The Federation Co-op Digital colleague

Working in an agile way – it’s not just about computers, it’s more about people

At Co-op Digital, we’re working with different areas of the business to help customers and members interact with the Co-op easily and quickly. We’re also helping colleagues cut out admin so they can spend time more time doing the thing they’re employed to do. We do this by listening to customers, members and colleagues, and building digital products and services that meet their needs.

A recent example of one of our digital services is ‘How do I’ – a website for our Food colleagues with up-to-date policies and procedures on it, written in plain English.

Always thinking about the people who’ll use it

When we build things, we think about what users need. We talk to them and ask them to test what we’ve built at each small step and we learn what’s working (and what isn’t) as we go. This makes sure everything we do is geared towards building something that meets a need.

An open and collaborative culture

Co-op Digital work in an ‘agile’ way. It’s a term that’s associated with software engineering but it’s not all about computers. It’s about people too. Agile is a mindset, and a way of working shaped by a set of principles and values. Working in this way means showing your bite-sized chunks of progress to your wider team, regularly, rather than presenting a project when it’s finished months down the line.

It’s this culture of working collaboratively and in the open that would benefit teams, whatever business you are in.

Where it all started

Over the last 30 years, technology has become more important. It became clear that traditional industry practices of project management (normally applied to things like construction), didn’t work so well when building software. Projects often overspent, were late, and simply didn’t deliver to the customer expectations.

So in 2001 a group of software engineers thought about how we could deliver software, or services, in a better way. A way that acknowledges how unpredictable building a digital service can be and how we don’t have all of the answers at the start.

They came up with the Agile Manifesto.

Agile manifestoLike it says, we believe that the right people working together, building a thing in collaboration, accepting we won’t get it right first time, all means we are more likely to succeed in our goal of building a useful service.

There are some principles that help agile teams set up. Here are some of them that I think are useful if you work in a team, no matter what business you are.

  • Embrace change – expect that we don’t have a crystal ball, unexpected things will happen
  • Delivery frequently – do stuff in bite size chunks, it’s much easier to assess value and adjust then
  • Support and trust your people – have faith in your team, and recognise that they’re often experts in what they do and closest to any problem
  • Communicate face-to-face – it’s much better to look at someone when you’re talking than send them an email  
  • Maintain a sustainable pace – no one can go at a million miles an hour all the time
  • Keep it simple – do the least to learn the most
  • Inspect and adapt – always take the time to look back and think about how things have gone

Adopting the agile culture

Lots of the principles can translate into non-digital areas of work. For me, the most important thing any team can do, is regularly look back to think about what has gone well, what went not so well, and what could be done better. In agile, we call this a retrospective. Creating a culture of honesty, openness and a desire to improve through retrospectives is the best way to make teams more effective, make sure people are happier and importantly, increase productivity.

Colleagues attending Digital skills classes

If you’d like to find out more about agile ways of working you can sign up for one of our Agile Masterclasses. Get in touch by emailing us at

Kim Morley
Digital Delivery Manager, Co-op Digital