[Business Services & Innovation] Office Depot: “Innovation is an important pillar for us”

//[Business Services & Innovation] Office Depot: “Innovation is an important pillar for us”

ABSL was recently in Cluj-Napoca for our annual Business Mixer and had the pleasure to learn more about Office Depot’s Performance Improvement dedicated team from Adela Harlișca – Continuous Improvement Manager. We had a great time discussing with Adela and we invite you to read the interview below!

How important is innovation for your company?

Innovation is an important pillar for the company I’m working for. I could say that it’s in our nature to strive to have more streamlined processes. Besides that, our process improvement projects give us the opportunity to get to know most of our colleagues and have a positive impact in their day to day work life. There’s nothing better than seeing the gratitude in your colleague’s eyes when a report that was taking a few hours to finish is now just a click away.

How does your company “encourage” innovation?

We have a Performance Improvement dedicated team that focuses on creating a lean continuous improvement culture through delivering trainings, designing automation tools and preparing competitions that motivate people to think in terms of doing things smarter, with less effort.

What are the main areas of innovation?

We are focusing both on process and organizational/people Innovation. We consider that you cannot do one without the other. You need people to understand the task, to be able to design a robust solution, to test it in all the existing scenarios and to adopt/use it further. It’s a journey that should be taken as a team.

Are these innovations designed in/for Romania or the global market?

They were initially designed for Romania, but we’ve managed to roll our several ideas in other locations owned by our business. The fact that our teams In the SSC Cluj support all European countries gave us the opportunity to harmonize the processes, spot best practices and remove the silos way of thinking.

Does your company allocate a certain percent of the budget to R&D / innovation programs?

We have an early budget for the PI competitions that we organize each year. Also our company invests in our development by sending us to specialized trainings related to innovation and process improvement.

Do you have budgets allocated for these activities in Romania too? Do you have R&D / Innovation departments both in Romania and at central HQ?

Yes, each location has budget for this type of activities and its own innovation department.

Which are the out of the box/innovative global projects made for your customers?

We are working now implementing a new financial system for part of the business. It’s a complex project that aims to streamline processes and use global best practices. By doing this, we aim to enhance customer experience.

How did the Romanian team bring its contribution to the above-mentioned projects?

The Romanian team brought its contribution by being involved in various parts of the project: Project Management, Business Transformation and testing of the new software. Thanks to this project a part of the Cluj associates developed new skills and extended their knowledge sphere, as most of the people were mastering only the financial task but found themselves in the situation of doing system integration and user acceptance testing. I think that this is the future of Finance. We will see more tasks being automated and the SME’s role will be to oversee this implementation and focus on more complex tasks that are not yet automated.

Please describe the most important, brand new (or just new) project, the time you spend developing it, activities, teams, specializations and information about the client (if possible).

I will describe the yearly contest that we create for all the teams in the SSC, called Process Improvement competition. It’s a one-week competition where we group all the teams in 36 groups that will participate at some games one against each other. The structure resembles to the football competition. Each year we pick a theme for the competition that it’s connected to our organisational goals. Each game is designed to help our colleagues develop their skills, such as logic, attention to details, speed in finding the correct solution but also boost their motivation. The teams receive points each time they find the answer and they can enhance their score by working on some accelerators. Usually the accelerators require the involvement of all the members so with this we are enhancing team work. Of course, we also give some nice prizes to the first 3 teams. This project helps us create a sustainable innovation culture.

Do you have any innovative automation processes in your company? If so, which are those?

The Process Improvement team in Cluj support the SSC by creating VBA macros to replace the manual work in Excel, by creating scripts that enhance the current functionalities of our systems. Another goal is to harmonise and streamline processes. Therefore, whenever we implement a new tool for one of the teams we try to roll it out to the rest. One of the examples is the script that sends thousands of emails either for collection or other purposes in 5 mins. We started implementing it for a UK team and now all the teams in the SSC are using it.

Where do you place Romania on the global innovation scale (in the business services sector)?

From my perspective Romania is situated high on the global innovation scale from the business services sector point of view. We have BPOs and SSCs that strive to improve their performance since several years already. Also automation companies that are creating bots such as UiPath or Druid have offices in Cluj and they are committed to roll out their products also on the local market.