We’re building a user research lab

Co-op Digital is building an in-house user research lab on the lower ground floor of The Federation. It will be available to all Co-op teams, the Federation community and, eventually, the wider world.

We’re calling it Fed Lab.

What’s a user research lab?

A user research lab is a physical space. It’s usually 2 rooms: one room that looks like a lounge but with cameras and microphones installed, and another that looks like a regular meeting room but with a very large TV. The ‘lounge’ is for researchers and participants to do research tasks, like co-designing something or doing a task on a website. And the ‘meeting room’, called a viewing room, is where the team sit and watch the research happening live.

Labs help whole teams see first-hand how their designs are working or not working. This way, a team can learn together and work on changing designs and interactions there and then. This fast response to live user research is what makes a lab such an important tool in agile delivery.

Why we’re building a lab now

Co-op Digital’s remit is to create new digital products, services and platforms; pioneer new ways to cooperate online; and help our existing businesses make the most of digital. To do this, we put users and their needs first, and help teams across the Co-op do the same.

Until now, we’ve been using external labs for lab-based user and market research, but we know from past experience that having a dedicated in-house research space significantly ups the ante on how much time teams and stakeholders spend with users.

And we believe the more time we spend with users, the better.

In the long run, the lab will help us offer teams across the Co-op a complete in-house research service. As a result, we’ll be able to build consistency in research across the business, maintain knowledge and build on it in-house, and be more financially efficient and even profitable.

But it’s not just about us. The Federation, is a fast-growing community of like-minded digital businesses and innovators. Fed Lab will give these organisations access to the tools they need to learn more about their users too.

Where we’re up to

We’ve completed the discovery and design phase of the lab, we’ve chosen the technology, and we expect to have the lab up and running in the summer. We’re pioneering a new solution, so everything needs more care and time.  

In building the lab, we’re planning on using cutting-edge, military-grade technology that will not only offer a top-end experience for people in (and out of) the lab, but also support us in maintaining our data privacy standards and help us conform to GDPR.

As the project takes shape, we’ll share much more about the technology and the design. To keep up to date with our progress, subscribe to the Co-op Digital blog. For more information, get in touch with Kate Towsey.

Kate Towsey
User research operations

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

Gail Lyon: events at Federation and £50 million in member rewards

(Transcript) Gail Lyon: Hello and welcome to this week’s Co-op Digital weekly update. As you can see, I’m definitely not Mike. I’m Gail Lyon and I’m responsible for digital engagement at Co-op Digital.

As is tradition with all our updates, I’ll start with a big number. £50 million has been earned by our Co-op members since the new membership scheme was launched on the 21st of September last year.

If you’re a Co-op member it’s really easy to see how much that you’ve earned. You can do it online or you can do it by simply checking your till receipt the next time you shop at one of our food stores. And you can spend it anytime as well, you can even spend it at Co-op Electrical.

We welcomed 2 events at Federation House this week. On Monday, Hacks Hackers has their first Manchester meet up, and on Wednesday, DotEveryone joined us to talk about how we can make digital fair for everyone. It’s an important question and only the start of this conversation. Thanks to Ian and Emer from the team for presenting.

And a big thanks to Steve Murrells, our CEO, for dropping in to take a look at our recently opened co-working floor in Federation House and adding to the signatures and the positive messages on the picnic benches.

And finally, subscribe to the blog for regular updates on what the team’s been working on. We really want to hear from you and if you’ve got any questions you can comment on the blog or please send us a tweet.

Thanks, and that’s it for this week.

Gail Lyon
Digital Engagement

Mike Bracken: 4.5 million active members, Federation and thanks to Jamie

(Transcript) Mike Bracken: Hello, welcome to the Co-op Digital weekly update.

We’ll start as ever with a big number, 4.5 million active members now at the Co-op, so those numbers keep growing and that’s a huge change since September 21st last year, so well done to the team for that. And that work’s being recognised.  This week the team in Membership have been shortlisted for a Retail Week Technology Award for that program, so well done to them.

Other highlights of the week, we’ve opened our co-working space in Federation building, the Federation right over the road from Angel Square you can now go see that check out the details on the blog.

I’d like to welcome a few people Nassali Douglas has joined as a Member Pioneer Manager, Richard Shenton coming as a Finance Manager, they’ve come from other parts of the Co-op, Louise Nicholas has joined us as a designer welcome to the Co-op and I’d like to say goodbye to Jamie Arnold who’s been brilliant leading our agile work as a delivery manager, he’ll be much missed.

Thank you very much to him and see you next week.

Mike Bracken
Chief Digital Officer

The co-working floor is now open at The Federation

We’ve blogged before about how the work is progressing at Federation House. The co-working floor at The Federation opened this week. Victoria Howlett the Federation Manager agreed to show us around the space.

(Transcript) Victoria: Hi, I’m Victoria Howlett and I’m the Federation Manager over here at The Federation. We’ve just added a bit more work to the first floor which is open this week, so would you like to come and have a look?

So as you can see, we’ve added some artwork to the walls here which was done by the wonderful artists Nomad Clan. We actually added this artwork after the attack at the MEN, which we thought was an incredible thing to do for our city and the people here.

As you can see all the furniture is now in place, we’ve got the lovely Chesterfield lemon sofas here, we also have green and pink sofas dotted around.

Here we have the main communal kitchen point on the floor and we’ve got these picnic benches here. We’ve asked everyone who’s been involved in this project and all Co-op colleagues to come over and sign the benches, which is actually such a lovely thing. We’ve had some amazingly heartwarming messages on here. We welcome everybody to come and sign these and anybody that visits the floor please grab a sharpie that will be on here and sign.

We’re really excited because the NHS research and development North West team moved in here this week. Kainos moved into the pods here this week too and we’re welcoming the Startup Factory.Tech on this floor soon. We’ve had such a high interest in the pods on this floor that they are more or less all taken now, we’ve only got one left.

Now we come to the second floor, and on this floor we have 9 private suites which roughly range from 200 square foot all the way up to 1,400 square foot.

This is the main kitchen point, the communal kitchen point on the floor and I will walk you through the corridor here. You can see on this hallway we’ve added in the windows here along the sides and this is just to create that community feel still. There are private suites here, but it’s also to ensure that there is that level of community engagement throughout the building and that everybody’s a part of each of the businesses that are based here.

Keep an eye on Twitter and the blog for more updates on The Federation.

Victoria Howlett
Federation Manager

Mike Bracken: 850k new members, Agile Manchester and Mental Health Awareness Week

(Transcript) Mike: Hello. Thanks to Dave for doing this video last week. I’m back this week and again another big number 850,000 new members joined the Co-op since September 21st last year. That’s a terrific achievement by the team and membership continues to grow.

On that note, our members will be voting next week in our AGM, in Manchester at the end of next week. If you’re eligible to vote, please do. The cut-off date is a 15th of May.

Four big shoutouts this week. The first goes to Rufus, Paul Gerrard and the team have published our Modern Slavery report. It’s vitally important that the Co-op backs this initiative and we’re taking real action to put people back into society, back into the workplace. Do check out the report on the website.

Another shout out to Tom Walker, one of our user researchers has been leading on Mental Health Awareness Week and it’s great to see the Co-op support him and him engage with all the colleagues in Manchester and in the wider community to support mental health issues.

Also shout out to Anna Dick, James Boardwell, Ian Drysdale and the team for speaking at Agile Manchester a big event that we sponsored here and that we’ll continue to back, as we back that agile way of working.

And finally I got a little time this week in Federation. You see that on our website and great work with Victoria and the team who have fitted out nearly 5 floors now and with local designers and local artists, the place looks amazing.

We’ll be having a launch event later in the year and I look forward to seeing you there.

Mike Bracken
Chief Digital Officer

Mike Bracken: a busy first week back

Mike: Hello, happy new year, I’m Mike Bracken and I want to wish every member of the Co-op, particularly the digital team, happy new year. Hope you had a restful holiday and for those of you who have worked through, unlike myself, visited store and lent a hand, thank you for doing that, and have had a great Christmas.

It’s a brief update this week. But I want to just mention a couple of really important things.

Firstly, we moved into The Federation, a building where we’re building out our digital centre working with partners, SMEs and other organisations in the digital economy and already this year we’ve increased our footprint.

We received new leases for the other 4 floors of that building yesterday and I’m glad to say that that means we’ll be expanding our footprint right through the building and into the centre of Manchester further in 2017.

We also had a great opportunity to show our executive around, and show them all the products and services that we’ve been working on for the last year, and they were thrilled with that, and I can already say that we’re gonna have a lot more demand coming our way. So already a great start to the year.

Probably the biggest thing that happened last week as we moved into the new year, was that we passed the 4 million membership mark. Now, membership is central to everything that we’re about, and it was only on September 21st last year, that we reissued our membership scheme. We’ve added just under 400,000 new members since then and as I say, we now got over 4 million active members of the Co-op. So it shows that people are coming back to the Co-op and joining in substantial numbers.

So that’s great news, and do keep your eyes on those numbers which are published live and they’re updated at the end of every week.

This week ahead, well, we’ll welcome Richard, our CEO, to our all digital meeting on Wednesday afternoon in 1 Angel Square and then we’ll spend more time with our businesses through the end of the week.

I’ll give you an update on that next week, but again, just to say happy new year.

Mike Bracken
Chief Digital Officer