Yum Brands taps Walmart CIO for global digital, tech strategy

Dive Brief:

  • Clay Johnson, EVP and enterprise CIO for Walmart, is leaving to become Yum Brands chief digital and technology officer effective Oct. 15, according to an announcement. Johnson will also oversee Yum Brands’ technology risk management and IT shared services teams, and work closely with division technology chiefs.
  • As a member of the global leadership team, Johnson will oversee the technology strategy of brands, including KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell, according to the announcement. The franchises will be expected to coordinate cross-brand efforts for accelerating data analytics and emerging technologies. 
  • Johnson’s last day at Walmart is Sept. 27, according to an internal memo from Suresh Kumar, EVP and global CTO and chief development officer, shared with CIO Dive. Johnson, the 2018 CIO of the Year, joined Walmart in January 2017 and created the retailer’s Global Business Services (GBS) team, responsible for much of the retailer’s digital transformation, according to the memo. 

Dive Insight:

This is Walmart’s second major technology head departure this year. U.S. CTO Jeremy King left the retailer for Pinterest in March. Both technology leaders are credited with laying the foundation for Walmart’s digital transformation. 

Retail was a new territory for Johnson, as is the restaurant space. He previously served as CIO of General Electric Power where he consolidated IT and business services, saving the company between $50 million and $60 million, according to GE Power. 

Enter Yum Brands, which has been looking for a “new senior leader,” responsible for a global, digital and technology strategy, since February. This year was designated as Yum Brands’ “final year” in its digital transformation efforts, according to CEO Greg Creed, who is retiring at the end of the year.

But Johnson’s arrival signals Yum Brands’ digital transformation is not finished. And some argue digital transformation is ever-evolving and never complete.

Each of Yum Brands’ restaurant chains has a CIO with varying digital strategies, but the parent company is securing more sophisticated tools to “parse data to figure out where to put stores to be the most profitable,” according to COO David Gibbs, who is taking over as CEO in January