Has engaging with the board become easier or harder over the past year?

2.5k views9 Comments

Advisor | Investor | Former CIO in Services (non-Government), Self-employed
I don't want to call it easier or harder but the board is starting to understand the relevancy of technology and how it can impact. One company that I work with is one of the largest yoga studio chains in the country. When COVID hit they couldn’t run studios, so they laid off 9K people. The company went from over 9K to just over 200 employees. The first month, they figured out how to live stream to all their yoga members but they couldn't charge for it because they didn't have e-commerce capabilities. Within 3 months, they stood up the whole e-commerce platform and their revenues are now at 95%.

So the wake up call for the board is that we just dodged a bullet. We survived and having learned from first-hand experience, we now realize how critical technology is to the long-term viability of the company. When the pandemic hit it got very real. If you're in tech companies to a certain extent, all IT had to do was provision more laptops for people working at home and make sure they have enough VPN capacity. So the vertical that you're in really does dictate the impact that it had and how everybody captured the imagination of the board.
Board Member, Former CIO in Software, 10,001+ employees
The conversations are more relevant, but I don't know if they've gotten easier or harder. I think that's a function of what's going on with the company and the quality of leadership, including the IT leadership. To some degree, I think tech literacy at the board level is more relevant now. That's the harder part, but even then, board members have responded by hiring people like me onto their board to have a technologist and it's been a good business. You now need not just a CEO and a CFO on your board, you also need a CIO or technologist. For many companies that makes the board conversations more interesting, maybe not all.
2 Replies
Former Chief Technology and People Officer in Software, 1,001 - 5,000 employees

I agree. They're more interesting and I think there are more board members that are able to carry on the conversation at the next level. But overall, everything's gotten a little more complicated. Therefore, that conversation has become a little more complicated.

CIO, 5,001 - 10,000 employees

I would say the conversations have become more interesting. They're real conversations now.

CEO in Services (non-Government), Self-employed
I would say somewhat easier because, company to company, I find that most CIOs are very “E-skilled”, which is a term I came up with a while ago. The idea that you’re “T-skilled” means your strengths are mainly technology and business. The idea that you’re “E-skilled” means you are also empathetic and entrepreneurial. That combo is making those conversations easier.
Former Chief Technology and People Officer in Software, 1,001 - 5,000 employees
As a CIO that owned security and had to present to the board, I feel like the conversations have become harder in the sense that the landscape is getting more complex. It used to be that when I had to talk, it was about very specific topics. But with the supply chain risks you have now that you're relying on other vendors, it did get harder to make sure that they understood where the risks were and how much of that was risk we could manage and do our best to mitigate.
VP in Construction, 51 - 200 employees
I will say it's becoming harder, you have members who believe that the little they know about IT makes them an authority and this makes them argue and try to discredit a IT professional with so many years of experience. I usually call them "Google Board Members"
Director of IT in Software, 201 - 500 employees
Due to the pandemic, majority of the companies are/were transforming to IT/technology companies first in order to adapt to remote work and shift to online sales and doing everything online. This put a significant importance on IT, which in many cases become the differentiator if the company will survive the pandemic. Engaging with the board become easier for most of the IT leaders
Group Chief Information Security & Data Protection Officer in Construction, 10,001+ employees
It's a mixed bag from my experience. Whilst C19 has hit organizations alike - its a battle to get the investments approved but at the same time they wanna ensure that we mitigate the risk to an acceptable level for remote working and ensuring the workforce has the right access at the right time. So the discussions are smooth and rough at the same time.

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CTO in Software, 201 - 500 employees
Without a doubt - Technical Debt! It's a ball and chain that creates an ever increasing drag on any organization, stifles innovation, and prevents transformation.
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