Wal-Mart CIO Leaves Retailer an IT Leader

Mott made decision-support key to growth

Randy Mott last week left his high-profile job as CIO at Wal-Mart Stores Inc. to take a similar job at Dell Computer Corp.

He leaves behind a legacy of furthering Wal-Mart's strategy of using technology to set itself apart from other retailers in the way it deals with both customers and suppliers, industry watchers said.

During Mott's six-year tenure as CIO, Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart made its decision-support, supply-chain and logistics systems the envy of almost every company trying to compete against the world's largest retailer.

"There's just no question that Wal-Mart has set the standard," said Cathy Hotka, vice president of information technology at the National Retail Federation (NRF) in Washington.

"Wal-Mart, better than anyone, has proven how important the strategic deployment of IT can be to a company," said Hotka.

That pushed other retailers to start looking at IT in the same light in an effort to keep up, Hotka added. She works on IT issues with members of the NRF, an association that includes many of the major U.S. retailers -- but not Wal-Mart.

The one area where Wal-Mart has stumbled a bit is in selling to consumers via the Internet, analysts said. Wal-Mart in 1996 was one of the first retailers to set up a Web site, but it has yet to become a major online presence. That contributed to a decision made in January to turn Walmart.com into a separate company based in Silicon Valley. Last week, that unit hired Jeanne Jackson, a former executive at The Gap Inc. as its CEO.

Given its size and market clout, Wal-Mart can afford to "be slow about (the Web) and get it right," said Preston Dodd, an analyst at Jupiter Communications Inc. in New York. "But they still have to make some tough decisions." Dodd added that the biggest problem is channel conflict between stores and the Web site, not technology.

Mott, 43, who is scheduled to start this week at Dell in Round Rock, Texas, wasn't available for comment. He worked at Wal-Mart for 22 years, starting as a mainframe programmer and eventually becoming CIO in 1994.

Since then, Wal-Mart has expanded the size of the data warehouse it uses to analyze sales in its stores to an eye-popping 101 terabytes. Two years worth of detailed sales data that goes down to the level of individual receipts is now stored there, the company said.

Under Mott's leadership, Wal-Mart also turned its automated-ordering system, which required the installation of dedicated hardware at the supplier's end, into an Internet-based system that's now used by more than 7,000 companies. It has also been one of the pioneers in working with suppliers on projects involving collaborative planning and forecasting.

"They came up with the concept of an extranet long before it became popular," according to Rena Granofsky, a consultant at J. C. Williams Group Ltd. in Toronto.

Wal-Mart named Kevin Turner to replace Mott as CIO. Turner, 34, had been assistant CIO for the past two years.

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