The present is now here, next stop – the future

Hi, I’m Andy and I’m the Solution Lead on the tablet project. I was part of the team that designed and implemented those shiny new tablets (that are hopefully all fully working and being used by everyone in your stores). It was my job to make the things people wanted possible and politely tell them when it wasn’t. I am sure you have had the sales pitch and the use cases, the testimonials and the straplines, but I just wanted to give you all a bit of my own view from Retail IT on what we were thinking about as we worked with the Leading the Way team to drag our IT kit into the modern era.

The new store tablet being used in the warehouse

Full disclosure: when I first started working on this project a year ago, I didn’t see the point, being a natural cynic and ironically fairly stuck in my ways when it comes to change, my instinct was that we were simply putting in technology for technology’s sake. Our first prototype didn’t bring much to the table, despite being designed to take you away from it! What changed my mind was getting to see what we had in the pipeline. When I got to work with the first set of Store Managers, heard the things they wanted, and realised that over the next few years with IT and RSC working together we could deliver everything they want, I was finally sold. Trust me when I say that twelve months goes a lot quicker when you believe in what you are working on, and I am extremely proud to have been involved in bringing you your store tablet. Our project team have built the platform we need to deliver the future to you in the palm of your hands (or over the shoulder with the strap – don’t knock it until you’ve tried it for a day).

Modern ways of working need modern tools, and we have some pretty cool tools coming your way in the next few years. I think it’s fair to say even the most tech-averse amongst us (you know who you are) are ducks in water with a tablet or phone. My four year old daughter can use it (don’t tell anyone she has one, though) but no matter how much I try to teach her to log into Incontrol – she just doesn’t get it (might be best we don’t tell anyone she has a back office server, either).

Tablets on Twitter
One of our Stores of Excellence gets to grips with the new tablet

To the cynics out there – like I was – you may see this device and think about the things that it does not do, but this is just the start – think about the things it can and will do with your help. I am a big fan of crowdsourcing, which is why one of the first things I put on the dashboard was the “your ideas” link. Let people know what you think – you can keep the positivity for twitter if you want – just help us to make it an even better product for you all to use.

Introducing our ‘stores of excellence’

We’ve talked about the purpose of the Leading the Way programme before:

We want to help store colleagues with the things they need to do, in the time they have, and give them the freedom to be great Co-op shopkeepers.

To help us change things, we’ve been setting up ‘stores of excellence’ with the help of the retail support centre. We want to create a community of colleagues who speak about the changes we’d like to make within the business and discuss ways of working that will help us make them.

How it works

At the moment, we trial new ideas in around 20 stores. Once we’re happy and colleagues have told us those ideas are working well, we’ll roll them out a little further to our stores of excellence. Then we’ll speak to colleagues there to find out if they think the idea is making a positive difference.

When we go on to roll ideas out to all other stores, colleagues from stores of excellence will be able to share what they’ve already learnt.

Excellent stores embrace change

Image shows a screenshot of a tweet and a Twitter image. The tweet says: What a day! #storesofexcellence event complete. 45 store managers ready to be advocates if the change. The image is a photo of 45 managers sitting around a table.

Over the last few months, managers have been choosing their stores of excellence. The teams from those stores have been told about their new roles in transforming our business. There’s one store of excellence under each area manager and each one was chosen because they’ve already shown they can make changes effectively. In other words, these are stores with high standards that aren’t afraid of changing the way they work. They’re keen to make things simpler and more efficient for colleagues.

Listening to feedback

Listening is really important. Managers in the stores of excellence have been telling us how they feel about letting old processes go and trusting new systems or ways of working.

In the future

This is a new way of working for us in Co-op Food and we’re learning as we go. We hope colleagues from different stores will talk to each other at area meetings, on conference calls and in the stores themselves. Better communication between us will help everyone make changes across all our stores.

We’ll blog again soon to update you how things are going.

Elizabeth Lowther