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Walmart and Microsoft partner to boost digital in retail

US retail giant Walmart has signed a five-year partnership with Microsoft, with the aim of speeding up its digital transformation

Walmart and Microsoft have entered into a partnership to accelerate the retailer’s use of technologies, such as machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI).

The five-year partnership will allow Walmart to use Microsoft’s suite of cloud-based products to make the shopping experience better for its customers worldwide, as well as use digital technologies to “empower” its store associates.

Engineers from Walmart and Microsoft will work together to migrate hundreds of the retailer’s existing platforms to native cloud architectures as it adopts Microsoft Azure and Microsoft Office 365 across its entire firm.

Doug McMillon, CEO of Walmart, said this partnership came out of the retailer’s goal to keep creating a convenient customer experience, as well as helping store employees to do “their best work”.

“Walmart is a people-led, tech-empowered company, and we’re excited about what this technology partnership will bring for our customers and associates,” he said. 

“Whether it’s combined with our agile cloud platform, or leveraging machine learning and artificial intelligence to work smarter, we believe Microsoft will be a strong partner in driving our ability to innovate even further and faster.”

Retailers are going out of their way to offer a good customer experience in the current fickle landscape, attempting to retain customers by offering the best service possible through technology adoption.

Walmart said its adoption of multiple Microsoft products is a bid to speed up its digital transformation, as well as break down inter-departmental silos across its many brands and promote faster innovation and cost management.

But many older retailers struggle with digital transformation as a result of inflexible legacy systems, and Walmart has spent millions of dollars in the past on deploying cloud opensource software platform OpenStack.

Walmart already uses Microsoft services for some of its critical applications and workloads, and is now choosing to use the software supplier’s public cloud to make its technology more scalable across its business by using Microsoft’s compute capacity and workload management.

Part of this collaborative migration will include moving some capabilities of and to Azure, such as its check-out features, to meet the rise in customer demand the retailer has experienced.

The retailer is also working on building a global internet of things (IoT) platform on Microsoft’s Azure platform to make its supply chain more organised, connecting things such as refrigeration units and trucks to make them more energy efficient or improve supply chain shipping routes.

It is clear this move is focused on improving the speed Walmart is able to innovate, and so the retailer is rolling out several of Microsoft’s cloud products across its business to improve the way its employees work, including a phased roll out of Microsoft 365, and other tools including Microsoft Workplace Analytics, Microsoft Stream, and Microsoft OneDrive.

Walmart is not the only surprising partnership Microsoft has taken up, having met with Centrica’s CIO earlier in 2018 to form its only strategic partnership in the utilities sector.

The software firm’s CEO, Satya Nadella, said: “Walmart is a pioneering retailer, committed to empowering its employees and delivering the best experience for its customers wherever they are. The world’s leading companies run on our cloud, and I’m thrilled to partner with Walmart to accelerate their digital transformation with Microsoft Azure and Microsoft 365.”

Read more about retail technology

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