Wal-Mart has promoted three of its key technology executives to new positions as it continues to integrate online retailer Jet into its operations, and furthers its efforts to unify in-store and online technology and shopping experiences.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Fiona Tan was promoted to senior vice president of U.S. customer technology from her previous post vice president of engineering in the company’s international group, while Jaya Kolhatkar, co-founder of predictive analytics firm Inkiru (acquired by Wal-Mart in 2013) has been elevated to senior vice president of the retailer's global data and analytics platform. Also, Jae Evans was promoted to vice president of global technical engineering and operations, continuing responsibility for core infrastructure services.
These promotions follow other changes in the highest ranks of the retailer's technology operations, with several executives departing in recent months. In the most recent change, Wal-Mart saw CIO Karenann Terrell step down, with Clay Johnson replacing her and given a new mission to focus more on corporate services than the previous CIO did.
$3.3 billion acquisitions like Jet don’t get integrated overnight, and Wal-Mart is trying to integrate the technology operations of two companies while also attempting to maintain focus on urgent tech goals, like pursuing an omnichannel strategy that's built for an era when shoppers increasingly are using mobile devices and apps for various aspects of the shopping journey.
As the organization has been trying to realign itself toward achieving these goals, several Wal-Mart executives have departed, an exodus that began just a few months after the Jet acquisition. Terrell's departure came after Marc Lore, founder of Jet, was given the reins of Wal-Mart’s e-commerce business. It now seems that Wal-Mart is undoing a previous strategy that had tied together the fortunes of the retailer's e-commerce operation with its corporate IT operation.
Such is the act of breaking the eggs to make the omelet Wal-Mart has a mind to cook up. The WSJ story delves into some of Wal-Mart’s ongoing technology projects, such as a new process for how pharmacy customers would order refills and seek other information from pharmacists via Wal-Mart’s mobile app. The retailer also could send text alerts to pharmacy customers when prescriptions are ready to be picked up. A key goal of communicating more with customers through the mobile app: Limiting the number of customers waiting in line for long periods at the pharmacy, which could improve customers' overall view of their shopping experience. (We can also bet that Wal-Mart doesn't like the sight of people waiting in line at the pharmacy when they could be out in the aisles filling their shopping carts.)
Such applications would expand the capabilities of the Wal-Mart mobile app beyond shopping functions to some extent, making it more useful for customers and harder for them to do without. Increasing the mobile app's utility also should produce the ancillary benefit of boosting usage of the Walmart Pay mobile wallet.
The goals are becoming clear and new solutions are under development, but the integration project continues, and we may not have heard the last of the executive moves that will take place at Wal-Mart as the retailer looks to put the right people in the right roles to accomplish its goals.