CIO of the Year
FAISAL MASUD, CTO, CIO, CDO, STAPLES
RIS introduced a new wrinkle to the awards program this year adding one overarching CIO of the Year Award designed to honor a CIO who led a major project that advanced the retailer’s business, technological capabilities, and competitive position in the marketplace. Faisal Masud has helped facilitate Staples’ digital transformation with a number of high-profile projects that are solidifying the retailer as a technological pacesetter and earning Masud a reputation as one of the industry’s most innovative leaders.
Masud earned the CIO of the Year Award for implementing three cutting-edge technologies that are helping set the retailer apart: Staples Rush, Staples Exchange, and the Staples Easy System.
Staples Rush is the company’s same-day delivery service for its business clients. It launched in 2016 in four markets (NYC, Dallas, Boston and Chicago). It includes thousands of products available in Staples’ stores, and the company leverages its own supply chain organization, including its network of company vehicles, to fulfill same-day delivery orders.
“There is no other retailer that is doing this besides Amazon,” Masud says. “In the retail world we are the premier next-day delivery company. We are the only one that actually delivers next day for free for businesses so that is another big value proposition that we have.”
Staples Rush is currently in seven cities and Masud and his team are building a 2.0 version to expand to eight more cities and offer an expanded selection. Staples ultimate goal is to have the service in 25 major cities.
Staples Exchange is a unified platform that allows thousands of independent vendors to sell through Staples’ e-commerce channels, with multiple integration options. It benefits Staples’ customers by providing a larger product assortment, post-shipment order tracking and greater visibility into product inventory.
The solution enables Staples to inject its marketplace inventory into its online properties. Once the transaction is complete Staples handles all of the post-sale customer service including returns.
“We were previously reliant on a third-party legacy dropship platform that was expensive and did not meet our speed requirements to onboard new vendors,” Masud says. “Now that we are really ramping up we went from 30,000 items sold to over a million in a year. This year we will do $700 million in sales on the Exchange platform.”
The Easy System is the most cutting-edge of the three technologies Masud has focused on over the past year. The system infuses the iconic Staples’ Easy Button with IBM Watson technology to bring the “on-demand” world to businesses.
The Easy System is Staples’ entry into the conversational commerce space. The artificial intelligence solution allows users to order office supplies by simply speaking to the automated assistant. The Easy technology is available in chat, text, e-mail, a supercharged Easy Button, and coming soon mobile phones.
“The Easy System is our desire to move human tasks to machines,” Masud says. “We wanted to give the Easy Button life, and be able to utilize it as more than just a toy.”
The AI solution launched in alpha at the end of last year and is currently in beta, with 100 large-scale customers equipped with the next-gen Easy Buttons. By early 2018 Staples plans to be in full production of the voice-activated device and have integrated the solution with its other tech initiatives like Staples Rush to allow users to not only seamlessly order supplies with nothing more than their voice but receive them in as little as two hours.