The Powerful Influence of CIOs: Insights from Jonathan Reichental

Posted by on October 28, 2019

Jonathan Reichental

Every company is now a technology company, regardless of industry, product, or service. In pursuit of business growth, companies must move away from legacy systems and towards a digital-first approach. As a result, business strategy is now inextricably linked to IT decisions. 

This shift has put the CIO and IT leaders front and center. Their deep understanding of technology’s potential has become imperative in defining priorities, implications, risks, and costs of new technology—as well as quantifying lost opportunity resulting from being last to market. 

It is no longer enough for IT leaders to be experts at technology; they must also be astute business strategists.

Cherwell recently chatted with Jonathan Reichental, Founder and CEO of Human Future and LinkedIn Learning Instructor, about the role of the CIO in digital transformation—something about which he has in-depth knowledge. In 2017, Jonathan was named a top 100 CIO in the world, and in 2016 was named one of the top 20 most influential CIOs in the U.S. 

The Powerful Influence of CIOs: Insights from Jonathan Reichental

What do you feel is the most significant trend that CIOs should be keeping an eye on?

Jonathan: We live in a remarkable time. There are so many important new technologies and business trends emerging right now, and it's important for CIOs to track many of them. If you forced me to give one answer, I would have to say quantum computing. If this technology takes off in the next decade as predicted by many—including me—it will require a significant refresh of the world's technology stack. The consequences for legacy systems, the investment required, the innovation it will enable, and the transformation of cybersecurity through quantum cryptography, are just a few of the game-changers.


How do you see the CIO role changing, right now and in the next few years?

Jonathan: The biggest shift I see is the increasing role of the CIO as business strategist. With every organization now a technology business, the most senior technology executive must be part of any discussions on the future. The CIO has the tools and team to augment efforts that include everything from new delivery systems to new product design. Every CIO needs to become a business leader, and every business leader needs to become a technologist.


Culture is often a barrier to change. What should CIOs be doing to help transform the business both digitally and culturally?

Jonathan: CIOs have more influence on culture than they, or the rest of the organization, realize. Technology choices can have a profound impact on how a business behaves. For example, are all systems available on any device, anytime, and anywhere? How is data managed? Does rigorous data governance exist? 

A CIO has the ability to demonstrate what is possible, both internally and externally in the marketplace. Managing an innovation process can help inspire and lead change in organizations that are conservative and have difficulty understanding the disruption ahead.


Digital transformation is a sweeping, top to bottom, side to side initiative. How would you advise CIOs to promote collaboration and earn buy-in across the organization?

Jonathan: CIOs must position themselves as business partners. The days of being an order-taker are over. It's going to take time to transition from the legacy of a support role to one that helps lead the business. By partnering on projects, other executives will see the CIO as a valued collaborator. The CIO must help to support, facilitate, and integrate her team members with other departments so that they see IT as equal colleagues investing in the success of the business.


How should CIOs be preparing for the next five years of tech innovation?

Jonathan: The two areas, outside of specific technologies, would be to develop processes for faster implementation, and second, to have the skills for more complex integration. These two areas reflect an environment where organizations need to move fast and change direction at a moment's notice; and for a world where people, behaviors, processes, and systems are spread across disparate entities.

Harness Your Influence in Digital Transformation

Every company is now a technology company. To plan and implement strategic digital transformation, companies need leaders with acumen in both technology and business. To help CIOs prepare for emerging technology—and the associated challenges—we have created the IT Leader’s Guide to Digital Transformation. Check out expert insights about the skills and knowledge needed for success. 

digital transformation