by Christopher Koch

20/20 HONOREES – Gary Reiner

Oct 01, 20022 mins

Senior Vice President and CIO

General Electric Co.

Former General Electric CEO Jack Welch may have coined the term digitization and exhorted the company’s top managers to replace paper and manual processes with electronics and automation, but Gary Reiner, GE’s senior vice president and CIO since 1996, has been the person in charge of supplying those managers with the systems and tools to make that vision a reality.

Welch sold digitization by characterizing it as going where the competition wasn’t. Keep spending on technology that enhances productivity during lean times and you will be positioned to crush your rivals when things pick up, he says.

But, of course, things haven’t picked up. Welch is gone. And the country has grown cynical about business in general and GE’s self-proclaimed position as America’s iconic corporation in particular.

With all this as a backdrop, the pressure has increased on the 48-year-old Reiner to demonstrate that digitization works, especially without Welch leading the cheers and catching the flak. But Reiner’s numbers?$1.9 billion in savings in 2001, according to the company?prove that he can execute on the grand scale. And the simple fact that the digitization effort continues, despite the drastic cutbacks in IT spending that have hit most big corporations, testifies both to Reiner’s determination and to his clout within GE.

Today, Reiner is the man moving GE’s culture from its traditional emphasis on people and processes to one that accepts technology as a third ingredient in the mix. “Gary was the one who got people focused and excited about the use of technology,” says Marc McCluskey, a research director with Boston-based AMR Research and a former GE manager. “He evangelized that GE’s people and execution culture begin to look more toward technology.”