Put distinguished CIOs in a room and you\u2019re going to get a lively discussion. Now bring active social CIO that regularly participate at #CIOChat on Thursdays at 2pm ET and #IdgTechTalk earlier at 12pm for a live conference organized by Myles Suer \u2013 who\u2019s also a regular columnist here at CIO.com \u2013 and you\u2019re going to get an earful of great advice and hard lessons learned.\nAnd that\u2019s exactly what happened at the event recently in Boston. In addition to the lively panel discussions and informative keynotes there was a parallel discussion on Twitter where participants quoted panelists and debated key points.\nHere are some of the highlights\n\u201cTechnical debt is not a sexy topic, but one of the biggest issues facing CIOs\u201d\nEd Featherston made this statement during the technical debt panel moderated by Dion Hinchcliffe that exposed how CIOs address legacy systems, outdated architectures, and other risks in their organizations.\nMuch of the debate was on what should be labeled as technical debt. For example, Ben Haines suggested, "If you're not patching Windows XP that's not #techdebt, that's incompetence."\nExactly what we label as technical debt was the question on my mind. Technical debt is a programming term that, \u201creflects the extra development work that arises when code that is easy to implement in the short run is used instead of applying the best overall solution.\u201d It dates back to 1992 when teams were experimenting with lighter weight development methodologies that later formed agile practices. Teams needed a way to code fast, validate approaches, and refactor code that required improvements. Code that required refactoring was labeled as technical debt. \u00a0\nToday, the term is applied more generally. For CIO, we often identify the need to upgrade legacy systems, address deeply rooted security vulnerabilities, or modernize applications as technical debt.\nOne reason CIOs like using this term is that it\u2019s easier to label technical issues that require investment to CFO as technical debt since they understand the nature of financial debts.\nWayne Sadin suggested that CIOs and CFOs need to address technical debt more directly. \u201cWhat was Enron? It was the off-balance sheet liability not reported to the Board.\u201d His suggestion is that the best way for enterprises to be transparent about their technical debt and have a better financial instrument to address it is to require recording it on the balance sheet.\nIt\u2019s a great suggestion but until something like that happens, I suggest CIOs apply the term technical debt wisely. It is too easy for CFO to kick the technical debt can down the road and delay funding programs. If a system represents a significant business risk, then CIO should use more alarming terms like \u201cend of life\u201d or a \u201cburning platform.\u201d\n\u201cRemember, Boards don\u2019t manage, they govern\u201d\nSarbjeet Johal captured this statement by Wayne Sadin, a panelist on a session moderated by Ginny Hamilton around CIOs working with their board of directors. According to a recent survey, 65% of CIOs are members of the board or part of the executive management team. When a CIO is on the board, it is important to understand what\u2019s expected of them and some do\u2019s and don\u2019ts.\nCIOs on this panel readily shared their advice. Wayne Sadin, Tim Crawford, and Jay Ferro all echoed a primary directive, \u201c95% of what #CIO should bring to the Board is cybersecurity\u201d and Jay took this one step further stating that, \u201cAll boards need to hear the business strategy through a technology and cyber\/risk lens.\u201d\nPanelists also suggested that CIO treat board meetings \u201cas connected\u201d by reviewing the minutes from previous meetings and developing a consistent storyline.\u00a0 A key word of wisdom was captured by Andi Mann, \u201cIf there is a CIO on your board, don't expect them to act like a CIO, or to 'be on your side'. They have a different hat on as a board member. In fact, they are probably going to be your biggest critic.\u201d\nA recent MIT analysis showed that, \u201c1,233 publicly traded companies with revenues over $1 billion, about 24% had board members that were classified as technology experts.\u201d This begs the question as to how CIO find their way onto their boards. \u00a0Jay Ferro suggests to, \u201cGet to the board via a good CEO relationship.\u201d\nJay also offered a word of warning to my question, "Can you use the board to influence CEO management decisions?"\u00a0 His answer, "You have to tread VERY carefully."\n\u201cThe business you are in today is not the business you will be in five years\u201d\nEd Featherston captured my statement on the panel around digital transformation that was followed up by one on driving an agile culture, and later on change management. All three are primary ingredients CIOs must master to enable their organizations to survive, grow, and transform over the next decade.\nCIOs at the conference get it. Michael Krigsman who moderated the digital transformation panel declared, \u201cA digital-savvy CIO increases business profitability.\u201d Melissa Swift echoed this sentiment during the agile transformation panel saying, \u201cExecutives are going to be challenged over the next years to lead technological change and they\u2019re not ready to do it, we\u2019re starting to see some panic about that.\u201d\nOrganizations have to drive transformation and Peter Salvitti, Melissa Swift, and Jonathan Feldman captured some of the common detractors identified by panelists Ben Haines, Tim Crawford and myself including, \u201cWe\u2019ve done it that way before\u201d, \u201cBimodal in IT doesn\u2019t work anymore\u201d, and changing the conversation from "Why it can't happen" to "Here's HOW we can make it happen".\nFrom there, came a load of practical advice on how CIO can drive transformation and change:\n\n\u201cYou don\u2019t need service organizations in your company...you need partnership organizations\u201d \u2013 Jack Gold\n\u201cIf you fire someone for trying something new and failing, no-one will ever try anything new again.\u201d \u2013 Ben Haines\n\u201cThere is a secondarily level of accountability for delivering that grows from devops\u201d \u2013 Jason James\n\u201cOur job as CIOs is not to force change, but to partner with our peers in ways that make them want to change\u201d \u2013 Jonathan Feldman\n\u201c\u201cAs a leader I have control over how I structure my meetings. I have control over how I structure our brainstorming sessions. I\u2019m able to make sure everyone feels they are able to contribute and be heard.\u201d \u2013 Michael Cato\n\u201cNever promise a predictable path, promise a predictable outcome\u201d \u2013 Kirk Rothenberger\n\u201cYou have to be prepared to jump off the cliff together, show your people that you are willing to take the risk and learn together.\u201d \u2013 Jay Brodsky\n\nAll this great advice came after hearing several motivating metrics from \u00a0Stephanie Woerner\u00a0of\u00a0MIT CISR. During her opening keynote, she quoted their research on enterprises\u00a0 showing 24% higher profitability when a strategic CIO works with the Board and CXOs to build digital disciplines across the enterprise, pursue operational efficiencies and drive customer engagement.\nThat should be enough motivation for CIO to tackle technical debt challenges, influence the board, and drive change across their organization. You can also read more from the conference in 10 lessons for IT leaders from #CIOChat live.