Boards today are acutely aware of the significance of digital technologies.
They know the importance; they are involved in decisions on capital allocation and talent acquisition. Yet, there’s lack of detailed understanding of where and how digital opens new business opportunities and when and how digital will disrupt current business models. They rely on external advisors to help with digital transformation, partly because they see the internal IT organisation focus on rectifying operational inefficiencies. And most digital transformation projects seem to focus on adapting and upgrading the technology infrastructure rather than laying the foundations for the company to transform business models for the digital future.
Digital’s importance in business is more than ad-hoc transformation projects. It is becoming clear that every business will become digital, sooner or later; and every business will need to compete against born-digital companies, Becoming digital is more than appointing chief digital officers or engaging in digital partnerships. It involves understanding how digital impacts products, processes, and services; and it deals with resource reallocations, with nature of work, the organising logic and the business models of how companies achieve profitability and growth as industries and economies transform away from the industrial age. More than ever before, senior leadership—at board level—must become more proficient and conversant with the business implications of digital technologies.
When the board looks to internal leaders responsible for digital technologies, they see technical experts capable of running technical operations, those with expertise to assess make-buy-partner decisions, those capable of flawlessly migrating operations to the cloud, those that understand security at the tactical level. They rarely find within their internal organization, executives that combine technical expertise with business acumen who can articulate the trade-offs necessary in the fine-tuning to defend current business models with the need to design new ways of competing in the future. They rarely find business executives with digital expertise nor digital experts with business understanding. That chasm is becoming more serious now.
Our intent in creating the digital NED “network” is to create a pool of talent capable of stepping up to Board level to engage strategically, to bring much needed clarity to the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead. We mean to educate, guide and mentor executives—business and IT—to have the competencies and the confidence to engage at the Board level. Our intent is to complement the experience that today’s generation of executives already possess in their jobs with external perspectives—academic as well as those with practical experience in Boards—to step up to the challenge facing today’s FTSE Boards.
Prof N Venkat Venkatraman
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