A Clean Sweep

When Office Depot set out to build a new data warehouse, it had one overriding requirement. It wanted to be able to use it with customer relationship management tools so it could drive new sales opportunities.But with multiple brands and multiple channels to deal with, clean up its data warehouse was no trivial task.
In addition to its retail stores around the world, Office Depot also operates 40 call centres, 40 distribution centres and other brands such as the Viking office products.
Kathy Koontz, lead applications developer for Office Depot, said the challenge was integrating the company’s single data warehouse to function across multiple channels with multiple business processes, while maintaining those separate brand identities.
“We had a number of fragmented processes, and there was a lot of redundant data and tools,” said Koontz.
That resulted in a high cost of ownership, reconciliation issues, and it was difficult and slow to implement enhancements, he said. Since the data warehouse was providing value to a core group of users, the firm couldn’t tear it out and start again, but it also couldn’t easily meet the broader uses Office Depot had in mind, he added.
“It was kind of like having to change the tires on the truck while it was still going down the highway,” said Koontz. “We wanted to build new foundations on our data warehouse.”
Office Depot took a base camp approach, creating new data structures for all their brands to grow into. Its existing sales data is being integrated into a combined model, while the project team is bringing its customer identification management in-house from a service bureau. Koontz said the work will involve bringing together credit marketing, call centre and Web site data. “It will give us an enterprise view within the data warehouse while allowing us to better target customers”
Office Depot is also using Teradata’s CRM mailing selection tool to leverage that hierarchical data. Koontz said it’s important to integrate your data with your business processes, and have a data structure that accommodates varying business needs Koontz said the key to its success so far has been building a stronger sense of trust between its business and IT.
“IT partnered with business on developing clear requirements, and then IT effectively executed against those requirements,” said Koontz. “This synergy really drove our progress up the mountain.”

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras is a technology journalist with IT World Canada and a member of the IT Business team. He began his career in technology journalism in the late 1990s, covering the Ottawa technology sector for Silicon Valley North and the Ottawa Business Journal. He later covered the technology scene in Vancouver before joining IT World Canada in Toronto in 2005, covering enterprise IT for ComputerWorld Canada and the channel for Computer Dealer News. His writing has also appeared in the Vancouver Sun & the Ottawa Citizen.
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