Carl Burton, Head of Product, and his team in Co-op Digital have spent the last two and a half years working with colleagues in Funeralcare to develop an online arrangement tool called Co-op Guardian. After months of trials and developments, the online service has now been rolled out to all funeral homes in England, Scotland and Wales. Our last region, Warrington and Manchester, has just gone live, so we caught up with Carl to find out how it’s gone:
What a journey. We’re all so pleased that we’ve got to this point, it’s such a fantastic achievement. This is a system that’s consistently been designed by Funeralcare, for Funeralcare. Part of its success for me is the level of colleague involvement, they’ve helped us understand not only the challenges they face each day, but how we could make these better.
It’s not always been plain sailing, this has been a huge culture change for the industry, but when I’ve seen colleagues that don’t even have a computer at home, pick up a tablet and use the service, it gives me a real sense of achievement. They’ve also been really supportive of each other as part of the roll out, going to other regions to do demos, setting up WhatsApp help groups and taking to Twitter to offer encouragement and share success. I’m proud to have been part of this project and to have worked with such an incredible group of people.
The beauty of Co-op Guardian is that it’ll never be finished, there’s always something we can tweak and improve. Now that all our Funeralcare colleagues in England, Scotland and Wales are using it, we can really hone the service and keep making it better.
We’ve had great feedback from colleagues who’ve been using the service when making arrangements with clients. I recently made a visit to our care centre in Crewe, which was where it all began. Very early on in the development of the service, before it even had a name, we visited Crewe to find out what challenges colleagues faced when arranging a funeral. We were blown away. The amount of paperwork they had to complete and find the room to store, the whiteboards and systems that had been developed by teams to keep track of logistics, some of which were quite complex, all just took up so much time and effort. Now colleagues don’t have to write out the same information 6 times for each funeral arrangement, they just do it once, into Co-op Guardian and the whole team can keep track of where it’s up to. It’s one simple, consistent way of working across the whole operation. Colleagues are now able to order stock more effectively, just getting what they need, when they need it. Our vehicles are also being shared more efficiently across branches, because it’s easier to see what’s available and where. We set out to make our colleagues’ lives easier and give them back more time to spend with clients and their communities. I think we’ve done that.
The team and many colleagues in Funeralcare have all worked fantastically hard, which has been recognised within the digital industry a few times now. We recently won the Big Chip award and the Digital Technology Leaders award, as well as being highly commended at the UK IT Industry awards, all under the category of Business Transformation. But the thing that’s topped all of that was a bit of feedback I had from Rob Smith, Funeral Director at Crewe. I asked him what his favourite thing about Guardian was, he said “It’s improved my work/life balance, I’ve now got more time to spend with my kids.” To me that’s what modern technology should do, it should work around you, not make you work around it.
Thank you to everyone that’s been involved and helped us along the way, we couldn’t have done this without you and I’m so proud of what we’ve achieved.