IT leaders often find themselves called upon to address their companies' boards of directors. For many, the boardroom is an alien environment, full of high-powered execs with \n\nlittle affinity for technology. To succeed in this setting, CIOs must effectively convey \n\ntheir wins, opportunities and challenges in helping achieve business goals. For tips on \n\nwowing the board, we turned to some of the more board-seasoned members of the CIO Executive \n\nCouncil. \nRelated Event\nLearn to prepare for board meetings and build relationships with directors during a teleconference offered by the CIO Executive Council from 4-5 PM EST on Jan. 13, 2009.\n\nKnow the players. \n\nJeff O'Hare is senior vice president of enterprise information technology at business \n\nprocess outsourcing provider West Corp. At past employers he has researched board-member \n\nbackgrounds, then used this information to frame his presentations and follow-up \n\nconversations. O'Hare focused his information gathering on areas like functional experience, \n\nindustry, company size and comfort with risk.\n \n"When I was making a presentation to a board with heavy finance and operations experience, I \n\nmade sure to include an appendix of highly detailed financials and a snapshot of rolled-out \n\nmilestones directly from the actual project plan," says O'Hare.\n \nDevelop ongoing relationships.\n \nPamela Rucker, vice president of IT at PSC, a privately held environmental services company, \n\nholds regular pre-meetings with directors from the PSC executive board and representatives \n\nof its ownership to learn their points of view. Rucker estimates she spends 20 percent of \n\nher board interaction time in these one-on-one meetings. She also uses them to ask questions \n\nand air concerns privately. "The actual board meeting can't be the first time that you're \n\ntelling the board about changes or plans, or they're going to feel blindsided," she says.\nRucker suggests using these meetings to sell your ideas prior to presenting them formally. \n\nThey also let you tell your story not only multiple times but in multiple ways. "Sometimes I \n\nmay have to present information three different ways in three different meetings in order \n\nfor everyone to get it," Rucker notes.\n \nHow does Rucker get time with individual board members? Her face time with directors from \n\nher own company happens in monthly IT Steering Committee meetings they attend. For members \n\nfrom the company's ownership group, Rucker watches for their particular interests during \n\nboard meetings, then establishes a rapport around those topics.\n \nDavid Webb is former CIO of SVB Financial Group, where he is now chief operations officer. \n\nHe agrees that engaging the board isn't just a quarterly, formal interaction. "You need to \n\nwant more interaction and find ways to do so. If you don't, you won't build that \n\nrelationship," he says. Webb finds that access to board members becomes easier over time as \n\nlong as you have good reason to meet. "The first call is always the hardest. If you have \n\ndifficulty making a cold call, have the CEO clear the path for you," he says.\n \nGet feedback from a board buddy. \n \nTwila Day, CIO at $33 billion food company Sysco, developed a sounding board within the \n\nboard. She pings select members prior to her presentations to preview what she wants to \n\nshare with the group. She developed this tactic after a one-on-one meeting with a new board \n\nmember who had a strong technology background. When a second member with similar experience \n\njoined the board, Day asked if she could send both of them her presentations ahead of time \n\nfor their input. This peer review helps Day fine-tune her message, gives her fresh ideas \n\nfrom technologically experienced board members and helps avoid last-minute surprises during \n\nthe actual presentation.\n \nGet organized. \n \nO'Hare's objective in a board presentation was to get the right message across. "I typically \n\nprovided them with enough information to guide them to the conclusion that I wanted, but I \n\ndidn't tell them my opinion right away," says O'Hare. He found that buy-in was stronger when \n\nmembers felt they contributed to the solution. O'Hare organized his slides using the SOAE \n\nmodel (situation, opportunity, action, expected results) and never arrived at a board \n\nmeeting without multiple solutions to a stated issue or problem in his back pocket. "I could \n\ndemonstrate that an objective and thoughtful approach was used in resolving the problem," he \n\nsays. "I also found that having different ways to solve a problem was a good way to prepare \n\nfor the eventual questions."\nLet Financials Do the Talking\nIn his board presentations at past companies, Jeff O'Hare, senior vice president of \n\nenterprise information services at West Corp., included the following financial information \n\n(usually in a one-page financial overview, with supporting details in later slides). All of \n\nhis finances were tightly aligned with the office of the CFO, and the financial team \n\nvalidated the numbers. In some cases, O'Hare would present the high-level finances and then \n\nlet the CFO field the detailed questions, which showcased collaboration at the executive \n\nteam level and sent a powerful message to the board.\n\nWhat a financial presentation should include:\n\nImpact to this year's budget\/P&L\nImpact to cash flow\nImpact to EBITDA\nImpact to net income\nCapEx and OpEx\nReturn on investment and\/or cost benefit analysis (CBA) with supporting details\nRevenue projections, margins, market analysis\/competitive analysis, geographical \n\nvariances\/globalizations, etc. \nCarrying costs on investments, if applicable-C.M. \nGet to the point. \n \nAs Webb constructs his board presentation, he asks himself, "How do I get my point across in \n\nthe first thirty seconds?" Day keeps her's concise. "I lay the foundation and then, in \n\nfuture meetings, I move forward with more of an update' format," she says. O'Hare used an \n\nexecutive summary at the beginning to grab attention and then shared supporting information.\nEmphasize profitability. The most important thing in any board communication is to tie it to \n\nprofitability and business value. "CIOs really have to think like a CEO and investors when \n\npresenting to the board," says O'Hare. "For example, it's not IT cutting costs; it's about \n\nhow this cost savings idea fits into the overall cost model and positively contributes to \n\ncompetitive margin." This is what board members want to hear about. At past employers, \n\nO'Hare sent customized versions of his quarterly IT reports to the board. These reports \n\nprofiled technology objectives and successes and tied them to business value.\n \nInvolve your team. O'Hare involved senior team members (director-level and up) in prepping \n\nfor board meetings and providing input on the presentation. "My philosophy was that if they \n\nneeded to come off the bench, they needed exposure so they were ready," he says.