Hello to Claire Braithwaite

I’m thrilled that Claire Braithwaite has joined the digital team this week as partnerships & ventures consultant.

Picture of Claire Braithwaite

Digital is integral to the way we do business and we’ve translated our digital approach into four key elements; products, platforms, members and ventures. Opening up to the digital economy, especially in the North, is key to delivering on this.

Who better to support us in doing this than Claire. Along with being the founder of an award winning online retail platform and work in the tech for good and impact investment space, Claire has been instrumental in driving attention and investment in the digital economy in the North for some time, with roles as tech advisor to the Manchester Growth Company and as the first head of Tech North.

We’ve begun to create shared spaces for digital collaboration and product delivery with our partner NOMA in Manchester city centre. Claire will be working alongside Emer Coleman and Ian Dunnett developing our relationships with civic technology partners, businesses and organisations, helping us to create a truly co-operative digital hub in Manchester.

Welcome Claire.

Mike Bracken
Chief Digital Officer

Co-op Electrical warehouse flood

Earlier this month the North-West of England was hit by some terrible storms and here at Co-op Electrical, we didn’t get off lightly either.

Colleagues on the night shift went for their break, but by the time they returned to the warehouse the rain had beaten them to it.

The emergency outlets on the building’s down pipes had been forced open with the pressure from the rainwater and proceeded to flood the warehouse. Luckily for our members and customers the team moved quickly into action.

Picture of the down pipe at Co-op Electrical's warehouse
The down pipe

Simon a member of our team  jumped onto the warehouse’s scrubbing machine to try to suck up as much excess water as he could, whilst fellow colleagues continued to pick stock for delivery wherever they were safe to do so.

The team moved around the warehouse in sections, with some colleagues redirecting water to drainage pipes. Simon with the machine and others continuing their usual duties as best they could, ensuring our customers’ purchases would be dispatched in time and in perfect condition.

Picture of the down pipe at Co-op Electrical's warehouse
The scrubbing machine

The rain continued to pour for over an hour, but due to the fantastic work from our warehouse team only 20 products were damaged.

Thank you to all the team.

James Holland
Managing Director, Co-op Electrical


Hack Manchester Junior challenge

As well as sponsoring Hack Manchester. We’ve also set a challenge for Hack Manchester Junior. The competition is a 2 days coding competition for those 18 and under. 

Picture of children at Hack Manchester Junior

Here’s our challenge

Let’s tackle Loneliness

We’d like teams to make something that can help people who may be experiencing loneliness connect with each other/someone. It could be something physical that can go in the front of a Co-op Food store using something like Raspberry Pi’s, Arduino’s, or something purely internet based.


The Co-op has a history of campaigning for a better society, tackling issues of concern to our members across the UK, whether that’s climate change, votes for women or fair trade. Last year, once again, we asked our members and colleagues to tell us what issues where facing their communities, and as a result we are tackling social isolation and loneliness.

One of the ways we are responding to this issue is through a Charity Partnership with the British Red Cross. We’re not just raising money but also undertaking our own research into loneliness. Already we know it affects many people (one in 7 of our own members and customers). It’s not just something that affects people in later life, it’s something that can affect anyone at any time for many different reasons .

The research will inform how we respond through volunteering, expanding British Red Cross services, through campaigning and through what we do ourselves as a business and employer.


 Danielle Haugedal-Wilson who is our business architect  and Tom Taylor our chief product engineer will be judging the entrants.


We’ll update this blog post once we’ve confirmed them.

We’re really looking forward to seeing what’s produced on the day. Good luck everyone.

Gail Lyon
Digital Engagement



Hello to Liam Cross

I’m really pleased to welcome Liam Cross who’s joined the digital team as an agile business analyst. We’re working hard to build up our own community of practice in agile business analysis and Liam is the first to join this newly formed team.

Picture of Liam Cross

Liam joins us from Reckitt Benckiser, where he’s spent the last few years working on their global digital product catalogue. Liam will be joining the Membership product team and will be supporting them in reviewing user feedback and writing user stories for the next iterations of the product.

I’m excited to be bringing his skills and experience to the team. You’ll hear more from Liam and about the community of practice we’re building in the coming months on the blog.

Welcome Liam.

Danielle Haugedal-Wilson
Business Architecture & Analysis 

New Co-op membership starts today

Our new membership begins today. Our members will earn 5% back on all own brand purchases and 1% for their community. 

Picture of our new Co-op Membership card.

From today we’re posting 250,000 cards daily to members.  Every member will receive theirs by mid October.

If you’ve been following our blog you’ll know that we started with a trial for 750 colleagues in our support centre, followed by a beta for our 68,000 colleagues and council members which began in July.

58,000 cards have been used over the summer, generating over 550 pieces of feedback which fed directly into improvements to the service. This membership activity by Co-op colleagues earned them £323,278 (the 5%) and £79,222 (the 1%) for their communities.

Ten things we’ve learned 

  1. One of our biggest challenges was getting users to set up their new online account set up with username and password. The challenge is matching member’s data so they can identify their account. Colleagues found this hard so we’ve made the journey more intuitive.
  2. We want to hold open and honest consent and be a trusted data handler of our members’ data. We’ve been testing the best way to explain this to give members confidence and have made some improvements to the journey.
  3. We’ve added 4,050 local causes across over 1,400 communities in the UK. We’ve found that what matters most is different in each community and there are some great things our colleagues are doing already. We learned how best to allow members to select causes. There’s a lot more to do here though, including how we allow members to search for different causes – this is coming soon.
  4. A lot can change in the 3 month period during which we manufactured our new membership cards. A member might leave the Co-op or have passed away in that time. We’ve done everything we could to be sensitive to our members’ circumstances, and to try do the right thing.
  5. Through the beta we found that we’d configured the service alerting too heavily on certain aspects. We’ve now focused more more on the end-to-end service monitoring so we can clearly see the journey our members go on, and respond quickly when things aren’t as they should be.
  6. We’ve made massive changes in our incident and release management process. Implementing ChatOps as well as making release management self service so our teams can act and make improvements autonomously and frequently.
  7. Working closely with our colleagues in our contact centre has helped us to understand and respond to issues rapidly. 
  8. We’ve made some significant improvements in the resilience and performance of the platform. This has significantly reduced our transaction time: for example registering a new member at colleague launch took 3.5 seconds, but it’s now down to 1.1 seconds for today’s launch. 
  9. We’re removed our programme management layer that helped us to get to colleague launch and are now operating with teams led by product managers. We’re set up for our delivery teams to deliver iteratively and often. We’re continuing to develop our product roadmap for the months ahead, and have already set up a new delivery team for new services we’ll launch to our members in 2017.
  10. Colleagues are very keen to start explaining the new rewards to our members.

The whole organisation has been involved, working like a true co-op, in making our new membership a reality, right from store to support centre to development teams to service management. 

Thank you to everyone.

Nathan Warner – Senior Programme Manager – Membership
Dave Johnson – Director of Engineering



User research, not user testing

I’ve now been at the Co-op for a couple of months. In that time I’ve met lots of people, seen lots of work going on and talked about what I do with many, many people. I’ve even written my first CoopDigital blog post about user research at the Co-op.

One thing that I know we still need to work on is sharing wider what user research really is and how it should be used to influence what we do and how we do it. This is fine, it’s part of our jobs as experienced agile people and experienced researchers. It’s one of the reasons we’re hiring so many good people.

In my previous place of work, if someone called what we do ‘user testing’ there would almost always be someone who’d jump up and say ‘User Research NOT User Testing!’. I was always fairly relaxed about it, I knew what they meant, the person uttering it knew what they meant and it always felt like a bit of an over-reaction to me, personally, I’d just smile and let it go.

Moving to somewhere where it is a less familiar concept I’m beginning to realise why people did it.

I’m finding that, for some people, ‘user testing’ is something you do near the end, you’re fairly convinced you’ve got it right, you’re fairly convinced it’s going to work and it’s going to go down well. What you might get is some feedback or minor tweaks to make it even better. I think the issue is the word ‘testing’, where testing is generally done just before you go live to spot bugs and defects.

That’s not what user research and agile development is, what it’s for and what it’s brilliant at.

A picture of one of the CoopDigital product teams

User research is invaluable to us to help decide if we should build/release something at all, what that something should be and how it should work. It shows us how the thing we make will fit into users lives. It gives us insight into the language people use and how they view the world. It also helps us understand the problems in their lives they’re trying to solve, the tasks they’re trying to achieve and how what we build can help solve that problem or complete that task.

There is also the issue of what we’re testing when we do research: we’re testing our designs, we aren’t testing our users. The user doesn’t pass or fail, the design does.

Simon Hurst
User researcher