I have just attended the Institute of Chartered Secretaries (ICSA) Technologies Summit 2013. I did not know quite what to expect, but it turned out to be a good investment of time and money. The five sessions at the Summit covered the following areas:
Reshaping the board: looking at some of the technologies shaping the boardrooms of the future.
The dog that’s had its day? There has been a shift in emphasis with companies moving away from the traditional Annual General Meeting (AGM), experiencing falling stakeholder attendance and facing increased attention from the media and pressure groups. This discussion looked at if technology holds the key to renaissance. The Virtual AGM offers a space that can assist member engagement, but it needs to be properly designed in order to achieve what we want.
The global village: This interesting exploration looking at companies operating branches and subsidiaries spread across the world. Key to their success is to be run efficiently and in a compliant manner. Participants focused on the benefits that technology can bring to streamlining companies’ global operations. Entity Management Systems can support integration and enhance accessibility, consistency and coherence. Web filing and annual audit returns can efficiently be done online at lower cost. Board packs can now be accessed electronically (BoardPad for meeting organisers and participants is a great tool). And even better Companies House now has its own Mobile App.
Protecting your information: Even modest companies retain huge amounts of date and risks posed by data loss has very been higher. We looked at data security and the board and asked what can boards do in a crisis. A practical agenda would look at risks involved, guidance to address these risks and practical steps we all can take individually and collectively. Specific examples include how we dispose of portable devices, how we observe our behaviour and act carefully in public places, how we secure our websites and other security measures in relation to people issues and data predecessors. Regular back ups are a must as are encryption, putting in place firewalls, virus check and undertaking automatic updates. The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has useful guidance on the use of emails. What are the authorities in places, have access issues been addressed? Are people prepared for their changing roles?
The Summit ended with a session on technology and the board. Board level responsibility is often handed to a dedicated Chief Information/digital officer. With technology pervading so many aspects of modern business, what exactly should that person take responsibility for and what board needs such a function?
I am glad I took time out to reflect on these matters.
The key messages for me are that the Board must have a good understanding of digital business and the role technology can play.
Successful Chief Information Officers are passionate about technology and what it can do for business. They need to spend time outside the IT function building relationships, influencing and collaborating in order to secure engagement.
The Board must be brought together by investing in tablet technology video/telephone conferencing, if affordable investing in telepresence (or halo technology) and last but not the least investing in ourselves as we get to know and be confident with technology. With confidence we can be innovative and creative thereby achieving those breakthrough advances we need in today’s uncertain environment.
Culture and behaviours matter. Any security and development is just as good as the people behind it. Surprise, surprise, some fatal flaws have been down to human error. So there a vital component in any IT strategy is the support we give to the people who will use it – training, appropriate policies and procedures and step to step engagement on how guidance can be implemented.
I did say it was worthwhile!