When Home Depot chief executive Robert Nardelli met with Wall Street analysts in January, he said the best way to judge the companys technology overhaul was to listen to the silence that surrounded it.
"In 2004 alone, we completed several significant infrastructure projects including HR PeopleSoft and the largest SAP platform in the world," Nardelli said. "And the good news is, you heard nothing about it."
Translation: No horror stories. No projects run amok. And nothing that hurt sales.
Indeed, since Home Depot announced its plans to increase capital spending 21% to $4 billion for fiscal 2003 in an effort to remodel stores and use technology to improve customer service, the home improvement giant has largely completed its laundry list of activities ("Data Depot," June 2003, p. 60).
That list includes the creation of digital dashboards to monitor store operations, reengineering business processes to focus employees on floor sales, upgrading point-of-sale equipment, speeding up replenishment at stores and implementing SAP.
"Home Depot has utilized technology in a way that allows it to get more labor on the floor," says Tom Moseman, senior vice president at Envirosell, a retail consulting firm. "A couple of years ago, Lowes was doing a better job. Home Depot paid attention and made it clear its not going to surrender."