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International Business Machines Corp. named a new chief information officer, as the 109-year-old company works to revamp growth by focusing on artificial intelligence and hybrid-cloud computing.

Kathryn Guarini, a 20-plus year IBM veteran, replaces outgoing CIO Fletcher Previn, who is leaving to pursue other opportunities, the company said.

IBM declined to make Ms. Guarini, who most recently served as chief operations officer and vice president of impact science within IBM Research, available for an interview. Mr. Fletcher, who the company said will work with Ms. Guarini “over the coming weeks" on the transition, couldn’t be reached for comment.

“The IBM CIO role is one of the most challenging in the industry," said Gartner Inc. vice president Chirag Dekate. As CIO, Ms. Guarini will oversee an information technology team of over 12,000 employees who are responsible for managing IT infrastructure used by more than 350,000 IBM workers around the world, he said.

Ms. Guarini’s other priorities will likely include harnessing those technologies IBM is focusing on for growth, he said.

Her appointment comes as IBM is trying to boost sales partly by focusing on AI and hybrid-cloud computing, in which companies use a combination of their own data centers and computing resources leased from others and accessed online.

IBM is betting it can assist companies in managing the complexities of such transitions, and help them take advantage of artificial intelligence.

Helping companies glean value from AI can be a tall order, depending on the industry. The Wall Street Journal reported last month that IBM is exploring the sale of its Watson Health unit, highlighting the challenges of building data sets that unlock the full value of AI in the healthcare sector.

Tim Crawford, of tech advisory firm Avoa, said as CIO, Ms. Guarini can help IBM engage with or better understand the needs of other CIOs. "Generally, the CIO role can be a strong advocate and conduit to engage other CIOs," he said. “She could leverage these relationships to help ground IBM as addressing customers’ changing needs."

Beginning in spring 2017, when he was named CIO, Mr. Previn prioritized user experience in the development of internal applications and systems, in an effort to attract and retain employees. Among other moves, Mr. Previn hired an executive reporting to him to oversee a team responsible for designing IT services while taking into account user research, workflow and metrics.

“Fletcher Previn established a strong foundation of improved internal tools, applications and IT infrastructure to improve productivity of IBMers," Mr. Dekate of Gartner said. “He also helped IBM navigate Covid and the resultant effects on the workforce dynamics."

Mr. Previn succeeded Jeff Smith, who helped institute a culture of agile software development during his tenure from 2014 to 2017.

Ms. Guarini has held various technical, management and executive positions since joining IBM in 1999, according to the company. Within IBM Research, she was responsible for projects related to the future of health, work, and climate, among other duties, according to the company.

This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text.

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