Global retail giant Walmart Stores is well recognized for supply chain innovations and extreme efficiency in its business processes. What many people may not realize is that Walmart also supports Walmart Labs, with approximately 2500 employees globally, that develops internal applications and high tech innovations that may be applicable throughout their business processes.
Walmart labs, according to published reports, made the decision to move to an Agile development model approximately two years ago, to modernize its development methodoly and reduce time-to-market for new internal products. Coaches were brought on board to teach and align the organization to SCRUM and Kanban processes, and formalize workflows and processes to standardize on one particular AGILE approach that would serve the organization best.
According to a paper submitted by Abinav Munshi of Walmart, and Bhavin Kamani of Gembatech discussing their experiences, “Having multiple autonomous teams brought agility at project level. It created a web of dependencies at program level. The situation challenged us with maintaining program level alignment around use cases, user experience, technology, tools, etc. It was critical for the program to establish certain standards and synergy across teams while maintaining their autonomy.”
In the “Age of the Customer,” Agile development makes a lot of sense, especially for customer driven enterprises like Walmart and other large, successful retailers. Agile development is geared towards iterative process, and incorporating user feedback in application updates and the development of new releases. Online competitor Amazon.com has been using the SCRUM Agile method for over a decade now, as opposed to the usually slower, more traditional “waterfall method.” According to a Wall Street Journal report, Walmart Labs has created more than 130 different Agile development teams to work on various projects over the past 24 months.
Concluded Munshi and Kamani in their paper, “At Walmart, being agile means establishing continuous delivery capability. Scaling this vision across programs requires ground-up level changes with programs, projects, teams, processes, technology and tools. Agile practices helps us decompose these areas to get the required agility. At the same time, maintaining cohesiveness across these areas and focusing on their interconnections is essential to provide a holistic experience to the end user of the system.”
Featured photo: Walmart’s recycled grease powered semi tractor trailer is proof of concept for fueling the retailer’s entire fleet with biofuel refined from its retail food operations.
“Walmart’s Grease Fuel Truck” by Walmart from Bentonville, USA – Walmart’s Grease Fuel Truck. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Walmart%E2%80%99s_Grease_Fuel_Truck.jpg