The ability of Boards to govern information technology isn't getting any easier -- and Boards weren't exactly winning the old game of IT governance either.
Are Boards crazy to try to govern something without knowing anything about it? Some Boards obviously feel that way as they've been adding IT and social technology skills into their Boardrooms. However, an NACD/Oliver Wyman survey indicated that only 16% of Board members had been a CIO or senior IT executive earlier in their careers -- although 99% felt that IT would have a significant impact on their organizations in the next five years.
Herein lies the opportunity -- obvious problem, known solution. But is there an inability or unwillingness to fix it? A Spencer Stuart survey indicated that only 3% of new Board candidate searches are focused on getting new directors with digital or social skills.
Crazy Is As Crazy Does
Social technology has a life all of it's own, and I'm not talking about Facebook -- that's the tip of the social technology iceberg. The very nature of social technology resists control. It's use is unpredictable and it has the ability to be as destructive as it does constructive. And business has also never been more dependent upon information technology as it is now.
So there's a perfect storm coming. A collision of IT and social technology fueled disruption that is colliding with a Board community that is ill prepared to understand or address these issues.
We've all heard the definition of insanity. If Boards want a different outcome, they should start to do some things differently. A good place to start is with the way they approach IT governance. First, effective IT governance does not belong in the audit committee. Second, they can improve IT governance enormously by just adding the right IT skills to their Director ranks. Then, step 3 is to take a structured approach to how they govern IT.
Fortunately there is some really good guidance out there.
Springboks to the IT Governance Rescue
The Institute of Directors of South Africa have one of my favorite IT governance frameworks in the King Reports. Revised in 2009, the model has been lauded as the "most effective summary of international best practices in corporate governance." King establishes a crystal clear objective for IT governance -- "to understand the issues and strategic importance of IT."
The 2009 revision -- King III is notable as it addressed IT governance for the first time. Here's a link: King III Link.
There are other models out there. They just need to be applied by the right knowledgeable resources in the Boardroom. The storm is coming. But fortunately it can be avoided easily enough…but only if Boards stop sailing directly into it.