According to a CIO-IIMB study only 7 percent of CIOs have been assigned board duties. We spoke to K. Ramsamy, chairman, Roots Group — who promoted his CIO to the board — to find out how you can buck that trend.
Engage with Customers
CIOs and their IT teams need to create ways to establish meaningful, business-driven, and quantifiable engagements with their customers, both internal and external. Unlike other department heads, CIOs have excellent enterprise wide perspective with access to functional silos. K. Ramsamy, chairman, Roots Group, feels that in order to be a successful director on the board a CIO “needs to possess an exceptional ability to handle people at all levels while strictly adhering to the company’s culture in every move he makes.” So if CIOs identify business model-based opportunities for customer intimacy their perspective will complement those of the CEO and CFO and that will play a crucial role in opening the doors to the boardroom.
Stay Ahead of the Curve
Stay ahead with the trend in your own company and your industry instead of being bogged down with internal issues. Keeping abreast with industry movements and having a clear understanding of the company’s operations is important if a CIO is to deliver business value. “He should have the ability to understand where his company is and where he — and his board — wants to take it. He must create a strategic approach to take the company to that place,” says Ramasamy.
Focus on the Big Picture
While they recognize the importance details, most board members want to focus on the big picture and don’t want to see data that’s not presented in a simple fashion. They want dashboards and report cards — not pages of text. So a CIO’s ability to focus on the larger picture and not get caught up in the intricacies (which is easy, given how part of the CIO role is operational) is key. In his book, The Practical CIO: A Common Sense Guide for Successful IT Leadership, Jose Carlos Eiras says, “CIOs should stop focusing on the specific needs of IT and losing sight of the big picture. Moreover, emerging requirements such as ISO 38500 (international standard created to guide the corporate governance of IT) necessitate that the board is responsible for tracking how IT is being used for governance. At the board level, who can explain it better than the CIO.”
Establish Yourself as an Industry Expert
Get in the sights of your board by being recognized as an established industry expert through published pieces and speaking opportunities at forums. According to Ramasamy, “A director must have the knowledge about the companies overall operation and the vision and the caliber to lead the company to face the future challenges.” And joining industry groups, CIO forums, attending meetings, and taking active part in its activities are great ways for CIOs to find their footing on a larger canvas. They are also a perfect place to showcase IT leadership since they these are attended not just by CIOs but by CEOs and board members of other organizations.
Join the Board — of Another Company
Get a seat on the board of a small technology firm, or of a non-profit. These organizations are more than willing to welcome the contributions of a CIO at the board level and everyone benefits. And if your own company is not already a household name, your board activity will broaden your brand across a new network of executives and this will help increase visibility for your company. Sitting on a board can also help expand your circle of potential advisers as you will get to connect with other professionals like academics, researchers, and even venture capitalists. This access could help you address some issues in your own company by learning from experiences in their industry.
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