How Advisory Boards are changing the face of Digital Transformation

Dave-Headshot-LR-1697 How Advisory Boards are changing the face of Digital Transformation
David Kennedy, Group CIO, Transaction Services Group

Digital transformation is driving more systems development, more dependence on information and more resource scarcity as every company competes for a smaller than required talent pool. One way to effectively combat the need for deep domain knowledge is to create an Advisory Board. They can be small in size but can add significant value to any company looking to improve their digital presence in the market.

The consumer has created a new norm of expectation for user experience. This is driven primarily by new generations of “digital natives” arriving in the market to purchase goods and services. These new entrants expect to be able to complete complex business interactions from their mobile device, something that is threatening the very fabric of traditional commerce models.

Scarcity oftop talent in every companyis resulting in development projects that are too often failing to deliver the intended value. Many experience poor user experience, delayed implementation, cost overruns, expensive maintenance, poor information security and more.

Demands for digital capabilities will only grow – the competitive importance of “big data analytics” plus the dawning of Internet of Things, Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, and ArtificialIntelligence further raises the bar of expectations.

In this challenging environment scale is not a guarantee of effective systems delivery.  Experience points to key causalities:

Unclear digital strategy;

Lack of cultural alignment;

Lack of understanding the value proposition/solid business case;

Incorrect value matrix to show value of digital projects;

Lack of risk assessment;

Misunderstanding of how “Agile” works;

Inability to measure the flow of development projects effectively;

Lack capability and experience.

As we expect digital enablement to become mainstream in all business processes and interfaces, digital capabilities appear to be lacking – from the C-suite down through most organizations and into the supplier base.  The gap between need and capability often falls to the CIO – educating fellow executives and influencers, working out business cases in the domains of other executives, budgeting and building capabilities, guiding change management and upskilling programs, etc.

As a result, the role of the CIO has become of paramount structural importance. The role now requires high levels of emotional intelligence, expert client handling skills and creativeproblem solvingthinking.  This has demanded more skills outside the traditional technology domain, for example:

Behavioral psychology;

Integrated business planning and business modelling;

Networking – other CIOs, CDO’s, marketers, CFO’s, strategists, etc;

Management accounting and Finance …

These additional demands on the role of the CIO, and risks associated with poor systems performance and project execution, havedriven a number of organisations convene an ICT Advisory Board. The role of an Advisory Board can be relatively benign, acting as a coach to the CIO and other executives.  Or it can help bridge the “governance gap” for IT considerations that may sit between the C-Suite’s carefully laid plans and the Board’s ability and willingness to delve into and challenge the details.  For example, assessing customer and strategic IT alignment, helping prioritize development initiatives, assessing development project risk and mitigation plans, and advising on the hard calls of spending good money after bad when development fails or markets move.

Advisory Boards are valuable in providing thought leadership, outside-in and diverse perspectives – and when asked, an unvarnished truth based on their experience and collaboration.

It is therefore important to get the right make-up of an Advisory Board – a mix of those with a practical track record for delivery with those havingbroad experience in different industries and situations;plusrelevant technical skills in IT as well as other areas like finance and marketing.  Importantly, an Advisory Board should comprise personal characteristics that make for collaborative and productive teaming – empathy, critical thinking and ambition.

The Advisory Board process is also important.  The organization’s CEO or CIO need to be front and center in facilitating Advisory Board engagement.  This must include time to form;access to extensive information on the enterprise, it’s goals and plans; key decisions to be made and the known internal and external drivers of success as well as threats.  The Advisory Board should be challenged with specific issues and decisions the organization needs to deal with, as well as being given the opportunity for more freeform comment and input.