Boards Should Walk the IT Strategy Talk

Corporate boards think IT's importance has increased over the past few years—but they need to start taking action to prove it, says new research from Deloitte. Only 11 percent of boards discuss IT at every meeting according to Deloitte's study, "The Board and Information Technology Strategies."

Twenty-two percent of the 455 respondents, all directors of companies with revenue of $1 billion or more, said that they blame IT strategy for the companies' inability to achieve its goals. But they don't plan to work toward improving the strategy: 52 percent said their board won't spend any more time on IT over the next three years than it does now.

Kenneth Porrello, a principal with Deloitte Consulting who directed the survey, says, "The thing that was most frequently cited as preventing boards from spending more time on IT was lack of time. Compliance matters have been a major factor in the increase of demands on boards."

Communication problems contribute to the divide: Directors are not often receptive to CIOs because of lack of exposure, Porrello says. CEOs and CIOs need to determine whether their boards are spending enough quality time talking about IT, and if not, how they can make time to do so, he says.

CIOs need to find opportunities to interact with their boards, to build a better understanding about what the board cares about, how the members communicate, what types of information they value and how they like to interact with management, Porrello says. "Build an understanding of the 'personality' and the culture of the board. Also, work with your CEO and other members of the management team to understand their longer-term plan and approach for working with the board so that you can mesh your efforts with theirs."

Aligning IT strategy with overall business goals is key. No matter how thin board members are stretched, they are passionate about wanting to contribute to strategy and business performance, Porrello says.

Best Practices

  1. Review your board's activity with the CEO. Take stock of the board's past actions related to IT governance. Figure out how IT issues have been addressed in the past. Ask how often the board discusses IT and how much time is allocated.
  2. Offer suggestions for how the board can approach IT more effectively. Don't complain that the board isn't doing enough for IT—present ideas for how they can do more. Then you and your CEO can refine how the board engages in IT matters.
  3. Be as involved as possible and learn more about your directors personally. Keep the lines of communication open so you can develop working relationships and get things done.

Disconnect Between Wishes and Actions

Directors say there's room to improve business/IT strategy alignment:

  • We're well- or very well-aligned: 66%
  • Somewhat aligned: 27%
  • Not at all aligned or no IT strategy: 2%

But too few boards get hands on with IT strategy:

  • We're completely and actively involved: 14%
  • Somewhat involved: 69%
  • Not at all involved: 16%

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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