Group Collaboration Software

Of the Home Depot Co


April 31, 2004

Group Collaboration Software of the Home Depot Company

To keep up with growth, Home Depot needed an information-management framework that would let district managers’ access information more quickly so they could make better decisions and function more autonomously. The solution was also required to integrate data about sales, inventory, store productivity, and staffing from proprietary programs operating on different platforms. Finally, the Home Depot solution needed the flexibility to enable partners, suppliers, and customers to take advantage of the new system through an extranet.

Using Netscape software, Home Depot is deploying a variety of applications to address these requirements. The first application, Virtual District Office, puts up-to-date information at regional managers\' fingertips. No matter where they are, district managers with authorized access can search personnel directories; use applications on Home Depot\'s network; and get dynamically updated store-performance reports, sales data, labor hours, and inventory statistics published by Netscape Enterprise Server - all in real time.

To monitor performance data, information is posted continually to a central repository. This enables a salesperson at a store\'s information desk to tell a customer when a special order will arrive or whether another store has a particular item. It also lets a vice president at corporate headquarters in Atlanta check weekly sales for a certain district based on virtually up to the minute data.

Netscape Directory Server provides the foundation for these applications. Using the directory, Home Depot now has more control of critical decision-making data yet requires less time and labor to keep current. The central directory also helped speed development: The Virtual District Office data-retrieval network was created in about six months by just four developers.

In accordance to the directory providing the underlying infrastructure for multiple applications, its performance, reliability, and flexibility were critical selection criteria. For example, high performance was necessary for the directory to service multiple applications across hundreds of stores simultaneously. Reliability and high availability were necessary because if the directory were to go down, all the applications relying on it would also go down. Finally, the directory needed to be flexible enough to adapt to the various demands and capabilities of different users and applications. Directory Server allows us to set very granular authorization levels. For example, associates in training can reorder stock, but the transaction requires manager approval because of the trainee designation in the directory.

The Home Depot based its application development on open Internet standards, which increased the flexibility of the applications to enable their eventual deployment over extranets. Using Java as the common development language, made development significantly faster than when we were developing in several languages. Because all the code now resides on the server, deployment and maintenance are also much easier than with traditional client-server applications. The GUI interface based on Java makes applications easy to use, and make it easy for Home Depot to extend parts of its intranet to an extranet for partners and customers outside the company.

The new centralized infrastructure and Virtual District Office application allow Home Depot\'s staff to make better decisions faster with much less effort. The Virtual Office application decentralized, dramatically improved management, and increased autonomy for managers. It is now providing better support than ever for district managers and sales staff. It also provides a foundation flexible enough to scale to new requirements as the company continues to grow. In the next phase of the project, Home Depot will work with Netscape Professional Services to introduce self-service applications that customers can use in stores and on the World Wide Web.