Heidrick & Struggles
Chief Information Officer
CIO, Technology, Board
It staggers me how little boards prepare for technology risk. It seems that the last time information technology professionals got traction at the board level was in 2000 when we thought the Y2K bug would make airplanes fall out of the sky!
Yet now we increasingly see security breaches and data theft hitting the reputation – and bottom line - of businesses worldwide.
In the United States, the percentage of former CIOs sitting on boards is on the rise. Often the CIO is the only person in the business with a true understanding of information flows within the company. They can save, lose or generate millions of dollars in a short space of time. Good CIOs are experienced in managing large budgets and have a view across a business that is similar to that of the chief financial officer (CFO).
While their value is obvious, boards still seem reluctant to bring CIOs to the table and this is exacerbated by the fact that CIOs themselves are often doing so well financially that a board post is not attractive – there are added detractions such as governance issues and reputation problems they may face if things go wrong.
For board work, a CIO needs:
Deep domain experience in managing highly complex organizations and budgets
Business experience over technical experience.
Sales ability - the skill to persuade and interpret, to be resonant at the board level and to simplify complex matters.
With post-recession mergers and acquisitions accelerating, one of the greatest reasons for boards to secure the services of the business strategist/CIO in the current climate is so they understand how value can be unlocked as systems are merged.