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The tech-savvy necessity: Preparing the board to go beyond the digital frontier

As published in 'NACD Directorship' magazine, 2020 Governance Outlook, December 2019

By Bill Briggs, Scott Buchholz, Tonie Leatherberry, and Debbie McCormack

Technology governance and oversight in the boardroom, in recent years, has largely reinforced the necessity to defensively protect and preserve an organization and its assets. Increasingly, boards are shifting the tech focus to understand how technology can also be leveraged offensively to create and enable new opportunities, business models, and revenue sources. As a result, many board members are seeking to understand the business impact of emerging technology trends to better exercise oversight without stepping into management’s role—in other words, keeping their “fingers in and noses out.”

The tenth annual Deloitte report, Tech Trends 2019: Beyond the digital frontier, may increase board members’ understanding of several emerging trends that will likely offer their executive teams new avenues for driving strategy, enhancing performance, and mitigating risk.

Four of these trends are spotlighted in the report, including: 

  • Macrotechnology forces at work
  • AI-fueled organizations
  • Intelligent interfaces which combined with the latest in human-centered design techniques and leading-edge technologies can transform how humans, machines, and data interact
  • Connectivity of tomorrow, and the emergence of 5G (the fifth generation of cellular wireless technology)

Each provide insights into how technology can function as a catalyst to business strategy and affect how the board drives governance and oversight efforts.

The article addresses the board implications and that the common thread running across all of these trends is the fusion of business and technology strategies and how boards will need to understand both the broad set of risks that technology creates and its potential business benefits—particularly, how it can advance or disrupt strategy and improve or impede performance.

The article notes that, simply put, being tech-savvy has become an essential capability for today’s board member and provides tips for becoming a tech-savvy board member and example questions for the thoughtful board director to ask.