Nine Insights on Achieving Board Success With Technology 

hand technology sparkle
By Adam Wire

5 minutes

The evolution of technology has wide-ranging impacts, and for many companies, that evolution begins in the boardroom. 

Sponsored by OnBoard

During OnBoard’s ATLAS Leadership Series, technology pioneer and IBM Fellow Emeritus Nick Donofrio explained the mindset leaders can adopt to spur continuous improvement. A prolific board director, Donofrio recently published a memoir called, “If Nothing Changes, Nothing Changes” about directors’ ability to drive transformation in the realm of technology and beyond. 

Nick shared key insights on how boards can achieve success through technology, from instigating change to adopting board management software and having more efficient meetings.

1. Don’t Just Accept Change. Pioneer It.

First, we must come to terms with a crucial fact: Nobody controls or determines the rate at which technology changes. The only certainty is that it will change, which means board members need to be proactive and adaptable.

“We as leaders have to become masters of change,” Donofrio says. “You have to embrace change, you have to harness it, and you have to, in some cases, cause it.”

When he joined IBM in 1964, the technology of the day was vacuum tubes. Today, it’s transistors, semiconductors and large-scale integration. Watching technology develop so swiftly made Donofrio feel like he had whiplash. But his success in the industry came from facing those changes head-on. 

Fortunately, you don’t need to be a technology expert to embrace and even initiate change. 

2. Technology Is No Longer Owned by IT

Board members are an organization’s primary decision-makers. It makes sense that they should work to get comfortable with technology and determine where technology will take the company next.

According to McKinsey, boards need to start weighing in on technology strategy to succeed, but many still tiptoe along the periphery. As of March 2022, only 12% of global Fortune 500 companies had tech committees.

Industries that rely heavily on technology and digital transformation to obtain a competitive advantage are typically among the first to prioritize efforts such as forming a technology committee. 

Other tips to unleash the full power of technology include:

  • Pursue continuous technology education
  • Hone internal technical expertise
  • Engage with external technology leaders

3. The Board Bears Responsibility for Change

An effective board can accomplish more for the organization it serves. Board decisions ultimately determine if an organization succeeds. 

Articulate the need for change. Boards are among the primary decision-makers for emerging technology investments in more than half of organizations. This means board members are on the proverbial front lines and are among the best equipped to promote change. 

“You as a leader have got to be able to articulate the need for change,” Donofrio says. “If you can’t start with the problem, you’re going to have a hell of a time trying to get anybody to move.”

Get to the “why.” Too many business leaders focus exclusively on results. According to Donofrio, it’s equally important to focus on the “why” and “how” behind those results.

“If I’m going to be held accountable and I’m the last person to be fired, I need to understand what you do, why you do it, and how you do it—not just what you do,” Nick says. “As a board member, in the end, you are the last person responsible.”

Ensure board continuity. It’s increasingly clear that change—including board turnover—is inevitable.

Despite internal and external changes, boards must ensure continuity. Strategic board management software helps by offering members a single, centralized portal to consume content on demand.

4. Focus on Security in 2023

While technology changes pose significant opportunities and risks, perhaps the biggest risk is the threat posed to the security of your company’s data. 

Think beyond cybersecurity. Donofrio says that while cybersecurity is the buzzword du jour, it’s important to pursue a more holistic vision of data security.

“Data risk is the first risk,” he says. “If you’re going to build your business off AI (artificial intelligence), if you’re going to build your business off data, you better have control and ownership of all the data that you are using. And if you can’t, it’s only a matter of time before it’s going to take you out.” 

The need to secure data is the main reason the fight for better technology and productivity is so important. 

Calculate the cost of a breach. The average cost of a data breach in 2021 was a cool $4.24 million, a 10% increase from the previous year. 

A central hub allows all resources, documentation, meeting minutes, agendas and bylaws to live together in a central and safe place.

5. Board Software Improves Effectiveness and Security

OnBoard’s 2022 Board Effectiveness Survey of over 400 global board leaders shows that board technology improves board operations by boosting confidence and efficiency. 

When it comes to technology, most of the respondents who currently use board technology said:

  • Their board was more collaborative in the last 12 months (63%)
  • Their board was more effective in the last 12 months (69%)
  • They’re confident in board communications security today (85%)

Make more time for what matters. By shifting administrative tasks and document review to the pre-meeting realm, you make more space during meeting time for board members to tackle the meaty and essential matters that reap results. 

Enable continuous feedback and improvement. If the main reason to embrace technology is to unlock continuous improvement for your organization, that philosophy should begin with the board itself.

Breed better results through productivity. When boards take steps to become more effective and secure themselves, they make the overall organization more effective and secure. 

If in doubt, start by solving one problem at a time. Keep your board agendas streamlined and focus your board’s effort on issues that matter. When you do that, greater effectiveness in 2023 is within reach.

Adam Wire is a content marketing manager at CUES Supplier member OnBoard, who joined the company in 2021. A Ball State University graduate, Wire worked in various content marketing roles at Angi, USA Football, and Adult & Child Health following a 12-year career in newspapers. His favorite part of the job is problem-solving and helping teammates achieve their goals.

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