Target brings in Facebook vet to lead tech ops

Dive Brief:

  • Target has brought in a Facebook veteran as senior vice president of infrastructure and operations for its tech team.
  • The mass merchant said Monday in a press release that Hari Govind will oversee cloud computing, network connectivity and operations for technology at its stores, distribution centers, offices and digital channels.
  • Govind begins in July and will report to CIO Mike McNamara. He previously was group manager of Facebook’s infrastructure team, which worked on scaling Facebook’s various platforms, including its namesake social network and Instagram. He has also held rolls at Microsoft and Honeywell International.

Dive Insight:

As retail technology becomes more complex, and Amazon’s influence over industry direction intensifies, retailers have been looking to vets from Silicon Valley and other tech hubs to build up their teams. 

Most recently, Walmart brought in Suresh Kumar, a veteran of Amazon and Microsoft, as its new chief technology officer. Along with that hire, Walmart has also expanded its tech labs in Northern Virginia — a tech center in its own right that is soon to be home to half of Amazon’s second headquarters — and brought in an exec with venture capital and startup experience to lead its tech incubator.

Target’s McNamara started building out the retailer’s in-house tech team four years ago out of concerns about outsourcing its IT team to third-parties. Since then, the company has also shifted the innovation side of its tech strategy away from pilots and long-term goals to nearer-term growth areas related to Target’s core business.

Technology at Target is key to making its modern retail strategy work. In the first quarter, the retailer reaped the rewards of tying online sales to its stores through its order pickup and drive-up options. Executives said in May that its customers prefer those drive-up and pickup services that blend its store fleet with digital shopping. The best part for Target is that those are also its most profitable digital services.

Technology, when something goes wrong, is also an ongoing risk for Target and other retailers. Issues with a payments vendor took out Target’s registers across its footprint for two hours on a Saturday in June. The incident was resolved quickly — and Target stressed it wasn’t an internal tech issue — but it was an irritant for customers, lost business for the retailer and a headache absorbing the tech team’s attention.

Cyberattacks, almost as routine for retailers as holiday sales, are also a constant technological threat. For its part, Target has paid out millions to states over a security breach that exposed consumer data.