Executive shuffle continues as Wal-Mart moves to be a ‘digital enterprise,’ corporate layoffs may begin this week

by Kim Souza (ksouza@talkbusiness.net) 4,386 views 

Executive changes continue at Wal-Mart Stores, with CEO Doug McMillon saying the world’s largest retailer requires “more speed and less bureaucracy” to better serve shoppers.

The retailer has said John Furner will replace departing Sam’s Club CEO Rosalind Brewer, and Chief Information Officer Karenann Terrell will be replaced by Clay Johnson, a former executive from General Electric. Terrell exits on Feb. 24. However, Johnson’s title will be different. He will be the enterprise chief information office and will “focus on lowering our costs, getting the benefits of scale, associate experience and cyber security,” according to McMillon.

“We need more speed and less bureaucracy” to better serve shoppers to save them money and time, McMillon noted in a recent memo to employees. In that same memo McMillon said in an effort “to stay lean and fast” some jobs are being eliminated, and new positions created. The goal is to become a “digital enterprise and be enabled to a greater degree by technology.”

“We’re making the changes that will help us win in the short term and position us to be a winner for years to come. I know change isn’t always easy. But, I’m certain our future success is partially dependent on becoming more of a technology company in our stores and clubs and everywhere else the customer sees us,” McMillon wrote. “While it’ll be our people and our culture that will make us special and ultimately drive our success, becoming more digital to enable our company to be more effective with new ways of working and new tools will be key.”

Michael Bender, chief operating officer for Wal-Mart’s Global eCommerce division, is also leaving the company after eight years. Bender was responsible for integration of digital commerce into new and existing formats. Neil Ashe, former CEO of Wal-Mart Global eCommerce, will officially leave the company Jan. 31. His departure was announced last year when Wal-Mart acquired Jet.

Wal-Mart’s new e-commerce CEO Marc Lore announced in an internal memo that Jet’s chief revenue officer Scott Hilton will become the chief revenue officer for all of the Wal-Mart ecommerce operations. Lore said Jeremy King of Wal-Mart’s engineering team will become chief technology officer. Liza Landsman was promoted to president of Jet.com from her prior position as chief customer officer.

Lore said Seth Beal will fill the new role of senior vice president of incubation and strategic partnerships with leadership over a team tasked with identifying new technologies to better serve Wal-Mart customers. Previously Beal held the role of senior vice president over digital store operations for Walmart.com.

Jordan Sweetnam is transitioning to the retailer’s vice president of customer experience, product, focusing on products, shoppers, and faster execution. Sweetnam was formerly the vice president of global product for Wal-Mart eCommerce. Chief Marketing Officer Tony Rogers “will lead the newly unified Marketing organization,” which encompasses Wal-Mart stores, Walmart.com and Jet.com, Lore said.

Lore also noted in the memo that the changes were part of an effort to turn Wal-Mart into “a more customer-centric organization as the retailer is “on a mission to reshape e-commerce and create a best-in-class shopping experience.”

“Our strategy is about offering more choice, competitive prices — particularly on food and consumables — and operating on the strength of the world’s most efficient ecommerce supply chain. We’ve also talked about building a simpler organization that enables us to work faster and smarter,” he added.

Critical supply chain functions will be the job of Nate Faust, senior vice president for U.S. eCommerce Supply Chain.

Annibal Sodero, assistant professor of supply chain excellence at the University of Arkansas, said management shifts are common after acquisitions. He said Lore is starting to put his signature on the company but only time will tell if the moves were correct. Sodero said integrating the business operations of Jet and Wal-Mart and now ShoeBuy won’t be easy given they have fundamentally different business models.

“It will be interesting to see how these mergers will be integrated into Wal-Mart or left to operate autonomously,” Sodero said.

Aside from shifts made in the retailer’s executive ranks, Wal-Mart plans to downsize its corporate office headcount — possibly handing out as many as 1,000 pink slips beginning this Friday (Jan. 20), according to people close to the situation. The deepest of the personnel cuts are expected to be in the human resources division, but insiders said several other divisions were also asked to streamline operations and eliminate positions.

California-based Workday recently announced Wal-Mart recently purchased a subscription to its human resources platform that allows for cloud-based applications for finance and HR duties such as expense payroll and benefit management. The enterprise software company made the news public last week.

On Jan. 10, Wal-Mart spokesman Greg Hitt, told Talk Business & Politics, “Like any organization, we make decisions based upon what’s best for our business and the customers we serve … “we are always looking for ways to operate more efficiently and effectively. While we continually look at our corporate structure, we have not made any announcements.”

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