Published on October 19, 2023, 6:41 am

TLDR: Walmart has successfully integrated generative AI into its operations in just 60 days. The company launched My Assistant, a gen AI-powered tool, to improve productivity for its US-based corporate employees. The implementation process involved clear vision alignment, securing buy-in from leaders, forming a dedicated cross-functional product team, and conducting demos and training sessions to encourage adoption. Walmart plans to expand the use of generative AI globally among its international corporate employees and eventually empower frontline associates in stores.

Ben Peterson, head of Walmart’s People Product organization, recently revealed how the retail giant successfully integrated generative AI into its operations in just 60 days. Walmart, known for its “people-led, tech-powered” approach, recognized that combining the strengths of both people and technology is key to achieving success in the age of artificial intelligence.

Walmart’s new gen AI-powered tool, called My Assistant, was launched in August with the aim of improving the productivity of its 50,000 US-based corporate employees. This move puts Walmart among a select few companies that have effectively leveraged generative AI on a large scale within their organizations.

Peterson, formerly from a global consulting firm with expertise in retail and consumer packaged goods, joined Walmart with a mission to enhance the employee experience for the company’s 2.1 million associates worldwide. He stated that Walmart has always been focused on utilizing technology to serve customers and support employees, and they were early adopters of generative AI due to its potential.

The process of implementing generative AI at Walmart involved aligning on a unified vision and communication strategy across all levels of the organization. Peterson emphasized the importance of having a clear vision that allows teams to stay focused amidst the hype surrounding this technology. By answering key questions about access, use cases, and future plans, Walmart was able to set itself up for success.

Another crucial factor in Walmart’s journey was securing buy-in from leaders who recognized the potential of generative AI early on. Donna Morris, Walmart’s chief people officer, played a vital role in prioritizing and investing in this technology. To further drive adoption within the organization, Peterson’s product team reported directly to Morris after previously being part of the global technology function.

To ensure rapid execution, a dedicated cross-functional product team consisting of leaders from various disciplines was formed. This team had direct access to executives when facing roadblocks during development. Through agile development practices and constant communication with the leadership, Walmart was able to deliver My Assistant as a minimum viable product within the tight timeline.

Walmart is aware that any rollout of generative AI will encounter a change curve, similar to early adopters of Microsoft Excel. Users need to understand how to harness the power of this technology effectively for it to be truly impactful. Change management and adoption strategies are critical in driving acceptance and utilization of generative AI within the organization.

To encourage adoption, Walmart conducts demos of practical use cases and tailored training sessions for managers, helping them understand how generative AI can enhance productivity and creativity. Peterson emphasizes that My Assistant is meant to be a starting point for tasks like writing whitepapers, enabling associates to overcome writer’s block more easily. The goal is to show employees firsthand how generative AI can be an ally rather than a threat.

Currently, My Assistant provides US-based corporate employees with a consumer-grade experience that allows them to synthesize, summarize, and augment proprietary data from Walmart’s ecosystem securely. In the future, the company plans to expand My Assistant globally among its international corporate employees and eventually empower frontline associates in stores and clubs with gen AI solutions.

While it may be hard to predict the extent of generative AI’s impact on work and everyday life, Peterson believes that many jobs will be augmented by this technology while new ones are created. Nonetheless, he asserts that “our people will continue to be what differentiates us” at Walmart.

In conclusion, through strategic visioning, dedicated teams, executive alignment, effective change management practices, and hands-on training sessions, Walmart has successfully integrated generative AI into its operations in just 60 days. This achievement demonstrates Walmart’s commitment to leveraging technology while putting its people first.

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