by Minda Zetlin

Corporate Boards Are Hungry for IT Info From CIOs

Mar 28, 2014 2 mins
CIO IT Leadership

Many board members want CIOs to give them more and better information -- especially about IT risk.

When was the last time you talked to your company’s board of directors? Maybe you should do that more often.

In a recent survey of 1,019 board members at public companies by the National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD), 35 percent said they are unsatisfied with the quantity of tech information they get, and 27 percent are unsatisfied with its quality.

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This means, of course, that 65 percent of respondents are OK with their IT briefings. But compared to other types of information they receive (such as financial performance), directors expressed the least satisfaction with IT. Board members feel especially vulnerable about IT risks, such as security and project failures–63 percent say their knowledge of IT risk could be better.

How can CIOs provide better information? Don’t wait until the board meeting. More than two-thirds of boards use a portal that can be used to share interesting information in addition to the required reading, says Michele Hooper, co-founder and CEO of The Directors’ Council. CIOs should also spend time with the board informally, such as at dinner the evening before the board meeting.

Hooper suggests CIOs can also make a presentation to the audit committee, which is focused on enterprise risk.

While a risk discussion is the best way to get the board’s attention, it shouldn’t end there. “The opposite side has to be present as well. What are the opportunities? How are we using technology to advance our strategy? If you only talk about risk, you’re narrowing your presentation,” says Peter Gleason, NACD’s CFO and managing director.

Of course, CIOs must use business language. Virginia Gambale, a former CIO and a current director on the boards of JetBlue Airways and Remedy Analytics, says when she was CIO, her presentations to the board were about portfolio management and investments. She urges CIOs to discuss IT’s role in profitability, market share and customer satisfaction. “If I had come in and said, ‘We need to shut down five data centers and deliver broadband to 10,000 laptops,’ I would never have been invited back.”

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