It's up to CIOs to paint a clear picture to directors of the technology landscape and trends without getting too bogged down in details. Hartung says to explain to board members what trends mean for the larger business context. "Logically explain why Android is the No. 1 device but Apple has the No. 1 share," he says. "People on boards don't know these things so they are asking you."
4. Address Risk Landscape and Evaluate Competition
According to the 2014 Annual Corporate Directors survey conducted by PwC, 65 percent of corporate boards want to focus more on IT risks and 48 percent want more attention given to IT strategy. CIOs are key to the risk discussion in several ways. One way is helping boards understand the risk of the status quo -- that is, the possibility of being disrupted by another company or technology. "Boards need to spend less time on 'did we do things right' and more time on 'are we doing things right,'" Hartung says.
Another part of discussing risk includes looking at competitors that could disrupt your traditional business model. Hartung says boards need to "be obsessive about what competitors are doing," rather than focusing on old customers. He cites the example of how the Chicago Tribune's classified ads took a hit when Craigslist launched its site as a place to post ads for free. As the CIO, "your job is to say that Craigslist really matters," he says.
Lastly, Hartung says that while the stakes are high, being on a corporate board is very rewarding and a way to develop long-term business relationships and stretch your mind beyond your day job, and ultimately it's exciting. "Do we keep doing what we did, or do we do something new?" he says. "If we make that decision wrong, [the company] could be dead in five years."
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