CIO Spotlight: Michael Bouchet, Newfold Digital

Looking back with 20:20 hindsight, what would you have done differently? “I would have bought stock in Apple.”

Headshot of Michael Bouchet, CIO at Newfold Digital
Newfold Digital

Name: Michael Bouchet

Company: Newfold Digital

Job title: CIO

Date started current role: February 2020

Location: Jacksonville, Florida, United States

Michael Bouchet is an IT industry veteran with over 25 years of experience. Prior to Newfold Digital (formerly Web.com Group), he served as SVP at OneCall heading up Infrastructure, cloud and IT Security. While there, Bouchet drove the service culture transformation across Infrastructure, and helped lead the development of modern cloud infrastructure practices. Bouchet also has extensive global IT leadership experience from his time at JPMorganChase, BBVA, and Reed Elsevier in various IT leadership positions. 

What was your first job? In my first IT role, I was a systems consultant at a small local systems integrator. 

Did you always want to work in IT? Believe it or not, my dream job was actually to work at NASA. But the internet went public the year I graduated high school — so you can imagine a lot changed after that. It set the course for my career in IT. 

What was your education? Do you hold any certifications? What are they? In college I studied business, technology and physics, and now, I’m working on my master’s degree in Information Systems at Heriot-Watt University. 

Explain your career path. Did you take any detours? If so, discuss. No detours for me – I’ve had a pretty straight career path. Once I started in IT, I stayed the course. I’ve been in IT my entire career. 

What business or technology initiatives will be most significant in driving IT investments in your organisation in the coming year? Just in our first year as a business, we acquired three brands — this has catalysed significant IT initiatives. Looking ahead, we are planning to implement additional processes and IT flows to bring our new acquisitions and employees into our systems for a seamless transition.

What are the CEO's top priorities for you in the coming year? How do you plan to support the business with IT? A focus on the customer is Newfold’s top priority, and with IT being only one step removed from the end user, we have a critical part to play in improving their experience. From overhauling our contact centre technologies to improving the performance of our products, my goal is to support this initiative through improved technologies and customer interactions.  

Does the conventional CIO role include responsibilities it should not hold? Should the role have additional responsibilities it does not currently include? The pandemic challenged and evolved the traditional role of a CIO. When lockdowns started, within a matter of days, our teams needed to enable a remote workforce to keep business moving.  CIOs are no longer just the IT team; they are critical to keeping operations running smoothly amid changes and key to elevating workflows to make things easier for employees. The modern CIO is an educator, influencer and strategic partner who is a necessary part of business decision-making.  

Are you leading a digital transformation? If so, does it emphasise customer experience and revenue growth or operational efficiency? If both, how do you balance the two? Since the formation of Newfold Digital in February of 2021, we have been implementing several digital transformations. From migrating thousands of employees to a single platform to updating our servers for an improved performance, digital transformations have been an important part of the job. We plan out our transformations every year based on impact, determining which projects will impact the business the most. Customers and revenue growth go hand in hand with operational efficiency. If our employees have the tools to effectively do their jobs, they can ultimately drive customer experience and revenue.  

Describe the maturity of your digital business. For example, do you have KPIs to quantify the value of IT? At Newfold, we have built a strong foundation of digital capabilities for our customers and across departments and teams. We keep our finger on the pulse of the external landscape and continually advocate for evolution. We adapt to changing conditions and have KPIs in place to both measure risk and quantify our wins of effort and investment. Based on those factors, I would describe the maturity of our digital business as “Connected”. 

What does good culture fit look like in your organisation? How do you cultivate it? IT is all about delivering the best possible service to the organisation, so I look for people who are dedicated and committed to achieving this level of excellence and who really want to connect with the end user. CIOs and IT leads have the opportunity to be true change advocates and initiators. I believe in creating a culture of collaboration and empathy.   

What roles or skills are you finding (or anticipate to be) the most difficult to fill? Roles in security will be difficult to fill. The world has changed drastically since Covid, and with this new digital world, there are added security concerns. Staying on top of security and mitigating risks have become a bigger undertaking for organisations, significantly increased demand for security professionals.

What's the best career advice you ever received? In my five years as a Boy Scout, one lesson was drilled into my mind repeatedly: "leave the campsite better than you found it." It's an idea that applies to so many things in life, from professional endeavours to personal relationships. It doesn't matter whether you created the problem; it's still your responsibility to resolve it as best you can. That’s a lesson I apply to my job at Newfold every day.

Do you have a succession plan? If so, discuss the importance of and challenges with training up high-performing staff. Yes. High performers tend to be eager to learn more and be challenged. Since they are so strong in their own area of expertise, it’s easy to forget that and keep them where they are — but it’s so important to allow them to grow. As a leader, I always want to find new and exciting opportunities for people, where they can have new experiences and test new skill sets.  

What advice would you give to aspiring IT leaders? Never underestimate the importance of agility and adaptability — in other words, always be prepared. We’re in times of great change, and the ability to assimilate quickly will be a critical asset for your company. When I was new on the job, I was immediately faced with two huge changes — the shift to remote work due to COVID-19 and the transition from Web.com Group to Newfold Digital. A month into my role, I had to oversee a seamless transition to working from home, despite 98% of the company’s employees working in brick-and-mortar offices. And when my company was in the process of completing a billion-dollar merger with another web solutions company, I planned and executed the full global migration with minimal disruptions to ensure that the whole Newfold Digital team would be working on the same platform. In the moment it was daunting, but thanks to my team’s ability to respond positively to adverse circumstances we not only kept operations running smoothly, but elevated workflows to make things easier on employees. 

What has been your greatest career achievement? One of my proudest moments earlier in my career was helping to lead a merger between JP Morgan and Bank One — this was a great learning experience and helped prepare me when Web.com transitioned to Newfold Digital. More recently at Newfold, overhauling security and IT operations at Newfold was perhaps my greatest achievement. In a one-year period, I oversaw the complete rebuild and scaling of the security model, a $3 million project. I also revamped the IT customer service desk, which suffered from inefficiencies and led many customers to escalate their work tickets. By implementing an AI bot that assisted in ticket resolution operations, we streamlined the platform, resolving 76% of tickets on the first escalation compared to the previous rate of 9%. Over half of tickets were solved automatically by the AI integration, lessening the manual strain on workers and guaranteeing timely solutions for customers. 

Looking back with 20:20 hindsight, what would you have done differently? I would have bought stock in Apple. 

What are you reading now? Right now I’m reading a book for school called Organizational Behavior which explores management and workplace culture. In addition, every day I like to read articles relevant to my work and industry.

Most people don't know that I… lived in three different foreign countries – Australia, Argentina and England. I have also travelled to over 60 countries.

In my spare time, I like to…watch movies.

Ask me to do anything but… listen to country music.