by Tom Gernon

How to Tell Your Board of Directors About IT Value

Jul 03, 20082 mins
Business IT Alignment

Board members don't want to hear about technology. You need to tell them how you're helping the company make money.

I never want to look like the IT guy who talks just about technology. So when I presented to the MDS board of directors at its last meeting (as I do twice a year), I spoke about some of the commercially oriented initiatives IT has been driving or enabling. These include our system for managing customers’ clinical trial data, which is helping us generate new sales.

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When it comes to working with the board, I do almost everything in partnership with a business peer. So I’ll have the business unit president in the room with me, and we’ll support each other. It’s important to show that IT is a business-focused and business-enabling function.

A lot of what I talk about is how we ensure that our projects meet business needs, how IT provides better capabilities to the end customer and how our technology is perceived in the marketplace. For example, we have customer comments and studies that show the deals we’ve been winning because of the clinical trials management system. I also focus on world-class benchmarks, comparing ourselves to what the best companies are doing with IT, the actions we’re taking to get to their level.

I’m fortunate in that we have a board member who was a senior executive at a leading technology provider and outsourcer. But board members want to understand business impact of IT. Avoid the technology talk and explain how you are enabling the organization or creating business opportunities.

Tom Gernon is CIO of MDS and is a member of the CIO Executive Council. He was COO of D2Hawkeye Inc., a healthcare software company, and has held CIO positions at both PerkinElmer Inc. and J.P. Morgan Invest.