Board Composition - Is Digital Expertise the Missing Piece? - Bob Howland

Board Composition — Is Digital Expertise the Missing Piece?

The pace of technology change and the array of digital advancements represent both a risk and an opportunity facing today’s corporate boards. The understandable reality is that most boards and most corporate executive teams do not have the time or experience to understand today’s technology and digital topics. The result? Most companies are struggling to keep pace with changing times. This leaves them exposed to competitors who better leverage new technology and digital ways of working to attract/retain talent and steal market share while building more efficient business models and modern customer experiences.

Speed of Technology Change

Today, technology advancements happen at a breathtaking pace. It is even difficult for people in tech who spend 110% of their time in the space to make sense of everything. So imagine how difficult it can be for company executives and board members to stay abreast of the technology advancements and make the right decisions to ensure the future success of the enterprise. Most board members do not have operating expertise in today’s eCommerce, today’s infrastructure technologies, and tomorrow’s digital opportunities. And if your company treats IT as a cost center, then you have likely created a dynamic where IT executives play it safe and stick with existing people, processes, and tools. The result, your company likely has an outdated operating infrastructure which puts the firm’s future at risk.

A Big Idea: Bring an Operating Executive onto the board who is actively disrupting their industry through technology and digital innovation. Make getting a leading digital expert a board composition priority.

Change Management and New Digital Ways of Working

We’ve embraced online ordering, digital subscriptions, and the cloud. At least in our personal lives. The reality is that if you want a different outcome, you often need to take a different approach. For some companies, this transformation is in progress. Yet most companies are struggling with how to tackle digital transformation and specifically how to put intent into actions that drive measurable outcomes. Digital transformation is often less about the technology bets and more often about a fundamental change management process across the enterprise. It’s big. It’s scary. It’s thorny. When this change management is done right, the company drives a new business model centered around digital enablement.

A Big Idea: Have the new digital board member lead a cross-functional task force to bring people together across the enterprise to disrupt the business model. This board member can drive a sustained effort and overcome understandable friction points within the organization.

Building Digital Thought Leadership

Most organizations lack Executives with deep digital experience and technology expertise. Does your Audit Committee include members who were P&L executives and former CFOs? So, wouldn’t it reason that you need someone on the board who has that same 10,000 hours of expertise on today’s digital landscape and tomorrow’s technology bets. The digital decisions that your company makes or doesn’t make today will have a material impact on your future success.

A Big Idea: Set up an annual cadence for doing a deep dive at the board level on digital, customer experience, and the future business model. This topic — like approving budgets and reviewing talent/succession planning — is critical to the enterprise.

A Final Thought — The Future of the Organization

Digital is an area where companies can either get disrupted from external forces or enable sustainable competitive advantage. The technology advances over the past few years will only accelerate. Boards need to be formed for the future and not the past. Adding a Digital expert to balance board composition is now table stakes. And tackling the broader ramifications for the overall business model is a topic that needs to be front and center.

The Signitt NetworkPeople with a vision and a story to tell.

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