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The Importance of Tech and Digital Representation in the Boardroom

“If you’ve not got tech or digital representation in your boardroom, you’re in trouble.” Those were my closing words at a recent panel discussion hosted by Business Exchange, Thrings and Richardson Swift

‘Why?’ you might ask?

It is commonly accepted that over the last decade the line between traditional industries and the tech sector has become increasingly blurred with tech now playing a significant role in the majority of businesses. Yet it is also shown that there is fundamental underrepresentation of technology and digital expertise at the highest strategic level within companies, particularly those not self-identified as ‘tech companies’.

In my experience across a number of executive boards, it is common to witness finance or HR functions taking their rightful place at the boardroom table, integral to guiding the strategic direction of a company. However, an equivalent role dedicated to representing technology’s vast and crucial domain is often absent. I believe this gap poses a substantial risk to businesses, especially as we continue to accelerate towards a future where technology underpins virtually every aspect of our lives and work.

The absence of tech representation is not merely an oversight, it’s a strategic vulnerability – notably, companies without this expertise at the helm risk being left behind by competitors. This gap can lead to missed opportunities and an underestimation of risks associated with technology’s rapid evolution. 

The Ideal Tech Ambassador in the Boardroom

So what does the ideal candidate to bridge this gap look like? To me it’s clear that the role demands more than just technological acumen. The individual must embody a blend of strategic foresight and a deep understanding of the interplay between technology, organisational dynamics, commerciality, culture, growth, and finance. This person is not just a tech enthusiast keen on the latest gadgets and gizmos but a seasoned strategist capable of integrating technological potential with business objectives.

I was recently advising a business who often invited their ‘IT guy’ to executive planning meetings. Whilst this person had a good grasp of the current tech use within the business, it soon became apparent to me that they didn’t have the skills to objectively think beyond the current state. Sadly for this firm, it took very little time for us to collectively uncover a large, quite immediate and ultimately business threatening risk – the mitigation for which was not affordable. The parting words from the CEO to me were simply “I wish we’d found out about this a few years ago”.

For me, the role requires someone with proven experience in the boardroom, someone who understands the nuances of governance and can communicate complex technical strategies in a language that resonates with non-tech executives. The goal is not to evangelise about the latest tech fads but to provide objective assessments of how technology can support the company’s overarching goals, mitigate risks, and seize new opportunities.

The Unmistakable Value of Tech Savviness in Leadership

The incorporation of tech and digital expertise into the boardroom is not just beneficial; it’s imperative for companies aiming to thrive in the digital age. This move is about securing a competitive edge, anticipating market shifts, and fostering a culture that values innovation and adaptability. The right tech-savvy board member can help to guide a company through the complexities of modern business landscapes, ensuring that decisions are informed, opportunities are seized, and risks are navigated with foresight.

To my fellow C-suite executives and board members, let us champion the integration of technology into our strategic planning and governance – let’s elevate tech above ‘the IT department’ or outsourced partners and put it front and centre alongside other equally business critical decision making.