IT with influence: get the board on board

Help your board members make friends with technology and their ambivalence to IT may soon start to wane. Monica Seeley analyses...

Help your board members make friends with technology and their ambivalence to IT may soon start to wane. Monica Seeley analyses strategies

Here's a number of steps you can take to help get the board of directors on your side...

See the board as your best customer and raise your service accordingly. Understand each member and tailor your offerings to the individual. The one-size-fits-all approach rarely works in the boardroom, but bespoke solutions work wonders.

Talk to the board about benefits not features, business not technology. For example, their main concern with e-commerce is unlikely to be technology-related. Rather, it will be about how they can re-create the experience a customer enjoys via bricks-and-mortar in an online environment often devoid of any human contact.

Similarly, board members are always keen to know what the competition and their peers are doing. Show them the competition's Web site. Then review it in business terms, not technology and features.

There are five key steps to follow to increase the board's level of IT competence.

  • Find the keenest board member and help to establish him as the role model.

  • Take time to understand the other members of the board and then show them how using IT can alleviate their problems.

  • Talk benefits, benefits, benefits (be they business or personal). It never ceases to amaze me how many IT professionals still talk in techie sound bites and wonder why their CEO has a glazed look.

  • Paint wide business landscapes, not detailed technological maps.

  • Tailor your tactics to each member's modus operandi. So what if one wants some technology which is different, such as a cordless mouse? Forget all the talk of equality. These are board members we are talking about and they expect to be treated differently. If you are a high net-worth customer, don't you appreciate the little extra attention you receive?

    Do all these things, and you might be pleasantly surprised at how responsive an IT literate board can be, when you want to discuss an upgrade to Windows 2000, or implement online procurement. You might even find them pushing for, as opposed to being pulled along by, IT.

  • This was last published in March 2000

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