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Technology Moves Fast: Boardrooms Need To Catch-Up

Posted on July 18, 2013 at 3:40 PM

The world is moving much faster than the UK's boardrooms. Earlier today there were those in my Twitterstream who agreed, when I suggested this megatrends report by CIPD should be placed in front of every plc boardmember to concentrate the mind on strategy.

If the times they are a changin, I'm a great believer in changing with them even if the lyrics are not familiar. That means embracing technology and things that sometimes take you out of your comfort zone. I did not approach Twitter at first with anything remotely resembling glee. It felt a bit like a trip to the dentist. But I knew it was a necessary part of building an individual platform for a journalist in 2013. 

This has been an unpaid and independent blog since it was launched in February 2011. In terms of my exhaustion levels and time management,  I have great news. I am delighted to report today that ICSA software are - for at least the next 12 months - the best kind of corporate sponsor I could have hoped for - they have no editorial control and will be mostly a 'silent backer'. But they do provide clever technology for the boardroom and for business as a whole. So a now funded blog remains independent, and will, if anything, get more of my time.

Social media is not going away, but 55% of a sample of 250 global board directors - both large public corporations and private companies - polled by the Women Corporate Directors  (WCD) Institute  said that their boards were “not that comfortable” or “very uncomfortable” with social media.

"Tech continues to be a game changer for all industries – it’s not something new. But what is new is the velocity of change and the resulting ambiguity that it leaves for boards of directors to understand which way to go" says Cathy Allen  ( board director at Synovus, El Paso Electric, Stewart Information Services) speaking  at a recent panel discussion featuring some of the top women in technology globally at a WCD conference in New York.

It brought minds together to look closely at some of the themes emerging as boards wrestle with rapid technology changes – and what these mean for companies, customers, and surviving in global markets.

Look at Southeast Asia. Philippines telecom and technology CEO Myla Villanueva pointed out that the last ten years has seen a dramatic change and impact of technology on companies across the region. She drew particular attention to the mobile phone.  According to Ms. Villanueva, the rates of mobile penetration in several Asian countries are staggering. “We’re going to see a 100% rate of penetration in a year or two for most of these markets. It is important as a board member to understand that this is the access point to our part of the world." (my emphasis)

Why do I have the feeling many board members would consider this to be a revelation?

They may be equally surprised to learn, courtesy WCD, that social media is on the rise in the region: India, Indonesia, and the Philippines constitute the world’s third, fourth, and eighth largest Facebook markets, respectively, and also possess large volumes of Twitter users.

So what ? Hearsay Social CEO Clara Shih says social media "has actually altered what customers today expect from businesses. It almost doesn’t matter if you want to be on social media or not - If your customer is on, then you have to be on." It makes sense to me.

Of course all this spells RISK to many plcs - which is why they are shuffling their feet about in a pretence at moving forward.

But managing that risk while also making the best use of new technologies is the balance that board directors need to find.  Jeanette Horan, IBM CIO  and a board director at Microvision Inc: "Security has to be top of mind for every CIO today, and this is an area that the boards of directors need to get much more educated about."

Technology moves very fast - our boardrooms need to pick up their pace. A rival to my sponsor was telling me about trying to sell board pack technology to a plc in Norway. "They told us to send them a fax" she said. That says it all.

Categories: Technology, Communication, Leadership