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Member Spotlight | Office Depot

on April 22, 2019 / by Nancy Dahlberg ,


Business: A leading B2B integrated distribution company providing business services and supplies, products and technology solutions.

HQ: Boca Raton

Beginnings: Launched in 1986 with a single store in Fort Lauderdale

No. of stores today: 1.350

Tech Team: 450 people

Robots and automation. Hundreds of real-time applications. Co-working spaces. Internal hackathons and an “Innovation Week.”

At the heart of much of the transformation of Office Depot from an office supplies retailer to a business services company is a IT team of about 450 people.

“One of the great things about my role is I enable [taking] business strategy to reality by using the latest tech. I truly love my job. Working in a retailer is an extremely interesting one because we need to transform and that’s what [Office Depot CEO] Gerry Smith is doing — his whole strategy is to transform the business from a retail based business to a digital services business… and he’s had success with that,” said Andrew Parry, VP of IT, Application Development and Support, who works in Office Depot’s Boca Raton headquarters. “60% of our business is digital now. It’s business to business.”

Office Depot HQ in Boca Raton, FL

Parry’s team, about 200 employees, develops and maintains more than 400 applications, essentially all of the applications for Office Depot.

“We have multiple websites, multiple customer facing apps, mobile apps, retail stores … It’s all a real-time enterprise. When someone buys in a retail store I know not to sell it online for in-store pickup – the omni-channel just works and we spend a lot of time making these applications real time,” said the British-born Parry, who joined Office Depot in 2003 as part of an acquisition. He has lived in South Florida since 2006.

“Within IT we have so many roles,” he continued. “We are investing a lot in modernizing user interfaces. Also automation – we are in a wonderful world right now where the tools are available to us to do automation in a big way.”

A part of that is through CompuCom, a company Office Depot acquired in late 2017 that provides IT services to many organizations.

“We are having huge success with integrating those services to our customers. There’s tech services, building, automation services. Services has been doubling year over year, and that’s been awesome,  and moves us  away from selling traditional office products to providing real value add services to our customers. Sticky services.”

A big innovation within the company is its Workonomy platform, which offers comprehensive business services married with “human touch” expertise to small- to medium-sized business customers. This includes in-store tech service kiosks, self-service print and copy kisosks, pack and ship services in store and online, and most recently co-working.

Workonomy Hub in Los Gatos, California

Office Depot opened its first ever integrated co-working space within a retail location in California last year, and recently announced Workonomy Hub openings in Texas and Chicago. Customers can buy membership plans to use the modern in-store coworking spaces, including private offices, dedicated desks and conference rooms, all with access to mailing, shipping, marketing, printing, concierge and tech support services.

“It’s not like any Office Depot you have seen before in your life,” Parry said.

And then there’s Office Depot’s recently announced partnership with Alibaba that aims to connect its 10 million small business customers with the Chinese e-commerce giant’s 150,000 global suppliers to better serve the needs of its small to medium-sized businesses.

“Alibaba is a very exciting opportunity for Office Depot … there is a lot of opportunity. We are right in the beginning of this relationship, and I am looking forward to seeing that come to fruition,” Parry said.

Closer to home, Parry says he learns a great deal by being involved in the Palm Beach Tech community.

“We hosted Palm Beach Tech community hackathon in October here on site and doing the same again this year. It was a great success. We actually hired some of the talent and I’ve kept in touch with a number of the winners.”

Leveraging what it learned from the community event, Office Depot plans to do an internal hackathon in addition to another community hackathon, Parry said.

“We have 40,000-plus employees and they all have great ideas. We have an Innovation portal – an idea collection site, if you will  – and a number of them lend themselves to a 24- or 48-hour sprint to develop them through a hackathon-like event. We will wrap around that a whole Innovation Week to really show our people the art of the possible. If they can see what is possible, they can see what they can change about what they do for the better of Office Depot.”

Office Depot’s first Innovation Week will be in June; the root of this came from listening to what others are doing in Palm Beach Tech, he said. “That was the seed that made this grow.”

For the upcoming Innovation Week for its employees, Office Depot Invited in top companies to show their innovative tech, Parry said. “But also we have some great tech that goes on within Office Depot; for example, CompuCom has a building automation platform. Building automation is a big area – think switching on and off lights, the environment, security, panic buttons – and we will showcase all that. We will showcase what we are doing with our robots in warehouses – they are pretty cool, actually.”

He said he learned some different agile development best practices and strategies from the Palm Beach Tech community, and it goes both ways. During a meetup Office Depot hosted, Parry talked about the company’s success moving data warehouse platforms to Snowflake, a Silicon Valley SaaS company, and now other companies are using Snowflake too.

Parry says it’s important for him to get out into the community,

“I love going to meetups in Palm Beach Tech and talking to people outside of my environment to get new perspectives on things. I am always meeting interesting people. I love that. It lets me see different ways of doing things and bring that back to Office Depot and I can think about different trends going on in the market that maybe we weren’t thinking about here.

“I’m most impressed with the bench strength of the tech in Palm Beach County.”

Philanthropy: Since the launch of Office Depot’s #depotdifference community investment initiative in 2018, Empowering Education has become one of its most important areas of philanthropic focus. That dedication to providing disadvantaged students and teachers with the tools they need to succeed was made abundantly clear during two recent events in South Florida benefiting the Palm Beach County Education Foundation’s Red Apple School Supplies Store and the Broward County Education Foundation’s School Supply Center. Nearly 200 local associates helped to unload, unpack, organize and sort the 14 truckloads of donated products (over 350 pallets), to get the supplies into the hands of South Florida’s school children.

Member Spotlight | Office Depot