Carl Burton and Rob Smith looking at Guardian on a laptop

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.


Join the conversation! 8 Comments

  1. Poor connection is an issue when we are out with families and in funeral homes, we look such twonks when it freezes or just plain won’t connect, and out comes reliable old ‘pen and paper’ .The fact that many of us, (we weren’t all schooled in the noughties when pc’s were on every school desk!) can’t touch type, so rather than concentrating on interacting with clients (yes, that eye contact thing) and picking up on small nuances and reactions, we are staring at the ‘tiny’ keyboard, not creating the trust and rapport that we try so hard to build with our clients.
    I appreciate that it makes the exchanging of info more efficient and booking of staff and vehicles easier- but I and many many of my colleagues believe it has taken away the relationship building at the time of arrangement that we and our clients hold so dearly.

    It may be a digital world and there seems to be much ‘back slapping’ happening about how fabulous this soft wear is, but people aren’t binary, megabytes or spread sheets, they are breathing, feeling entities who crave human interaction at times of vulnerability…I feel this click click click, with the odd eye flick of recognition to client bars this…just my humble opinion.
    May I ask why on the intranet is there never any un-positive feedback?. Is it not appropriate to have balanced opinion, or are staff too afraid to air their views, scared of being labelled ‘out of date’ ‘stuck in the past’ “do they ever stop moaning”
    In short, love what it brings to info sharing, staffing up, vehicles, and ease of use but hate its sterility and depersonalisation of the act of actually arranging a funeral. (which, I think is where the client/coop relationship actually begins)

  2. Whilst Guardian is a great application that will genuinely make the lives of FNC colleagues easier, it’s disappointing that this congratulation focuses only our Digital colleagues.
    If ever there was a great example of the different parts of the Co-op working together to deliver a fantastic product to our colleagues, this was it. But instead of focusing on ‘One Co-op’ or ‘Succeed Together’, we congratulate only one area? There is no credit given to FNC IT, Business Change, several areas within Shared Services or the huge investment in technology, infrastructure and training – and the roll out team who worked tirelessly in very challenging environments – so disappointing this hasn’t been acknowledged.

  3. im a new starter in Amersham arear and learning guardian and i think it is great. but maybe a few things are an issue… when someone is transfred from place to place no corrispondance of if anyone has picked up the request like a notification that someone has seen the message.this is an issue when staff is short and links in the chain is effected.

    but other than that its amazing and easy to use and learn. Thanks

  4. Well done to all those in Funeralcare IT, Group IT Shared Services and Colleague Technology Services who were involved with the Tablet Deployment Project (3000 devices) which has contributed to making the Guardian rollout such a success.

  5. Well done! Fantastic work between Digital + Funeralcare

  6. Absolutely fantastic work!!!!

  7. Well done Carl and the team, great story to share

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