CIOs Say Corporate Directors Are Clueless About IT

Our exclusive research shows that boards of directors still don't understand the role that IT can play in driving business innovation. It's the CIO's job to change that.

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A board firing on all cylinders will challenge you--not necessarily because directors doubt your knowledge (though they may), but because they want to test your thinking, Noble says. But a CIO shouldn't feel threatened by a grilling from directors, he says. "They keep you real. They keep you connected with the marketplace."

Besides, a CIO should be used to that dynamic by now. The position reports to a CEO, COO or CFO and usually has various steering committees guiding decisions and plans, he says. "The IT function isn't autonomous by any means."

The Internal Consultant

To be in its best fighting form, a corporate board may well need a technology committee and deep engagement with the CIO, says Metayer, the competitive intelligence consultant. Some companies, such as Dun and Bradstreet, are already there. Others remain calcified in old ways. Most are somewhere in the middle.

One $5.5 billion healthcare company has no technology committee on its board, but the board calls on the CIO often to make presentations or answer ad hoc requests, says the CIO, who asked not to be quoted. The board has asked for her views on topics such as new industry partnerships and startups, the company's competition and what it needs to stay strong into the future.

That the board consults the CIO about such core issues shows that both it and the IT leader are enlightened, Metayer says. "I don't know any company not struggling with some technology issue. Diversity of thought at the board level is an important way to approach those struggles."

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Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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