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Across the board

Divina Paredes | June 3, 2015
More CIOs are being appointed to the board or are tasked to present regularly to this group as a member of the technology committee. Gartner executives Denildo Albuquerque and David Spaziani – both former CIOs – share pointers for stepping up to this role.

The key is to discuss the tactical and strategic topics the board is interested in, says Albuquerque. These include capability, accountability, risk, agility, customer expectation in a digital world, business performance and investment alignment.

Spaziani, on the other hand, notes that when talking about IT-related investments, CIOs need to analyse these against three valuable criteria: topline growth, bottom-line savings, and risk management.

"Talk less about technology and more about the business," notes Albuquerque, "and what you can do to influence bottom line results."[3]

A topic that is of growing interest to organisation boards is digital, he states, and these are around "what the competitors are doing, how digital is going to contribute to exceeding customer expectations, how it will enable competitive advantage... and very importantly what is the risk of doing nothing".

Albuquerque says most of his interactions with organisation boards were focused on risk and compliance, security, and management of large contracts.

It is important to get to know the board members, he says. The company secretary can help provide insights on their role in the board and other boards, career background and influencers.

But while building one's credibility is important, nothing will matter if CIOs and their teams do not do two things right, says Spaziani.

The CIOs and their teams must be able to provide stable and resilient systems and infrastructures, and understand the organisation's security strategy and architecture in terms of protecting the company from cyberattacks. The latter can severely cripple the organisation's reputation and cause financial loss, which is a primary concern for the boards.

Guidelines for board interactions

Spaziani says when interacting with the board, CIOs need to be:

Most board interactions last no more than 15 minutes. Know your time schedule and be attentive to time cues from the chair and the rest of the directors.

Transparency is a key objective for most boards. Focus on sharing good and bad news openly and appropriately.

When you don't know something, say so and then go find out. Always check your data before using any with a director. Spaziani notes it is the accuracy of the CIO presentation that the board will remember. "The board has a very short period of time to judge you. They are looking for body language, a sense of purpose, confidence and for someone who realises, 'I don't know' is a great answer. At times, it is hard to say, but it is best to just admit that you are not sure, but you know where you can find the answer and get back to them."

Keep in mind what directors want and need to know rather than what you feel they should know or become educated about.


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