Boards Need IT-Savvy Directors

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Financial and legal matters dominate the agendas of board meetings, which is often reflected in board composition. But what about IT-related matters?

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Aamir Jamil, IT Governance Consultant, Information Technology Authority
Aamir spoke at the IRM UK Business Change & Transformation Conference Europe 2019 on the subject, ‘Managing Business Value in Digital Transformation
This year the Business Change & Transformation Conference will be held as a virtual conference. It is taking place 26-29 October 2020, Virtual Conference – 27-28 October, Live Streaming Workshops – 19-23 October and 26, 29, 30 October. This will be colocated with IRM UK’s  Enterprise Architecture & Business Process Management Conference Europe

Emerging new technologies are disrupting the businesses. The scale of change is so profound it is sweeping through every walk of life. Over the past decade, the term ‘governance’ has moved to the forefront of business thinking in response to examples demonstrating the importance of good governance and, on the other end of the scale, global business mishaps.

Previously, the governing board could delegate, ignore or avoid IT related decisions, but the disruptive new technologies (big data, artificial intelligence, cloud, internet of things …) are increasingly being felt at board level. Emerging research calls for more board-level engagement in IT governance and identifies serious consequences for digitized organizations in case the board is not involved. Yet, it appears that IT governance competence remains the ‘elephant in the boardroom’ for more than 80% of boards of directors. A lack of board oversight for IT activities is dangerous; it puts the organization at risk in the same way that failing to audit its books would.

The board should not look at the technical details of IT. However, the real discussion should be about IT enabled business transformations and related business risk. This requires experts in the board, or multi-disciplined directors, who understand the governance challenges around IT and digital technologies.

Once you have the right structure in place at board level, start asking critical questions. Asking critical questions is a responsibility of every board member. They have to do their homework related to technological developments going on in the world. They have to understand the strategic role of IT in their organization and set direction.

Asking the right questions is actually not that difficult. Starting point could be:

  • How crucial IT is for the creation of business value.
  • Do management teams have IT/Digital Strategy? Have they weighed value and opportunity costs?
  • How do current IT Strategy support the enterprise’s mission?
  • Have executive teams systematically evaluated organizational readiness?
  • Do management teams have processes in place to measure and track the business value vs. risk?

Conclusion: Boards should be more involved with ICT discussions, in the same manner as they traditionally do on finance and legal.

Aamir is an IT Governance Evangelist. Leading government agencies into digital era and ensuring value from IT-enabled investments. He works at the Information Technology Authority (ITA), Sultanate of Oman, where he is engaged in: Providing thought leadership on complex policy issues associated with digital disruption. Establishing governance eco system for sustainable e-government transformation programs. Ensuring regulatory settings to foster favourable environment for the digital society development. The hallmark of his success is through communicating a clear vision, gain support from stakeholders, and have the team members sing from the same song sheet to push towards the ideal state. He is active member of ISACA, serving at the board of ISACA Muscat Chapter, and regularly speaks at various seminars and forums regarding Information Security and IT Governance.

Copyright Aamir Jamil, IT Governance Consultant, Information Technology Authority

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