Great Tech Debates

December 2015: Vol 38 No 12
by Mary Auestad Arnold

From the Editor

Mary Arnold

When it comes to technology, people tend to have their favorites. It used to be Apple vs. PC. Now the discussion has become iPhone vs. Android.

What I didn’t expect to be so debatable is whether having a technology expert on your board of directors is a good goal.

When we asked a variety of sources about this for “High-Tech Boards,”  we got a range of responses from, essentially, “heck yes” to “heck no”!

Weighing in on the side of caution was Steve Williams, principal of Cornerstone Advisors, a CUES Supplier member and strategic provider based in Scottsdale, Ariz. He says directors with knowledge of technology are always an asset, but draws the line at the idea of recruiting a “tech guru” to help champion the CU’s initiatives. “One-issue directors” of any kind are not a good governance practice, he maintains.

In support of recruiting a technology expert was Michael G. Daigneault, CCD, principal and founder of Quantum Governance, L3C, a CUES strategic provider based in Vienna, Va. “The reason for recruiting [a tech expert] is to create tensions. That can help the staff and board get unstuck,” he says. “The mindset of most boards is safety and soundness. ... Now there are more disruptors in the market, and the pace of change has picked up. Being conservative has become risky.”

Daigneault’s viewpoint aligns well with that of Jean-Louis Bravard, author of “All Boards Need a Technology Expert”), published by Harvard Business Review on Sept. 23, 2015, well after we had this article underway, by the way.

 A board member for London and Partners, the official promotional organization for the city of London, Bravard writes, “Technology is the most important agent of change today; hardly any industry is immune to both its value-creating and disruptive potential. Yet I perceive a large gap between the direct experience of ... directors and the experience required to challenge and support chairmen and CEOs in their quest to bring the best technology to their business.”

Bravard’s advice: “Hire a techie to your board. Be prepared to rotate this role at least every two years.”

So there you have it: The great board tech debate. Where do you stand? Email me at mary@cues.org or leave a comment on our article at cues.org/1215boards.

Mary Auestad Arnold
Editor and Publisher