Commerce and Consumer Goods

Co-op boosts online transactions and transforms software delivery

We helped the UK’s largest funeral company to improve the health, agility, and performance of its delivery teams – and boost online transactions 1,400% through product enhancements.

The Challenge

Co-op Funeralcare is the UK’s largest provider of funeral services, with a focus on helping everyone find the right funeral care for their individual needs, preferences, and budgets.

Its customer website helps people get information and support, find local funeral homes, and explore and pay for different funeral plans.

The site helps ensure the high standard of care for which Co-op Funeralcare is known. It also reduces administrative work for staff by giving customers a convenient way to organise and pay for funeral services online.

But, over time, the backend systems that make this possible had grown out-of-date and inflexible. This made it difficult to deliver continuous improvements to the digital customer experience and support the changing needs of customers and staff.

Co-op Funeralcare needed a partner with industry-best engineering capabilities to rapidly accelerate the product roadmap for its funeralcare website and supporting systems.

This partner needed to optimise the agility and throughput of engineering and product delivery and help Co-op Funeralcare deliver impact against its goal: to help more people find and purchase the right funeralcare plan using a stable, convenient, and compelling online service.

What we did

With our reputation for engineering excellence, Zuhlke was a natural choice of partner for Co-op Funeralcare.

Following a discovery and onboarding phase, our engineers embedded themselves rapidly across squads focused on three key areas: 

Experience optimisation to enhance the digital customer experience – for example, by creating and A/B testing new website features, optimising site performance, and improving usability.

Meeting funeralcare regulation and ensuring that customers have access to the right information and the right plans for their individual budgets and circumstances.

Core system transformation to modernise technical architecture and replace or add flexibility to legacy backend systems.

typing hands on a laptop with the website of of co-op

Throughout, our people focused on the need to:

  • Increase throughput and complete more tickets in less time
  • Enhance code quality
  • Improve collaboration
  • Boost team satisfaction and happiness
  • Drive efficiencies using modern delivery methods
  • Develop a capability that enables continuous and effective change

Key steps in the partnership included:

  • Finding improvement opportunities. We started with a technical architecture and engineering assessment to gain a deep understanding of the legacy architecture, conduct gap analysis, and better understand Co-op Funeralcare’s ways of working. This allowed us to find and pursue improvement opportunities across both the technology and processes.
  • Measuring the impact of these improvements. We introduced a measurement framework to gauge the impact of our changes and to help the organisation better understand delivery speed, throughput, and performance. Meanwhile, monitoring, alerts, and smart dashboards help the team diagnose and manage product issues.
  • Implementing team health checks. Working in the world of funeralcare can impact wellbeing. That’s why we introduced a way to measure team health informed by regular surveys looking at things like happiness and project satisfaction. These ongoing insights help Co-op Funeralcare provide the best environments and support for squads.
  • Embedding modern development techniques. Our engineers enabled Co-op Funeralcare to deliver multiple releases a day. But the company’s two-week Sprint cadence was not the best fit for this rapid delivery. That’s why we helped teams adopt the likes of Kanban, a modern software engineering approach that helps you find progress blockers, quickly and easily.
  • Automating tests. We created faster feedback loops and automated delivery pipelines and testing to reduce manual effort, drive efficiencies, and improve speed and quality of delivery. We removed the overreliance on manual testing and freed up quality assurance testers to focus on higher value things like exploratory testing and A/B testing.
two male individuals at a meeting at the table

Bringing Agile to traditional delivery environments

Working in an Agile way within the constraints of Waterfall projects was key to improving processes and getting higher quality output delivered faster.

A great example is the API we designed to bring flexibility and agility to Co-op Funeralcare’s legacy backend systems, which include purchasing engines and administrative systems.

We started small and focused on getting the API layer to connect two systems together, running an automated test to ensure this worked. We then added incremental functionality, supported by small integration tests.

This approach allowed us to build and scale the API layer iteratively, testing and validating as we went to ensure speed, performance, and value delivery.

male individual working on a laptop
photo Andy Tabberer, Principal Delivery Manager at co-op
' Our delivery, productivity, and team morale increased exponentially, thanks to our partnership with Zühlke. The team’s engineering capabilities are exceptional. They integrated with our teams quickly and seamlessly, and the quality of work is excellent. They’re friendly, open, and easy to work with – a breath of fresh air!’ '
Andy Tabberer
Principal Delivery Manager

The results

Together with the Zühlke team, Co-op Funeralcare accelerated its digital roadmap and dramatically improved the performance and agility of its squads.

Delivered in record time, the product and system enhancements resulted in a stable, compelling online experience that delivered a 1,400% increase in online transactions, helping more people to arrange and pay for their funeralcare online.

Co-op Funeralcare now has a clear view of performance, throughput, and – crucially – team health and happiness.

What’s more, the company is using modern delivery processes and best practices, and developing product and engineering capability that paves the way for continuous and effective change.

Following the successful collaboration, Co-op Group has engaged our team to further support the company's engineering unit over the next few years.