How CIOs Work With Their Board Of Directors

Presenting To The Board Is A Big Step For CIOs
Presenting To The Board Is A Big Step For CIOs

Congratulations CIO – you’ve been asked to make a presentation to your company’s board of directors. Oh, oh. What are you going to have to do in order to make your career move forward due to this opportunity and not screw it up?

What Does A Board Of Directors Want From A CIO?

First off, let’s all make sure that we’re on the same page here – do you know exactly what your company’s Board Of Directors is? It turns out that when you legally set up a company, you need to create a Board of Directors to run the thing. One of their first tasks is to find a CEO to run the day-to-day company. That’s right – your CEO works for the Board of Directors. It really doesn’t get any higher than this!

Although the Board does understand the importance of information technology, they really don’t care about the IT department – they have much bigger things to worry about. That means that you are going to have present the information that they have requested very carefully.

Arthur Langer has done some research in this area and he has the following four recommendations for how CIOs should present information to their Board of Directors:


  • New Ideas: CIOs need to understand why they have been asked to make a presentation to the Board. The Board is not interested in what you spend most of your time worrying about – budget details, hiring issues, etc. Instead, their focus is on the company as a whole and they want to hear from you what you can do to help the company grow. This can include how IT can help out with ongoing operations as well as what you can do more strategically.



  • Security: Every presentation that a CIO makes to the Board needs to touch on the topic of information security. Remember, they don’t care about the details. Instead, what they want to hear from you is what you are doing to protect the company against risks and what you are doing to ensure that the company’s confidential information won’t get stolen.



  • Data: If there is one thing that is keeping your Board up at night, it’s worrying about all of that data that your company is sitting on. As the CIO, they see you as being responsible for keeping track of all of this data. That also means that you are viewed as acting as the point-of-contact if the company gets sued and one of those e-discovery programs has to be conducted.



  • Analytics: Since the Board sees the CIO as being in charge of all of the data that the company collects, they also see you as being responsible for finding ways to get the most out of that data. This means that you need to be ready to tell them how you plan on going about doing this.


How Can You Prepare For A Board Presentation?

Being invited to make a presentation to your company’s board is a great honor. Now you’re going to have to ensure that you make the most of this opportunity. That means, sorry about this, you’re going to have to do some homework.

Here are four things that every CIO needs to do both before and during their presentation to the Board:


  • Know Your Audience: You should do this before every presentation, and presenting to your Board is no different. You need to understand the personalities of the people who make up the Board. What is their background? What is their reputation within the company? What do other people who have presented to them have to say about them?



  • Make Friends: How the presentation is going to turn out is often determined before it starts. If you can make contact with Board members before the day of the presentation and ask them questions, then you will have a chance to have an ally in your corner on the day of your presentation.



  • Time Counts: When you were told how much time you had for your presentation, the person who told it to you was lying. The way that these things work out is that you never get as much time as you were told, or even as much as you ended up being allocated. The Board will hate you forever if you run over your allocated time and will love you forever if you finish up early. Always show up with multiple version of your presentation so that you can fit into smaller and smaller time periods.



  • Use Stories: As the company’s CIO you have a great deal of sophisticated knowledge about all things related to the IT sector and how they work. Don’t share this during your presentation. Instead, keep things simple and use stories to make you points – this is what the Board will be able to remember.


What All Of This Means For You

The definition of information technology is that it is how a company uses computers to become more successful. As the company’s CIO, it’s your job to make this happen. When your Board summons you to present to them, you need to understand both what they are interested in and what they don’t want you to talk about.

When you are preparing for your presentation you’ll want to focus on what the Board wants hear: how IT can help to grow the company, data security, data management, and how best to use the data that the company has. Additionally you’ll need to do your homework in order to prepare for your big presentation.

We talk a lot about finding ways to get the CIO a “seat at the table” when it comes to mapping out the company’s future. Being asked to present to your Board is a fantastic opportunity for a CIO to make a name for himself or herself. Make sure that you take the time to prepare for this presentation and you’ll see your career take off…

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Department Leadership Skills™

Question For You: Do you think that you should prepare a separate handout for your presentation to the Board?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

How hard can it be to be a CIO at a major airline? Your job is pretty straightforward – make sure that you can take reservations, schedule the planes and the crews, and print out paychecks ever two weeks. Nothing to it, right? Well it turns out that over at the Virgin America airline, their CIO appears to have made a very bad decision and everyone is now paying for it.