Why are so few CIOs appointed to NED positions? And how can the industry, and indeed CIOs themselves seek to challenge the status quo and unleash this potentially powerful resource?
The quest for greater diversity around the boardroom table has been a key focus in recent years and has largely been gender driven. As yet though, the boardroom has not fully embraced the value of technology know-how, or how to leverage it as an asset to the strategic decision-making process. This remains a common frustration amongst CIO communities and one many are keen to address.
The digital transformation agenda is integral to the future success of many modern organisations. In this context, individuals with technological expertise are well placed to influence and positively drive a growth agenda. The barrier to this is a widespread perception that CIOs are hamstrung by a lack of commerciality. Technology professionals are viewed as excellent back-room operators, with less to contribute as far as the commercial dynamic of their organisation is concerned. While boards maintain this view, the path to NED positions will be difficult for CIOs to negotiate; there is a very real need for them to put forward the commercial case for inclusivity, and in doing so, they can begin to change the NED landscape.
The majority of CIOs around the table were in agreement with the need to explicitly measure and articulate their own performance in terms of their ability to add commercial value. In essence, this means being able to demonstrate a broad understanding of their customer base, and from there deliver a sustainable means of building and maintaining engagement with it. Above all the ability to link this to the performance of the business and to use the right metrics to do so will be critical. Allied with a command of the technical mechanics of the digital agenda, this should start to pave the way forward to the most capable leaders within their function and bring recognition as a force for positive change.
Of course, one size will never fit all, and the pace of technology change must vary according to a business’s ability to assimilate it. The CIOs in our conversation were drawn from a wide variety of industries and reported a broad divergence in the availability of NED opportunities for them. In the more tech-centric industries, such as fintech and medtech, the link between technical expertise and strategic direction is far more intuitive, particularly in the US. In areas such as the public sector, retail, and pharmaceuticals it was reported that the barriers to acceptance as NEDs are more prevalent, with a need to reframe the obstacles that are intrinsically linked to a given sector, as fundamental opportunities for change. In heavily regulated industries, where the integrity of data is a key consideration, CIOs can display their worth as someone who understands data governance and risk management, its impact on business performance, and how to create opportunities from this standpoint.