The secrets of success

Todd McGregor, managing director of Forrester Middle East, explains the career benefits of nailing the business issues when IT executives are asked to present at board level.
The secrets of success
By Todd McGregor
Thu 01 Mar 2007 04:15 PM

IT executives are occasionally asked to present to the highest level of enterprise oversight, the board of directors, usually at the invitation of the CEO. A board presentation is an excellent opportunity for the CIO to elevate his or her position in the firm by engaging board members. These presentations are oriented toward either updates or appeals for board support. CIOs should ensure their presentations are short, focus on IT's connection to strategic business objectives, identify the factors that enable success, and above all else, avoid jargon.

Although as CIO you may not yet have been asked to present to your firm's board of directors, it may be inevitable that you will be asked to do so one day soon. The reason? As technology and the business become increasingly inseparable, your CEO will want the board to understand IT strategy, sharing highly effective executive team presentations and addressing the board's concerns about IT-heavy initiatives. We have found that CIOs increasingly make board-level presentations in order to:

1)

Update the board on ongoing compliance, security, and risk management efforts. Given the adverse publicity that results from reported noncompliance, the CEO may ask you to provide the board with an update on how IT is handling regulatory, risk, and compliance issues. You should command the board's attention with a review of IT's role in matters like privacy laws, data protection and other security concerns, business continuity, and identity theft.

2)

Review board-level programmes. Boards sponsor programmes at fast-growing new companies or firms that plan significant global expansion - or where major initiatives are required to boost integrity or security. And the boards want to stay on top of the key contributors to the success of the boards' programs, like IT. So your CEO may invite you in to briefly describe how IT will help the programs, like expanding the network, planning the new office infrastructure or dealing with local regulations.

3)

Appeal for board support of new strategic programs. When strategic projects require substantial IT contribution, you may be invited to make a direct appeal for board support of that investment, explaining current problems, proposed solutions, and cost/benefits. For example, the total project bill for a firm integrating its revenue processes after multiple acquisitions may require board approval for systems consolidation or IT staffing reductions.

In the event that the board does not seem engaged with the material, there may be a reason other than nonsupport. Ask yourself if you are speaking in business terms? No reaction can be a signal that despite removal of system performance diagrams in your slides, you are still baffling listeners with voice-over techno-babble. Take another look, not only at your presentation, but at what you said to accompany the slides. If necessary, and with the support of the CEO, seek coaching on persuasive presentation and selling skills.

Additionally, ask the CEO to consider adding IT depth to the board. The CEO and CIO cannot be the only advocates for technology advancement and investment - too much risk, money, and wasted effort is at stake. So you should recommend that if the opportunity to add a member arises, someone with significant prior exposure to IT should be invited to join the board.

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