Of the Home Depot CoCIS319Maurice PurvisApril 31, 2004Group Collaboration Software of the Home Depot CompanyTo keep up with growth, Home Depot needed an information-managementframework that would let district managers’ access information more quicklyso they could make better decisions and function more autonomously. Thesolution was also required to integrate data about sales, inventory, storeproductivity, and staffing from proprietary programs operating on differentplatforms. Finally, the Home Depot solution needed the flexibility toenable partners, suppliers, and customers to take advantage of the newsystem through an extranet. Using Netscape software, Home Depot is deploying a variety ofapplications to address these requirements.
The first application, VirtualDistrict Office, puts up-to-date information at regional managers’fingertips. No matter where they are, district managers with authorizedaccess can search personnel directories; use applications on Home Depot’snetwork; and get dynamically updated store-performance reports, sales data,labor hours, and inventory statistics published by Netscape EnterpriseServer – all in real time. To monitor performance data, information is posted continually to acentral repository. This enables a salesperson at a store’s informationdesk to tell a customer when a special order will arrive or whether anotherstore has a particular item. It also lets a vice president at corporateheadquarters in Atlanta check weekly sales for a certain district based onvirtually up to the minute data. Netscape Directory Server provides the foundation for theseapplications.
Using the directory, Home Depot now has more control ofcritical decision-making data yet requires less time and labor to keepcurrent. The central directory also helped speed development: The VirtualDistrict Office data-retrieval network was created in about six months byjust four developers. In accordance to the directory providing the underlying infrastructurefor multiple applications, its performance, reliability, and flexibilitywere critical selection criteria. For example, high performance wasnecessary for the directory to service multiple applications acrosshundreds of stores simultaneously. Reliability and high availability werenecessary because if the directory were to go down, all the applicationsrelying on it would also go down.
Finally, the directory needed to beflexible enough to adapt to the various demands and capabilities ofdifferent users and applications. Directory Server allows us to set verygranular authorization levels. For example, associates in training canreorder stock, but the transaction requires manager approval because of thetrainee designation in the directory. The Home Depot based its application development on open Internetstandards, which increased the flexibility of the applications to enabletheir eventual deployment over extranets.
Using Java as the commondevelopment language, made development significantly faster than when wewere developing in several languages. Because all the code now resides onthe server, deployment and maintenance are also much easier than withtraditional client-server applications. The GUI interface based on Javamakes applications easy to use, and make it easy for Home Depot to extendparts of its intranet to an extranet for partners and customers outside thecompany. The new centralized infrastructure and Virtual District Officeapplication allow Home Depot’s staff to make better decisions faster withmuch less effort.
The Virtual Office application decentralized,dramatically improved management, and increased autonomy for managers. Itis now providing better support than ever for district managers and salesstaff. It also provides a foundation flexible enough to scale to newrequirements as the company continues to grow. In the next phase of theproject, Home Depot will work with Netscape Professional Services tointroduce self-service applications that customers can use in stores and onthe World Wide Web.