Jan 31 2020

The Importance of the Tech-Savvy Board

Having leaders who understand IT is crucial to success.

Effective leadership from the C-suite is crucial for any business striving for digital transformation. But when a business has a board of directors, tech knowledge among its members is almost as crucial as it is for executives.

“Boards can help identify the optimal value and impact of technology investments,” argues Janet Foutty, chair of Deloitte’s board. But many boards lack members with experience in tech. Writing in NACD Directorship magazine, published by the National Association of Corporate Directors, Foutty shares five questions tech-savvy boards should ask of business leaders and themselves:

  1. Are we thinking about opportunities or solely about risks? It’s important that boards “guide the company toward growth and innovation” and not spend all their time worrying about hackers, Foutty writes.
  2. Are technologists represented? Only 5 percent of big companies appointed a technologist to newly opened board seats, according to a recent study, she notes. Companies of all sizes could benefit from their perspective.
  3. Are we committed to continuous learning? All board members have an obligation “to gain a foundational understanding of, and be conversant in, the technologies that drive change and opportunity,” she argues. 
  4. Are we engaged with the office of the CIO? Boards should be diving deep on the relevant tech topics, and that means regular communication directly with the company’s tech leadership.
  5. Are we effectively identifying and managing the ethical implications of technology? Boards need a broad understanding of technology, including the “ethical implications of where and how technology is being applied,” she says.

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