Three CIO Communication Mistakes: What boards should focus on when working with tech leaders.

Author:Atkins, Betsy

The dialogue between corporate chief information officers and the boards of directors can be both enlightening and frustrating--often at the same time. The two of us have seen many boardroom discussions from both sides of the table and while the results can be positive and supportive, too often the discourse breaks down over the incompatible languages of technology and governance.

Adding to this problem, corporate board members typically ask their CIOs the wrong questions. This leads to wrong answers, wrong assumptions and--most likely--wrong actions. Here are the top three mistakes board members make when it comes to communicating with CIOs--and how they can do it right.

  1. Prioritizing the latest tech trends--artificial intelligence (AI), internet of things, big data, the cloud--and not what "keeps the lights on."

    Corporate board members, like most high-level business execs, stay informed on the latest trends in information technology (IT). They realize this technology is advancing at incredible speed, and will bring huge changes and opportunities to business. But the board also tends to be dazzled by the latest buzzwords and tech concepts, often at the expense of some of the basics, such as the core network infrastructure and systems needed to support new technologies.

    "Digital transformation" is as exciting as it sounds, but the CIO (and board) need to also focus on the homely, hard-working enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems that keep the lights on.

    Supply chains, customer relations, sales and human resources may not be sexy. However, these ERP elements are crucial to any modern enterprise. They typically gobble up 70% or more of the IT budget, and much of any CIO's time and energy. ERP systems may also be an aging patchwork, and appropriate budgets must be allocated to keep these systems current which can also contribute to protecting from cyber vulnerability. A modern high-performing "digital ERP core" makes it easier, quicker and more cost effective to connect and deploy new sought-after technologies.

    IT, data and digital business issues have multiplied to cover a huge number of disciplines. These include purchasing, strategic planning, marketing, compliance, logistics, customer relations--and on and on. Often, CIOs have these responsibilities dumped into their laps, without the budget, staff or authority to properly handle them. Even worse, many companies forge ahead building and selling exciting new digital products and...

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