How retail giant Walmart remade its global network of e-commerce labs

When people score an invitation to visit @WalmartLabs in San Bruno, Calif., Jeremy King says they often expect to find a small outpost of the $485 billion retailer, with 50 or so techies toiling away. Instead, they tour a vast, well-designed complex that houses about 2,500 people — part of a global team of 4,000 — who conceive, test, and deploy all of the technology behind Walmart’s websites and mobile apps.

King, the Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer of Global E-Commerce at Walmart, joined the company in mid-2011 to find an e-commerce division that was overly reliant on software vendors and on-site contractors for its technology development. He gave them six weeks notice, and began focusing instead on building his own team. “You can’t outsource innovation,” he says. “It’s something you really have to own.” (In 2013, he wrote a blog post that laid out his thinking: “Why Every Company is a Tech Company.”)

King was recruited to Walmart by then-CEO Mike Duke; he reports to Neil Ashe, the President and CEO of Walmart’s global e-commerce division. He spoke with Innovation Leader recently about some big ideas that have come out of the regular “hack days” that the lab runs; some projects that haven’t panned out; how the Agile development methodology has been bringing techies and business people closer together; creating a higher profile to help @WalmartLabs attract talent in Silicon Valley; and the vision that guides his group.

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