From The Top: Sheryl Bunton, CIO, Gulfstream

FINN talks to Gulfstream's Sheryl Bunton about balancing innovation with risk, the changing role of the CIO and more.

Sheryl Bunton was appointed as Gulfstream’s CIO in 2015. Before joining Gulfstream, Bunton served as global CIO for AGCO Corp., where she was responsible for managing more than 500 applications. She also worked as the CIO for Southwire Company, a manufacturer of wire and cable, and as a general manager for MYTecSoft Inc., an SAP consulting firm.

Bunton also has experience in the financial industry, having worked for more than a decade for then-AT&T Capital Corp., where she started as a sales representative before working her way up to senior vice president for the industrial finance business unit. 

The role of the CIO

Bunton is the first aviation CIO FINN has featured in our popular From The Top series.

Bunton describes the role as: “The combination of the rest of my career.”

“It's a great time to be in technology with digital transformation and Industry 4.0 bringing in different types of realities for people to work with," she said.

She also notes: “One of the things that we have to do in the CIO role is constantly balance innovation with security, and that's another part of my job that I enjoy.

"We have to make sure that we're taking appropriate steps into innovation, without creating new risk in the environment.”

In flux

Bunton also notes, though, that: “The role of the CIO will always be in flux as technology changes.

"In fact, if you can't change, you're in trouble."

"Part of one of the DNA components for a CIO, I believe, is to be comfortable with change, to seek change and to drive change  not for its own sake, but to keep pace. And I think that's important for every leader, but particularly our technology leaders.”

Priorities

Digital transformation is high on Gulfstream’s and therefore, Bunton’s agenda.

For her, it’s about: “Transforming the way that we work so that everything we do is higher quality, is constantly improving, meeting the customer expectation, making it a better place to work, making sure that we're driving higher value work.”

It’s also about being able to drop more “rote work,” she says.

She explained: “There's technology out there now that allows us to take some of that off your desk and run it as a virtual assistant. One of the most interesting things to me right now is how we can transform somebody's work and unlock their greater potential as a problem-solver and an innovator, instead of a paper pusher.”

Challenges

As is well-documented across all industries, digital transformation isn’t easy.

Bunton talks about challenges related to “digital affinity”, but notes this isn’t necessarily connected to age.

She said: “Are you the type of person who will never use a computer? That's the digital exile and there can be young people in that category and older people. Are you a digital pioneer? Are you the first one to get the new phone? Are you the first one to take up a new technology? Or are you a digital native?”

“I think one of the challenges that we all will face is where do we fall in that digital affinity line,” Bunton commented. "And that will be a determiner of success, I believe, as leaders, as individuals and as corporations.”

Trend-spotting

In business aviation, Bunton pinpoints the number-one trend as “customer intimacy”.

This is about: “The things that our customers require from us that they may not even know they want yet,” Bunton said.

 “It's our job to think about human factors and future spaces and at Gulfstream, we do a lot to work to hear the voice of the customer and make sure we're constantly taking in new trends and data around that.”

In the future, this will speed up and companies will need to adapt even faster, Bunton says.

“The thing that you can't buy is time,” she noted. “So anything we can do to collapse the process…is a good idea.”

Cybersecurity

Finally, we ask all our From The Top interviewees what keeps them awake at night.

According to Bunton: “I think it’s probably the same answer for every CIO in the world right now. And that's cyber. [At Gulfstream], we make a significant investment into the cyber space, but it is an escalating issue. And it's something that we continually watch and develop for.

“Every CIO in the world wonders: is this going to be the night when they call me?"

However, she said: "I have a very strong security team so I sleep more.”

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