The IT leaders who make up the CIO Executive Council are finding themselves more often called upon to address their companies’ boards of directors. For many this is an alien environment, full of high-powered, short-attention-span execs with little affinity for technology. CIOs want to learn how to be more effective in their communications with the board. We turned to some of our more board-seasoned members for insights in wowing the board.
1. Know the players. Jeff O’Hare, senior vice president of enterprise information technology at $2.3 billion business process outsourcing provider West Corp., researches the background of each board member and then uses this information to frame his board presentations and follow-up conversations. O’Hare focuses his information gathering on areas like functional experience; industry; company size; and comfort with risk. "For example, when I was making a presentation to a board with heavy finance and operations experience, I made sure to include an appendix of highly detailed financials", shares O’Hare.
It’s also wise to learn the director’s particular hot buttons - what particularly gets them riled up, adds Marc West, former CIO at H&R Block. West recommends the CEO as a good source for backgrounds on members.
2. Develop ongoing personal relationships. Pamela Rucker, vice president of IT at PSC, LLC, holds pre-meetings with individuals from the PSC executive board to learn about their points of view. She also uses the pre-meetings as an opportunity for them to ask questions and air any concerns in a private setting. Rucker estimates spending 20 percent of her board interaction time in these one-on-one meetings. Due to their regularity, she can then treat the formal board presentation as more of a status check. "The actual board meeting can’t be the first time that you’re telling the board about changes or plans, or they’re going to feel blindsided", she says. "Sometimes, I may have to present information three different ways in three different meetings in order for everyoneto get it", Rucker notes.