The Case for Giving the CIO a Seat on the Board

Susan Hall

When I interviewed Paul Miano of the job consultancy Harvey Nash, he told me IT leaders want board-level influence. And in an article on, Suzanne Woosley, a veteran corporate board director, makes the case that boards need CIOs.


She writes:

Until recently, the board of directors didn't require a deep understanding of the information space. In fact, many directors assumed that IT work was administrative in nature and downplayed its importance. But with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, IT became part of companies' financial backbone. ...
Operationally, cost control and cybersecurity are big focus areas. Strategically, boards may focus on global expansion, which requires superb infrastructure capacity.
As a board considers growth opportunities and the competitive landscape, it closely tracks new technologies, particularly social media strategies. A CIO lives and breathes this world ...

Lucy P. Marcus, CEO of Marcus Venture Consulting, in a Huffington Post piece on the role of non-executive board directors, says part of their job is asking the hard questions. But Woosley maintains that often directors don't know which question to ask, especially about IT:

The majority of directors are not experienced in IT and need to spend time determining what penetrating questions to ask about technology issues. A CIO ready to serve on a board already has this capability and can teach us a few things by translating technology issues for everyone else.

That is if the CIO can do the translation. As author Karen Friedman told my colleague Don Tennant:

You can have the greatest innovation, the greatest discovery or the greatest vision in the world, but if you can't communicate it clearly and succinctly so people understand how it benefits, impacts or affects them, then nobody will care about your innovation.

That combination of technical expertise and business acumen is key to moving up to that board level of influence.

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