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.

Guidelines for board interactions

Spaziani says when interacting with the board, CIOs need to be:


Most board interactions last no more than 15 minutes. Know your time schedule and be attentive to time cues from the chair and the rest of the directors.


Transparency is a key objective for most boards. Focus on sharing good and bad news openly and appropriately.


When you don't know something, say so and then go find out. Always check your data before using any with a director. Spaziani notes it is the accuracy of the CIO presentation that the board will remember. “The board has a very short period of time to judge you. They are looking for body language, a sense of purpose, confidence and for someone who realises, ‘I don’t know’ is a great answer. At times, it is hard to say, but it is best to just admit that you are not sure, but you know where you can find the answer and get back to them.”


Keep in mind what directors want and need to know rather than what you feel they should know or become educated about.


Board interactions are not about being right or owning the floor. Your success hinges on being tactful and sensitive to what is happening around you and skilfully responding to it.

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Albuquerque notes the rise of technologists (ex-CIOs and other senior IT leaders) joining company boards as members which is no doubt a positive impact in assisting boards to come up to speed with technology trends that will impact the industry and within competitors. There is also a growing trend of Board Technology Sub-Committees being created which are responsible for directing and advising on technology matters similarly to other sub-committees which are responsible in dealing with specific key functions like risk and compliance and remuneration.

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In some organisations, in the absence of a board “Technology Sub-Committee”, the CIO alone has the responsibility to advise and influence the board on IT matters.

Depending on the CIO’s style, this can be a very challenging position. If you are not a good influencer, says Albuquerque, you can use someone to assist with this briefing. It could be a technology evangelist or an analyst presenting to the board or advising/preparing the CIO for key board interactions.

David Spaziani of Gartner at the 2015 CIO100 event.
David Spaziani of Gartner at the 2015 CIO100 event.

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When talking about IT-related investments, CIOs need to analyse these against three valuable criteria: topline growth, bottom-line savings, and risk management.

David Spaziani, Gartner

“The CIO interactions with the board are often brief so in order to achieve the best outcome, presentations have to be short, sharp and well delivered,” he stresses.

Albuquerque and Spaziani note that timing is important when presenting issues or technology investments to the board.

As the global economy has slowed down in the past 24 months, they note boards have become reluctant to approve investments which deliver ROI only after a year, or which require multiple years to complete.

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CIOs, they say, must sense and understand the investment mood of the board at each moment, and time initiatives appropriately.

There is no such thing as a “good surprise” when it comes to execution of major projects, says Spaziani.

They point out the quote from the chairman of the board of a retail company who said: “Our CIOs have been reluctant to tell us that they will be late to implement – until it is too late.”

Gartner’s advice?

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“To succeed in their board interactions, CIOs must build board-level acumen, prepare extensively for each board interaction, excel in each board meeting and continue their influence into the future.”

Cisco, Unisys and Datacom are the sponsors of the 2015 CIO100 events in Wellington and Auckland.
Cisco, Unisys and Datacom are the sponsors of the 2015 CIO100 events in Wellington and Auckland.

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