‘Digital transformation’ is pervasive and all-encompassing, affecting all aspects of business, governance and financial performance - as such it needs to be led from the very top. Therefore it is increasingly important for directors to take leadership and drive digital transformation themselves.
In its article The Board Directors You Need for a Digital Transformation, Harvard Business Review writes that “the board of directors has a vital role to play in digital transformation” and that boards should be rapidly seeking directors with digital experience.1 “The ability to contribute to all governance matters is a critical competency of any board appointment.”
Indeed if boards are to be capable of acting as the balanced and qualified overseers of company activities, then they must possess the skill set to successfully ‘oversee’. Yet too often they remain behind the knowledge curve:
“We are nearly three decades into the internet revolution and executives across all industries are now digitally literate, if not fluent… So it would behoove all directors to [also] become more digitally cognizant.”
McKinsey agrees, asserting in their quarterly publication to clients that “boards must view themselves as the ultimate catalysts for digital transformation efforts”.2 Yet the last five years has seen an adoption of technology by boards driven less by a strong understanding and long term strategy but instead by fear or a ‘need to do something’.
This lack of leadership has led to a random implementation of tools with little regard for the ensuing 5, 10 or 20 years. Deloitte’s Center for Board Effectiveness state in their white paper Winning with digital: What boards need to know about digital transformation that teams, companies and boards “rarely benefit from random acts of digital… As a board member, it is important to question whether or not there is a digital strategy, and understand how digital fits into the overall strategy for long-term success”.3
Directors must rapidly evolve if they are to deliver real value in the digital age.
According to the Deloitte there are six key enablers to consider for a digital strategy: Connectivity, Experience innovation, Data intelligence, Leading-edge innovation, Automation and Cybersecurity.
It is not necessary for boards to address all six and indeed one on its own will likely have some short term impact. However we believe that a combination of several is critical for boards to improve their governance in a meaningful and sustainable way.
This effort must therefore go far beyond the basic adoption of ‘board portals’ that amount to little more than document repositories in nature, or the occasional use of ad hoc secure email platforms.
Knowa proposes four paradigms that are crucial for the Board of Directors to acknowledge in order to make long term improvements to both their governance and ability to lead by example. As noted by the former Chair of ecoDa, Turid Elisabeth Solvang, “wise board members are willing and able to adapt their operation to navigate changing circumstances”.4
Better design and clearer signposting is vital to improve the experience for board directors.
An Improved Experience
There is a critical Experience issue faced by directors in their board activities. Currently pulled in different directions with no one space to call their ‘home’, boards have become victims of their laggardness to adopt technology, residing and operating on numerous and often unfriendly systems, controlled by others.
Knowa is a space that provides vital Experience innovation, accomplished through the clearly named Knowa Spaces:
- A board’s Space on Knowa provides the foundation of the board’s governance framework and enables its directors to structure the entirety of the board’s activity, through Groups and Work Streams;
- This Space becomes their ‘home’ and facilitates the alignment of all individuals, enhancing transparency and professionalism;
- The management and accessibility of resources (board information, working files, archives) as well as people, is greatly improved;
- The user’s experience when navigating their Space is easy and friendly;
- Governance itself is improved and can be measured as a KPI.
Modern tools bring people together in a way that was previously impossible. Dispersed board members must embrace this chance.
Connect & Collaborate
Good Connectivity must be a seamless flow of information and interaction between “people, spaces, products, data and technology”.5 This is a pressing and consistent issue affecting boards who are faced with a tension between the critical need for improved collaboration across all parties, and a want to remove the complexity of navigating ‘Chinese walls’.
Additionally, important boardroom discussions can no longer be saved for meetings, with a pressing need for increased real-time connectivity. As Deloitte discovered in their 2017 Global Human Capital Trends report The organization of the future, “nearly all surveyed companies report that “agility and collaboration” are critical to their organization’s success”.6
In our article Transforming Governance in the post-email era we examine how board’s continuing use of email to communicate is undermining good governance.
Knowa’s core functionality redefines board Connectivity and transforms interactions. Crucially it enables the following:
- Communication and information sharing happen in a structured, board-owned Space, rather than individual silos (email inboxes);
- Communication can be marked with a Governance purpose – ‘must read’ (FYI), decision making (Voting) or requiring a response (Consultation);
- Internal and outward facing communications are handled through Knowa’s ‘Connected Space’, which maintains the confidentiality of ‘Chinese Walls’ whilst facilitating an ‘on the same page’ mentality.
Everything should be delivered to the board quickly and reliably.
Delivery of Data & Intelligence
The sum of a board’s ongoing information and Intelligence does not start and end with meeting packs. Interactions, calculations, reports, advice and decisions all carry vital significance that impact the governance of a board and enable it to be proactive rather than reactive.
Yet as ever more data is produced it remains scattered to the four winds, with directors’ access jeopardised by disparate systems added randomly through the years, thereby impacting the quality of decision making.
Deriving long term intelligence is nearly impossible if the information cannot be delivered and captured in a consistent space. Knowa solves this by facilitating the delivery of intelligence from providers, enabling it to add true value to a board’s long term governance:
- Dashboards can be ‘plugged’ into Knowa and linked with discussions;
- Transition time between information and action is reduced;
- The delivery of specialist information is greatly simplified (aided by Connectivity),
- Knowa becomes the platform for choosing expertise.
Cybersecurity is a universal issue and is critical for all teams and individuals to understand. Yet whilst directors remain laggard in their adoption and knowledge of up to date tools, they remain most at risk.
The transfer of sensitive information is a common occurrence within board activities and they must look for long term solutions to their security issues. Just as it is unacceptable for a company to ignore potential points of failure, so directors cannot continue to ignore the severe risk they pose to the whole board and to those that the board serves.
Cisco suggests that nearly half of the security risk that organisations face stems from having multiple vendors and products.7 Knowa is a modern secure platform, providing the functionality Boards require to operate effectively, within the single environment they need to remain safe.
- Knowa is built in accordance with GCHQ’s NCSC SaaS security principles;8
- One secure space for all information greatly minimises the potential points of failure that accompany multiple inboxes (some often personal);