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How to win over your board of directors

Stephanie Overby | Aug. 24, 2017
A 15-minute board presentation can make or break a valuable project — not to mention a promising career. But there are steps CIOs can take to not only meet their board of director’s needs and expectations but win their lasting support and respect.


2. Play to the room

CIOs who understand what most interests and motivates the board will fare best. Figure out if they have a particular focus on growth, operational improvements and opportunities or compliance and cybersecurity, for example, says Ferro, who has held CIO positions at AIG, the American Cancer Society and Earthlink.

French Caldwell, who ran popular board presentation workshops for CIOs when he was at Gartner, says most boards are looking for help with their risk intelligence. “Corporate directors are very concerned with what risks could emerge that will derail corporate growth,” says Caldwell, who now presents to the board every quarter as the senior marketing executive at MetricStream. “The board will appreciate investments the CIO makes to give them a better handle on emerging and strategic risks.”


3. Stay on top of the news

For every lead technology or business story in The Wall Street Journal or The New York Times, you’d better know about it and have an answer for what it means for your business. “Be on top of consumer and customer trends in your industry so when asked by the board you are prepared to discuss options for making the company more competitive,” says Bates. “Attend outside conferences, network with your peers, and strive to be one of the best informed CIOs in any industry.”


4. Lose the lingo  

Always speak to the board in the language of the business. “Often CIOs speak in terms of improvements in IT operational performance, improvements in security, and system reliability and availability,” says Caldwell. “If you really want to the board to appreciate fully the investments you are making, it’s important to identify the real business benefits.”

The universal winning approach is linking IT investment to the company’s growth strategy. “Now is not the time to ‘wow’ them with your command of hyperconverged infrastructure, packet loss on your network, or intricacies of agile,” warns Ferro. “ Your competency will come out when you’re able to weave technical items into a discussion of business outcomes. Show that you know your organization’s value chain as much as any other executive.” 


5. Get aligned

“Get as much input from various stakeholders before the presentation — and preview intended discussion and decision points,” says Hu. Depending on the context, that might include the CEO, a business unit leader, or a board secretary.

“Make sure you’re aligned with other senior executives — and especially with the CFO,” adds Caldwell. “If the CIO and CFO are speaking about the same strategic objectives but using different ways to describe them and how the IT investments benefit them, it just creates confusion.”

Working closely with the CEO and the rest of the executive team on the presentation will deliver the message that IT and the business are in sync, says Bates. 


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