Wal-Mart's chief information officer Karenann Terrell will step down on Feb. 24 from the role she has held since 2012, according to an internal memo from CEO Doug McMillon obtained by The Wall Street Journal. Terrell oversaw the largest segments of the global Walmart Technology portfolio including Information Systems Division, Global Back Office Solutions and Data and Analytics. Her replacement has not yet been named.
While there's been a reorganization of the retail giant’s technology teams following its $3.3 billion purchase of e-commerce startup Jet, a Wal-Mart spokesperson told Retail Dive Thursday morning that Terrell is head of corporate IT and technology for stores, not e-commerce, and that her departure is unrelated to the Jet acquisition.
Still, that acquisition, which has had Jet founder replacing Wal-Mart e-commerce chief Neil Ashe, and several more e-commerce executives announcing their departures, is part of Wal-Mart's overall $11 billion in capital spending toward boosting online sales while drastically slowing down the number of new physical stores the company opens.
Terrell arrived at Wal-Mart in 2010 as executive vice president of information systems, promoted to chief information officer in 2012. Her teams have been working on boosting the retailer's self-checkout systems and wireless access at its Walmart and Sam's Club stores, as well as on developing its mobile app, which now includes mobile payment through Walmart Pay.
"Her charter was clear – modernize our retail technology team and power our store and club businesses by enabling a seamless shopping experience at scale," McMillon said in the memo, according to The Wall Street Journal. "Under her leadership, we have made great strides.”
Walmart Pay — available on both Apple's iOS and Google's Android — in particular was hailed as a breakthrough replacement of the retailer-backed CurrentC mobile payment app, whose development was spearheaded by Wal-Mart but which never got out of the gate. The payment feature is just one aspect of Wal-Mart's app, which also allows users to create or add to a shopping list using voice input or text or by scanning barcodes, check prices or product availability and locate items in store aisles.
But it’s not clear whether its Walmart Pay feature is a game-changer. It faces three significant challenges: a dearth of perks to boost usage, a tendency for shoppers to eschew retailer-specific apps light on reasons to use them regularly, and echoes of the same problems that doomed CurrentC.
Another in-store tech effort is the relaunch of Scan and Go, a mobile application for Google Android devices designed to help consumers avoid long lines while grocery shopping, now being piloted at its Rogers, AR store. The use of a similar Scan and Go app, available for iOS and Android, has been possible at all U.S. Sam's Club stores for months. Much as Jet appears to be Wal-Mart's answer to Amazon's e-commerce prowess, Scan and Go appears to be an effort from Wal-Mart to keep pace with the newly opened Amazon Go convenience store — technology that aims to utterly remove the widely hated friction of waiting in line at the grocery store.
Along with the shake-up in tech teams on the e-commerce side, Terrell's departure is part of ongoing personnel changes at Wal-Mart in recent weeks. Sam’s Club CEO Rosalind Brewer will retire effective Feb. 1, the company said in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission last week. And The Wall Street Journal reported this week that as many as 1,000 corporate jobs, many of them in the human resources department, may soon be eliminated, though Wal-Mart spokesperson Randy Hargrove told Retail Dive that no announcements have yet been made.
“As we’ve previously shared, we are always looking for ways to operate more efficiently and effectively," he said. “While we continually look at our corporate structure, we have not made any announcements. Like any organization, we make decisions based upon what’s best for our business and the customers we serve.”