4 mins read.

The application of Digital technologies is beginning to disrupt business, and mastering them may be the key to long-term survival and success.

As a  board member/trustee and advisor, I’m quite surprised to still find board’s who aren’t well informed or lack a basic understanding of digital technology and analytics despite the fact they have in some cases sanctioned major digital transformation initiatives. The consequences of this are that organisations can get left behind and customer expectations are not met or that digital transformation initiatives get out of control or stall.  Some organisations are choosing to build the expertise of the board through new technology forums or recruiting board members with specific expertise. Ultimately, it’s about the Board asking the right questions and seeking the right answers.

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Whether your tech-savvy or not – these six questions I believe are a great place to start your digital discussions:

1. What will it take to exceed our customers’ expectations in a digital world?

Customers have ultra-convenient, personalised experiences every day from companies like Amazon and Apple. As a result, expectations are rising quickly. Simply meeting these new expectations can be a major effort. The bar has been set high for delighting customers in a digital world and our sector is no exception.

2. Do our business plans reflect the full potential of technology to improve our performance?

Technology costs can easily get out of control. However, costs are relatively small compared with the potential to boost operating performance. Technology can reduce overall costs and risks through things like automated end-to-end processes. When you plan strategically and carefully, the level of investment in ICT becomes an outcome rather than a constraint.

3. Is our portfolio of technology investments aligned with opportunities and threats?

The portfolio should clearly reflect the business opportunities and threats at stake. It also needs to be dynamic. The key is balancing short, medium- and long-term investments.

Short term opportunities include things like upgrading digital equipment, medium-term investments will cover things such as customer experience channels, and carefully chosen longer-term opportunities should include things like piloting innovations such as artificial intelligence and digital automation.

4. Do we have the capabilities required to deliver value from IT?

It’s all about the people! Technology alone delivers no value. It’s the combination of a clear strategy, the right technology, high-quality data, appropriate skills, and lean processes that add up to create value. Any weak link in this chain will lead to poor value delivery from ICT. In many sectors, a shortage of digital talent is a bottleneck. Well trained and informed executives can manage value from ICT. But capability building must start at the top.

5. Who is accountable for Digital and how do we hold them to account?

In short, it’s everyone who’s involved. The ICT function can’t be held solely accountable for delivering value from ICT. It should be a shared responsibility between process owners and ICT enablers. ICT can also prove hard to measure. The focus should be on a limited set of intuitive, business-relevant metrics, not huge volumes of technical data.

Leaders should be held accountable through scorecards that measure value delivered to the business in the form of customer satisfaction, efficiency, agility, and risk levels. Scorecards should be intuitive for even the least ICT savvy board member, and they should be aligned with executives’ incentives.

6. Are we comfortable with our level of Digital risk?

It’s, of course, critical to protecting your data through the good collection, storage, access and security methods. Cyber security and compliance with GDPR are significant, and growing, ICT risks that need to be carefully managed. However, some executives have a poor understanding of these risks. And there are other business risks to manage, such as the reliance of digital-only contact channels and making sure regularity data can be easily captured and viewed.

These questions are of course just the start. Each association will need a tailored set based on their own situation, goals and plans. However, you tackle it, digital strategy is essential for a thriving, successful business.

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