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Is your board fluent in technology?


Board Meetings

That’s the question posed by an article on CIO.com, which suggests that boards need to build a closer relationship with technology if they want to flourish.

The article cites research into boards and technology carried out by Deloitte. We’ve already looked at some of the findings from this research in our blog on How to plug the technology gap in your boardroom.

It says that as ‘technology becomes ubiquitous and digital transformations reinvent corporations and upend existing business models, corporate board members may be required to be technology fluent to navigate their organizations through these uncharted waters.’

What is ‘technology fluency’?

Being able to talk the language of tech is a spectrum, ranging from those with a basic understanding, through to those who fully understand how technologies can deliver opportunities to the business and create new streams of revenue.

As we covered in the previous blog, technology-focused board directors remain under-represented within public companies; just 17% of companies have one, although this is on the increase, up from 10% six years ago.

Having a board where at least one member has an awareness and understanding of technology’s potential is pretty essential, you would think, to capitalise on the tech-led opportunities in today’s world.

How your board can become more conversant in tech

So – how can you achieve this? CIO.com has five suggestions:

  1. 1. Make technology fluency a pre-requisite for board members. Research cited in the article found that in 2016, 44% of boards identified technology experience as being on their wish list, but only 3% hired a technologist. Firms are failing to deliver on their own ambitions.

    2. Be proactive. The article calls this ‘defining an offensive technology agenda’, and makes the point that ‘if you are not disrupting your marketplace, your competition likely will’.

Technology underpins a lot of the brands causing disruption to traditional business models. Take time to understand the new developments and competitors in your industry. You can learn more about disruption, and how your firm can help to set the disruption agenda, in our blog on What you can learn from 2017’s top disruptive brands.


  1. 3. Consider setting up a technology committee. The article claims that only 9% of corporate boards currently have one, although the number is increasing. A technology committee can act as a link between the board and the members of the C-Suite with responsibility for tech – a population that’s growing all the time.

  1. 4. Keep up to speed with emerging technologies. Talk to the technology leaders within and outside your firm to understand shifts and trends — particularly if they are likely to impact your business. This may demand a change in board meeting agendas, adding conversations about technologies and their future direction alongside discussions on financials and strategy.

  1. 5. Get involved in business transformations. Many major IT projects fail – becoming very costly, time-consuming white elephants. Your board can help your CIO ensure that any major IT projects are aligned with business needs, deliver shareholder value and have business executive buy-in. Accountability is increased as a result, and the board gets added insight into the workings and success factors for technology implementations.

Give your board a competitive advantage

Aside from the obvious day-to-day uses of technology, tech can be – as the article says – a ‘powerful force for driving business growth and performance’.

The role of technology is being reconsidered as a result, and the desire for tech-savvy boards is increasing.

Aligning boards with tech specialists enables businesses to drive growth, increase their competitive advantage and manage risk effectively. 

Becoming fluent in technology helps boards become more effective – and deliver more effective businesses. And technology not only plays a role in the wider business, but can help to make the board’s own processes more efficient.

If you’re interested in how technology can help with the running of your board, you can read our Board Portal FAQs. They look at the implications and advantages of an online approach to board packs, and are free to download here.

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Topics: Boards

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