swarm on fixing the problem.

We also review incidents together for 2 reasons:

  1. To make sure we’re continually improving by preventing recurring issues.
  2. Reviews act as training guides for new colleagues to learn from past mistakes.

Creating patterns to make things more efficient

We created patterns for how we build and support infrastructure, how we deploy, and how we manage availability and change. Every service follows the same patterns and is scaled appropriately for its size.

Patterns make getting a service live for the first time simpler and quicker. When a service needs something different, we can fully concentrate on those areas rather than trying to reinvent the more basic, standard things. Before we put patterns in place, teams would often hit a wall just as they were planning to launch because they hadn’t sufficiently considered all the security and operational needs that needed to be satisfied. Now, our digital teams can take learnings for an alpha, and create the application and infrastructure for a production-ready service within months.

So far, so good

We’re now consistently doing 5-10 releases a day without service outages, we display our alerting and monitoring in the open so we’re transparent about our weak points and we share our post incident reviews widely so everyone can learn from our mistakes.

As a result we’ve seen improved uptime, typically never falling below 99.95%, have a change failure rate of less than 1% and we’re catching more issues proactively, all while supporting an increased number of services with the same size team.

A reasonable amount of governance

As product teams take on more responsibility for managing their own services, our role as a service team is shifting from being the gatekeepers of production, to making sure we have great processes and governance in place.

We’re giving teams the tools they need to manage changes and incidents themselves which saves time. Our aim to create processes that are supported by tools as well as automation that makes sure the appropriate governance is being done, rather than relying on people to do repetitive admin tasks. And as we try new tools and techniques, we’re sharing these with the rest of the Co-op IT teams, as well as here on our Digital blog, so that they can build on what we’ve learnt.

Michaela Kurkiewicz
Principal Service Manager

Our writing guidelines (they’re for everyone, not just for writers)

Words matter. The words we choose and the way we present them is vitally important to how users interact with our services, our products, our brand.

And although most of us create, use or interact with content on a daily basis, the words and the content design is hard to get right.

Most people are time-poor and have a lot of things competing for their attention. So if we want our content to be effective, we need to get it to them:

  • quickly
  • in a way they understand
  • through the most effective or expected channel
  • at the time that’s best for them

Doing the above helps us meets the needs of the people who are interacting with us, shows respect for their time, and makes our messages, services and brand more successful.  

Working with words at the Co-op

Co-op has a community of content designers, creative writers, editors, social media experts and copywriters who are making interacting with the Co-op more straightforward and effective. We work across a range of services, departments and channels to create content that puts the user first.

But absolutely everyone across the Co-op, no matter what their job role, communicates to different audiences, for different purposes. This makes it hard for our approach and our messages to be consistent.

We’ve written guidelines to help

We hope these pointers will help people put the needs of the people they’re communicating with first. Each tip is based on things we’ve learnt about how people read, how they speak, their motivations, anxieties and their priorities.

Of course, the guidelines will evolve based on feedback. We’d love to know what you think so let us know in the comments or email content@coopdigital.co.uk

Co-op Digital writing guidelines

Be respectful
People talk about things in different ways.
Use words your audience understands.

Be clear
People don’t know what you know.
Don’t make assumptions about people’s knowledge.

Be considered
Too much content complicates your message.
Use the right words, not more words.

Be sensitive
People arrive at your content with different experiences, insecurities and struggles.
Put yourself in their shoes.

Be inclusive
Jargon and acronyms confuse and alienate people.
If you have to use them, explain what they mean.

Be purposeful
People are busy.
Find out what they need to know and give it to them quickly.

Writing’s on the wall

We’ve made a set of posters on the guidelines and they’re starting to appear on various walls around Federation House and Angel Square. We’re hoping they’ll remind people to be mindful when they’re communicating – to help them make each word count.

You can download our writing guidelines now.

Thank you to Jack Fletcher for designing these posters.

Jo Schofield
Content designer

 

From digital design manual to design system

In January 2017 we released our digital design manual. Now, 18 months later, the design manual has evolved into a design system.

Although it’s been live for months, it’s still (and always will be) a work in progress. We’re sharing it now in line with one of our design principles: ‘we design in the open’.

You can see the Co-op Digital design system at coop.co.uk/designsystem

Evolution of the design manual

The aim of the design manual was to help teams release things faster so they could focus on user needs rather than on making basic design decisions. We iterated and added new pages as and when there was a need, for example, we added guidance on forms, guidance on tables and our secondary colour palette.

But a year after its release, we were at a point where more of our digital services were going live, so we revisited the design manual and asked if it could be more useful.

What we learnt from our users

We asked our design, content design and user research community how well they felt the guidance in the design manual was serving its purpose. Feedback was mixed but most people felt that it didn’t quite cover enough.

A workshop made it clear that users wanted:

  • example-driven patterns
  • guidance on when to use specific design and content patterns
  • examples of ‘experimental’ patterns
  • all guidance in one place

Afterwards, we dedicated time to making some major changes to the content as well as the navigation and layout.

Design system – nice for what?

We found lots of excellent examples of design systems in our research but good, solid design systems are good and solid because they’re unique to the organisation or business they belong to – they meet the needs of designers, content designers and researchers who work there.

The Co-op Digital design system includes our:

  • pattern library
  • content style guide
  • guidance on our design thinking
  • design, user research and content design principles
  • tools (front-end and prototyping kits)
  • resources (Sketch files and brand assets)

Most importantly it’s a living document. Like all good design systems, ours will never really be ‘finished’ but it’ll evolve as our teams and services do. Over the past 6 months we’ve established processes that allow our team members to contribute to the system.

We audited our existing design work and looked for similarities and opportunities to create familiarity. We’ve also spent a lot of time building the foundations for a stronger and more collaborative team through workshops, design crits and making sure we design in the open.

Familiarity over consistency

The Co-op is an organisation with very distinct businesses which all need to communicate with Co-op members, customers and users in an appropriate and relevant way. For example, the way we communicate with a customer in a food store is likely to be very different to how we speak to a customer in a funeral home.

So it’s likely that our services might feel different. And that’s ok, as long they feel familiar.

A design system lets us create this familiarity. It should lead to a much more unified experience when they interact with different Co-op services.

Pattern library

We’ve started creating a library of design patterns – this is the most significant addition to our previous guidance. It doesn’t replace our design guidelines, it just pulls out the useful stuff we learnt designers look for when they’re designing a service. 

Each pattern will have:

  • an example, ie, a visual example of the pattern
  • an associated user need
  • design guidance, ie, how you use it
  • accessibility guidance

Our colour palette pattern is a good example.

The library will be the de facto standard for how we display certain types of information.

Anyone at Co-op can contribute by submitting their pattern to the design community. They can do this by filling in a form justifying why users outside their service might benefit from this pattern or, why what they have created is an improvement on a current one.

Evolution of the design system

We want to continuously improve the guidance designers are looking for. To help us do this we’ll speak to more of the external teams that work with us and invite our colleagues in the Brand and Marketing teams to contribute their own guidance. We’ll also put the system to the test with teams as they build more Co-op services.

Watch this space.

Jack Sheppard
Matt Tyas

How 3 researchers used the ‘jobs to be done’ framework

Earlier this year, strategist and researcher Stephanie Troeth and Adam Warburton, Co-op’s Head of Product, gave some of the Co-op Digital team Jobs to be Done (JTBD) training. Since then, our digital teams have tried out this way of working.

A quick introduction

JTBD is a framework for understanding the outcomes users are trying to achieve – this could be a job, a task or more widely their goals in life.

It’s been particularly popular in commercial organisations because it helps us understand where users underserved needs are and, therefore, where the opportunity for the business is in the market. More traditional user needs frameworks don’t say much about the market, and as the Co-op is an organisation looking to make a surplus to put back into member initiatives and community work, we thought it could be useful.  

In this post, 3 of our user researchers talk about their experiences using JTBD.

Vicki Riley, Ventures team

Functional, social and emotional motivations

We’re working towards developing, testing and improving an online platform that connects customers with products from independent sellers, providing benefit to their local community. It’s my job to understand the needs of customers and sellers so we can provide mutual benefit to both.

We used the JTBD framework to find out customers’ underlying motivations and desired outcomes for buying from small independent businesses. We also wanted to understand the competitor landscape from a customer point of view, and identify areas of opportunity, where customers are underserved in an area that’s important to them.

We started with interviews to identify functional, social and emotional jobs, and then created a survey to validate or disprove, then prioritise in terms of importance.

We found that JTBD has worked well while we’ve been facing a new challenge and figuring out a value proposition. This might be because it allows for wider thinking and delving deeper into motivations or desired outcomes, and takes the insights out of the current solution and up to a broader level that could be applicable across different categories.

It’s also been really useful when we speak to stakeholders. Categorising what people are trying to get done into functional, social and emotional needs helped senior stakeholders understand what’s important to people and also identify our value proposition. It became clear our proposition – the area where we were able to leverage some competitive advantage – was going to be more emotional, than functional or social.

It was the unintended consequences that people talked passionately about, for example, the conversations that buying from small independents allowed them to have with friends and the way it made them feel when someone complimented the thing they’d bought. JTBD allowed us to put our focus on these emotional and social elements when developing the service.

Simon Hurst, Healthcare and wellbeing team

A survey to identify underserved needs in the market

We wanted to understand where there were potential underserved needs so we could potentially build a service around them. To try and identify a gap in the market, we ran a survey to assess which jobs around getting access to healthcare we’d identified in interviews were more significant, and which of those users were unhappy with the current way of doing it.

It looked like this:

Screen Shot 2018-07-12 at 16.03.14

Our product manager Derek Harvie wanted to do the survey so we could back up our qualitative insights with some quantitative data. Seeing the data gave both the team and the stakeholders more confidence – data is, of course, very important to new businesses which is what the Healthcare team is aiming to be.

The results of the survey allowed us to map jobs according to whether people were underserved or not – and from that helped to determine the product strategy. This abstract graph is what we worked from:

Screen Shot 2018-07-12 at 16.04.31
The survey worked well. It’s given us additional confidence in our qualitative research. Whilst I can write a decent survey, I sometimes struggle to analyse raw quantitative data, so having Michael Davies, a data scientist at Co-op who could help us with that, was invaluable.  

However, writing a survey for JTBD is challenging. It necessitates a substantial use of matrix style questions. This results in the survey having lots of very formulaic questions, and runs counter to good survey design (something we’ve learnt a lot about through Caroline Jarrett).  

Also, recruiting people for surveys is expensive. Current quotes to go out to non Co-op members is between £3 to £5 per participant. We need to find a way to get these surveys out more quickly and cheaply.

Naomi Turner, Communities team

The switch interview

I’ve been researching how and why people participate in communities. It quickly became apparent that there are lots of tasks involved even when community organisers wanted to do something relatively simple, for example, arranging a meet up. We were interested in:

  1. How people performed these tasks, eg, with a Trello board/ringing round/emailing community members.  
  2. What they were ultimately trying to achieve, eg, a community dog walking day.

Looking at these things together would help us see if there were underserved needs we could potentially build a service around.

I interviewed 3 types of community member:

  1. New volunteers.
  2. Volunteers who had stepped up to an organisational role.
  3. Volunteers who had recently stepped away from an organisational role.

We asked each of them to recall, in detail, when they have switched from using one solution, to using a different solution (for example, moving to Google Docs to record member details from Microsoft Excel). This technique is called a ‘switch’ interviews – it aims to help us understand more about what pushes someone to change their behaviour, and what the pulls of a proposition might be.

Screen Shot 2018-07-12 at 16.05.48
Image: Intercom

Once we had a broad idea of the kinds of generic ‘jobs’ that people were trying to do, for example, how they manage recruitment or finances, who opens up the hall they use – setting up a process routine which meant they as organiser could step back on some tasks), we could break these down further and see broad patterns of activity (the tasks they perform for example?) across people’s experiences, and why.

It was challenging to apply the functional framework to varied and emotive reasons for participating in groups to achieve an outcome. It was also hard to understand what outcome they wanted from their participation in the group.  Creating the most helpful level of abstraction is key to needs being useful to designers to work with, and something we got better at knowing. We went in too low level initially and had things like ‘handling cash’ when it was the higher level that was more useful to design solutions for, in this case ‘managing finances’.

Where we’ll go from here

Overall, we’ve found that JTBD is a useful way of working. However, we think teams would get most of of it if they look at it as part of a toolset rather than as a framework, and tweak their use of it depending on their specific situation.

Vicki Riley
Simon Hurst
Naomi Turner