As a director, the breadth of your responsibilities expands far beyond what was necessary even a decade ago. You are now expected to be across digital and cyber security, as well as environmental and social issues. Such a rapid growth in responsibilities is placing enormous strain on directors. We cannot expect you to become experts in any of these fields overnight.
To assist boards to increase their digital knowledge, I recommend they look to bring in people who have digital experience. Digital experience is different from IT experience. Be careful not to recruit an ex-CIO to the board assuming this has you covered for digital. In researching for my recent book, The Digital Director, a director responding to my survey wrote, ‘unfortunately, there are a lot of IT or former IT managers who don’t know much about the future digital world’.
In the same research, when I asked directors the question, ‘What would help you govern a digital transformation?’, three themes emerged with equal importance:
- Boards need to include people who are digitally savvy.
- Boards need to look for appropriate advisors.
- Frameworks should be available to give confidence in the steps directors need to take.
It will take several years for many boards to get to a level where they can consider themselves digitally savvy. A report by MIT Centre for Information Systems Research defined a digitally savvy board as having:
“…an understanding, developed through experience and education, of the impact that emerging technologies will have on businesses success over the next decade.”
So, what should Boards do in the meantime?
My advice is to establish a Digital Advisory Committee. The role of the Digital Advisory Committee is to provide independent advice on everything digital. It need not be a decision-making body, in fact I think it is better when it is not. The committee is made up of people experienced across the digital spectrum. People with deep knowledge in customer experience, in organisational design, in cyber, and so on. People who can challenge your thinking, identify risks, and help you make more informed decisions around digital.
Could an independent group of people, expert in digital, bring value to your organisation’s digital transformation?