Why you need an IT professional on your board.

I would like to raise a question….

Why aren’t more boards asking for directors with an information technology background?

In accordance with the Australian Council of Superannuation Investors most boards seek skill sets from law, finance and accounting. However, we rarely see boards seeking IT experience. Statistically, people with Finance and Legal backgrounds, outnumber IT professionals 2 to 1.

Why are we not seeing an influx of IT experts on boards? In a fast-growing, technology dependent society where companies rely heavily on innovative technologies, it is critical that boards have an understanding of the IT industry, as ultimately all IT expenditure decisions are made by the board.

Technology is ever-changing, we depend on phones, laptops, and mobile computers – with digital disruption and consumption increasing within every industry, there needs to be a specialist IT voice on boards. This IT presence would bring pragmatic thinking, a strong understanding of how technology underpins the success of any business and would be able to provide invaluable advice on how to manage the risk and make the most of the opportunities presented by digital disruption.

Furthermore, we need to recognise the beginning of the 4th Industrial Revolution. In accordance with the Gartner Report, 2017, it is expected that 20.8 billion devices will be connected to the internet by 2020. It is important for any strategy and board to have IT representation to ensure a sound platform for future growth.

If we look at a few examples of how technology has offered convenient, easy, and quick solutions to life’s every day encounters, we can see the need for a technology spokesperson on committees and boards; these examples include…

– Netflix vs Blockbuster

– Virtual offices vs physical offices

– Uber vs taxis

– Amazon vs the retail industry

– Spotify vs the music industry

– Air bnb vs hotels

Perspective is important, and for the above list, technology is not acting as the disruptor, rather it is acting as an enabler, allowing people to have access to what they want, when they want it, without leaving their comfort zone.

Major technological changes such as these are driving the need for an IT voice on boards. IT professionals are becoming just as important as Lawyers and Accountants. In acknowledging the notion that IT is a relatively new player in the boardroom, it is rapidly becoming a critical component without which organisations cannot prosper.

When I recently participated in a course at the Australian Institute of Company Directors, my career path was in the minority. I was amongst doctors, lawyers, and accountants. The focus question proposed by the facilitator still fresh in my mind… “How often should businesses have strategy meetings?” the lawyers agreed every year was more than sufficient, the accountants and doctors were content with 6 months. However, when dealing with IT, we live and breathe strategy, often having quarterly strategy meetings as a result of the rapid rate of change in the IT industry– and is further testament to the need of an IT voice on boards.
As society becomes increasingly dependent on technology, any board without an experienced IT professional on it risks the very real chance of being left behind.

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