Enterprise hits and misses - Walmart gets the e-commerce blues, and the future of work gets reframed

Profile picture for user jreed By Jon Reed July 8, 2019
This week - Walmart has an e-commerce reckoning, while the Internet has another crummy week of excuse-filled outages. The future of work gets a provocative reframing. Your whiffs include buzzword-proof goggles.


Lead story - Walmart needs to make some e-commerce adjustments as $1 billion loss is rumored by Stuart Lauchlan

MyPOV: Nothing surprises me in retail, but this one kinda did. It was widely assumed that Walmart, though hardly an Amazon, was over the e-commerce hump. Not so fast, pundits. Stuart carves into some big earnings news:

It's being reported - first by Vox - that Walmart's looking at a $1 billion loss on its e-commerce business and the pressure is on Marc Lore, former CEO of Jet and now Walmart's e-commerce head, to take some drastic action to get the online house in order.

That appears to include selling off three of the digital fashion brands that Walmart has acquired in recent years under Lore's leadership - Bonobos (bought for $310 million), Eloquii ($100 million) and Modcloth (around $50 million).

Sounds worthy of a digital soap opera, swirling around Jet leadership as well as how the acquired Jet fits into Walmart's e-commerce play as a whole. Now, if Walmart CEO Doug McMillion was reading this, he'd point me over to Walmart's US e-commerce year-on-year growth of 37 percent. But as Stuart points out:

Where that growth is coming from is what’s critical - and it’s not coming from digital fashion brands.

Walmart has considerable in-store, warehouse, and online assets - but that doesn't mean you can snap your fingers and win. Following Stuart's analysis, it looks like this is more of a repositioning of assets than an outright fail.

That said, Stuart's says we can expect "money going into expanding the logistics capabilities of the firm rather than buying more digital retail brands, particularly ones that are still unprofitable." Ouch. Sounds like we may want to have the popcorn ready for Walmart's next quarterlies on August 15.

Diginomica picks - my top stories on diginomica this week

  • The junior consultant debate - my two cents/penn'orth - Uncle Den is feeling a wee bit cranky, folks. He doesn't want junior consultants on his lawn on your project. He's got a point: "To the question of 'starting somewhere' - true but then in any profession, there is always a period of learning required before you become productive. Why should the client pay for that?" This debate will press on, given the top biggest consultancies think they are doing clients a favor by sending wet behind the ears juniors digital natives onto your project for your "digital transformation."
  • Piedmont Healthcare fights off infection with data warehousing project - Jess digs into why healthcare analytics is turning a corner, with the proliferation of data presenting that challenges/opportunities combo. 

Vendor analysis, diginomica style. Here's my three top choices from our vendor coverage:

A few more vendor picks, without the quotables:

Jon's grab bag - Madeline delves into Tesco's blueprint for women in tech to land that next great job - interesting take on "authentic leadership," and how you get there. Meanwhile, Neil advises us to put some Bayesian Nets in our BI tool bag.

So the Boston Red Sox played their arch-rival New York Yankees to an indifferent baffled amused enraptured UK audience last week, though the ridiculous scores resembled whiffle ball, not professional baseball. I read Mark's behind the scenes tech view with interest: Boston Red Sox steal first base with unified communications system. I'd trade all those "unified communications" for a halfway-decent closer! Finally, no one better than Chris to assess the state of UK robotics hubs. Check the piece and you'll see what I mean...

Best of the rest

Waiter suggesting a bottle of wine to a customer

Lead story - The Navy’s USS Gabrielle Giffords and the Future of Work - by Jerry Useem

MyPOV: It's rare to write a "future of work" piece that surprises me - but this one did. Consider this zinger:

 Stop hiring people based on their work experience.

That's preaching to my choir. But Useem goes further: has expertise itself has fallen out of favor? That's outside my intellectual comfort zone. I get this aspect though:

The more we invest in building and embellishing a system of knowledge... the more averse we become to unbuilding it.

Useem's piece hones in on a Navy vessel that employs a skills tactic called "minimal manning." It's not just less bodies, it's the type of skills. It's about prioritizing adaptable, versatile workers. Useem shares an anecdote where Navy seamen, relatively inexperienced with docking, came up with a new method:

It's an indication, however small, of what a group of open-minded generalists can achieve: namely, inventing new patterns of working that turn a lack of expertise into an asset.

Though Useem's post is about a ship, it's not hard to extrapolate, which he does:

While no one would suggest that effort itself is being devalued today—hard work is just as important in the workplace that's emerging as in the one that's receding—a world in which mental agility and raw cognitive speed eclipse hard-won expertise is a world of greater exclusion: of older workers, slower learners, and the less socially adept.

I can't dissect all of this here, but this isn't the end of expertise. If anything, it's a misunderstanding of generalists. Not all generalists are created equal. Experts, too, can adapt. I've said for years that experts must wrap their mastery in general skills we might call soft skills - emotional intelligence, leadership, communication, critical thinking, problem solving, empathy. Those skills might be general, but they also require mastery. One thing is for sure: resistance to skills change is a ticket to career risk. Phil Fersht just wrote a piece on that tonight.

Other standouts

Honorable mention


Overworked businessman


So this four floor slide in a Singapore airport gets you to your gate faster. Of course, you're still hanging out at the gate waiting for flight delay updates, but - sure, slide away. Meanwhile, I had some fun at Domino's expense:

I also had a different take on the Facebook outage:

Man, we could use these goggles right about now, eh?

I could use them when reading the latest blockchain proof of concept or AI hyperblow hyperbole, in this case, about the music business:

Yeah, Jack White could have used some "AI" to play the keyboard for him during an epic performance of "Icky Thump." Yeah sure...

No "see you next time" this week. I've got next week's edition off - and a stellar surprise hits and misses writer will step in.

If you find an #ensw piece that qualifies for hits and misses - in a good or bad way - let me know in the comments as Clive (almost) always does. Most Enterprise hits and misses articles are selected from my curated @jonerpnewsfeed. 'myPOV' is borrowed with reluctant permission from the ubiquitous Ray Wang. 

Image credit - Waiter Suggesting Bottle © Minerva Studiom, Overworked Businessman © Bloomua, Businessman Choosing Success or Failure Road © Creativa - all from Fotolia.com. - all from Fotolia.com.

Disclosure - Oracle, Workday, Coupa, Infor, Oracle NetSuite and Salesforce are diginomica premier partners as of this writing.

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