One quick way to stimulate CIO-board engagement in Canada

A few months ago, I was at an event where someone made a comment that, due to the increased impact of IT on the bottom line, “all boards are now becoming technology boards.”

Not in Canada, I thought to myself.

In a recent roundtable discussion I hosted with CanadianCIO, our guests backed me up, with several suggesting they are increasingly disconnected from the senior leadership team which shapes so much of enterprise strategy.

The Wall Street Journal recently suggested that, despite the rise of security problems and overall customer-facing nature of many IT projects, boards that are deeply engaged with CIOs are still few and far between. That doesn’t mean it’s never going to happen, of course. In fact, board members are flocking to conferences and paying consultants to help them get up to speed.

Canadian boards of directors may need more of a nudge, and there may be no better resource for them than ‘The CIO and the Board,’ a report produced by UK-based consulting firm Advanced 365 and Global Futures and Foresight. The document is available in its entirety below.

Besides merely making the case for increased CIO-board engagement, there is a lot of detail here on steps both sides could take to form a more strategic and collaborative relationship. For example, page 13 points out that, besides the obvious differences in how importantly a company will weigh IT based on their industry sector, CIOs should evaluate their opportunities to make an impact on the board based on the organization’s stage of life. This spans the startup stage, growth stages, “expansion” stages and more mature entities.
There’s also some interesting thoughts further on about whether companies should reconsider the way they recruit board members, and key questions on how to hire their next CIO. The conclusion suggests IT leaders should consider their degree of influence in bringing major changes about:
More fundamental questions surrounding the board’s role in technology and what exactly innovation is aiming to achieve could be partly informed by a knowledge and effective CIO. In order the for the CIO to be able to assist and help develop the strategic technology of the board, the board and others in executive management need to help create the conditions within the organization and infuse them in its corporate culture to enable the more strategic-minded CIOs to influence the increasingly important technology issues that confront business. 
As long as they’re open to it — and maybe even if they’re not — this is something well worth sharing with more Canadian boards of directors. And if it comes from their CIO, it could be an example of the proactive leadership style that more of them may need to demonstrate.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Shane Schick
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