Across the board

Across the board

More CIOs are being appointed to the board or are tasked to present regularly to this group as a member of the technology committee. Gartner executives Denildo Albuquerque and David Spaziani – both former CIOs – share pointers for stepping up to this role.

Gartner Executive Partner Denildo Albuquerque does not sugarcoat what it is like to be working with the board. “The boardroom is a scary place...even when it is empty,” he says.

He reveals his first interaction with the board was “so bad, when I think about it, I still want to cry”.

His first interaction with a company board was to explain a serious IT error which caused major repercussion for senior executives and a severe reputation damage to the IT department. “This is the sort of board interaction you do not want to have…and you will never forget it!”

Albuquerque has since moved on to other CIOs roles which required him to present regularly to boards, “fortunately a lot more positive experience than my first one”.

The upside of these interactions is that, “You can improve with experience and practice.”

Albuquerque and fellow Gartner Executive Partner David Spaziani shared their experiences on CIO and board interactions at the recent CIO100 events in Auckland and Wellington.

The two point out there is no prescribed formula on how best CIOs deal with and influence company boards. Board composition varies across industries and organisation size which also translate to different business technology challenges, they state.

Read more: A CIO’s handbook: Planning for the long game

But both agree the CIO should start honing their skills for these interactions as these will increasingly be part of their remit.

Denildo Albuquerque and David Spaziani of Gartner at the 2015 CIO100 event.
Denildo Albuquerque and David Spaziani of Gartner at the 2015 CIO100 event.

Research bears this out. Albuquerque cites a 2013 survey by the MIT Centre for Information Systems Research which found that (only) nearly a quarter (22 per cent) of CIOs attend every board meeting, and nearly half (48 per cent) meet with the board more than once a year. Nearly a fifth (18 per cent) meet with the board once a year, and 12 per cent, never.

Read more: 'CEOs and CIOs should collaborate to jolt the executive team out of cyber-risk complacency'

The good news is that the frequency of interactions is growing year-on-year, he states.

His own experience proves this. In the 12 months leading to November last year when he joined Gartner, he has had more interactions with the board than in his whole 12 years as senior IT leader. This was largely due a transformation project the organisation was implementing.

Albuquerque also shares some sobering statistics from Gartner on why CIOs need to focus more on working with the board and the executive team.

Gartner surveyed CEOs and senior business executives across the globe on where they get their digital and IT-related business ideas. Fifty-four per cent of respondents mentioned publications, newspapers and reports. Less than half, 47 per cent, said they get it from personal or professional networks, and from that only 10 per cent (“a very low number”, says Albuquerque) said they get this information from the CIO. Around 31 per cent of respondents said they get the information online, and 19 per cent get it from market or industry sources including Gartner.

Read more: Ascent of the digital board director

The key is to discuss the tactical and strategic topics the board is interested in, says Albuquerque. These include capability, accountability, risk, agility, customer expectation in a digital world, business performance and investment alignment.

Spaziani, on the other hand, notes that when talking about IT-related investments, CIOs need to analyse these against three valuable criteria: topline growth, bottom-line savings, and risk management.

“Talk less about technology and more about the business,” notes Albuquerque, “and what you can do to influence bottom line results.”

A topic that is of growing interest to organisation boards is digital, he states, and these are around “what the competitors are doing, how digital is going to contribute to exceeding customer expectations, how it will enable competitive advantage… and very importantly what is the risk of doing nothing”.

Read more: NZI and PlaceMakers join Xero Business Connect ecosystem

Denildo Albquerque of Gartner at the 2015 CIO100 event.
Denildo Albquerque of Gartner at the 2015 CIO100 event.

Talk less about technology and more about the business...and what you can do to influence bottom line results.

Denildo Albuquerque, Gartner

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Albuquerque says most of his interactions with organisation boards were focused on risk and compliance, security, and management of large contracts.

It is important to get to know the board members, he says. The company secretary can help provide insights on their role in the board and other boards, career background and influencers.

But while building one’s credibility is important, nothing will matter if CIOs and their teams do not do two things right, says Spaziani.

The CIOs and their teams must be able to provide stable and resilient systems and infrastructures, and understand the organisation’s security strategy and architecture in terms of protecting the company from cyber attacks. The latter can severely cripple the organisation’s reputation and cause financial loss, which is a primary concern for the boards.

Read more: Gartner: Are security analytics key to breach detection - or just hype?

Next: Remember the BOARD guidelines

Read more: Data scientist: The job with negative unemployment rate

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