Why boards are hiring more tech leaders

15 Sep 2022

Why boards are hiring more tech leaders

As accelerated digital transformation continues, we look into the reasons why boards are looking to hire tech leaders to lead on this specific area of their organisation.

The pandemic catapulted business technology leadership onto the corporate board, and it is there to stay. It began with the monumental task of equipping workforces for remote working, followed by cyber security and connectivity challenges associated with employees working outside the traditional IT confines of organizations. With hybrid working, a new set of challenges are now present with employees working in and out of the office, who require specific hardware and software, and therefore diluting the security barrier as a result.

At the same time, the pandemic acted as a catalyst for accelerated digital transformation. Those that could, sped up programs already in place, or took the opportunity to implement new initiatives. Even companies who might be considered ‘behind’ and are still grappling with legacy systems, understand the future is digital-first.

In this future (and increasingly the present) data is monetized. Once the sole domain of Google and other tech giants, the monetization of data is becoming widespread in all corners of the business world. Its collection, storage, and financial use has made its way up the board agenda, keeping pace with the growing theme of AI, which is coming into fruition for more companies. One only needs to look at the EU’s new AI legislation, providing rules and monetary fines, to know AI is a vital component within organizations across an array of sectors.

It should come as no surprise that boards are increasingly looking for technology C-Suite leaders and tech-savvy non-executives to make better sense of these new developments.

Increasing cyber security risk

Not a week goes by without a major cyber security incident reported. In 2021, the average number of cyberattacks and data breaches increased by 15.1% from the previous year. Attributed to this alarming increase is human error, poor maintenance, and unknown assets.

The ‘everywhere’ workforce is exacerbating the problem. Employees in different countries, using different technologies, combined with freelancers and contractors using personal equipment, casts the security net much wider than before.

Boards want individuals at a C-Suite level who understand how to manage this challenge.

Whether it is CIOs, CTOs, CDOs or CISOs, they are appointing leaders who can secure their organization in a world of hybrid working and accelerated technology adoption.

Monetization of data

Extracting insights from company information to gather data to forecast, form strategy, and even to make hiring decisions has been common practice for the last 10 years. However, there is a move beyond simply using data for the information it can provide, rather companies can use this as an additional revenue stream.

In its simplest form, companies sell their data to third parties. However, the real potential for data monetization far surpasses this.

Companies are building analytics products that compliment existing offerings, developing new business models to market their data, and directly selling data-based products or services.

Boards want skilled leaders who know how to build products and services that capture new data and deliver insights for customers. Such is the importance of data monetization, that its security is a key item on the board agenda and the ‘Chief Privacy Officer’ is becoming a consideration for some companies in this space.  

Skills transfer

Boards are looking for tech leaders who can think beyond the confines of just the IT function; who can implement ‘new’ technology, such as AI, and who collaborate and encourage input from across the organization. Both teams and individuals need to be tech-proficient and constantly learning. It is their responsibility to ensure tech skills capability is adequate and up to date.

Equally as important is the topic of skills transference.

Boards need individuals who will collaborate with other C-suite members, provide innovative ideas for a variety of functions, and challenge them on decisions that hold a wider impact on overall company performance. As well as the benefits from the technology itself, this helps increase tech acumen on the board.

Recruiting tech leaders to the board

Demand is at an all-time high, while the ‘right’ candidates are few and far between. Sought-after tech leaders who tick all the boxes already hold several board positions, and are unable to take on any more. Market conditions therefore require some flexibility from boards.

To acquire tech skills and place them on the board, it may mean compromising on specific experiences.

Perhaps it may not be as imperative for the candidate to have UKPLC experience, if they’ve successfully implemented large-scale technology programs and have current or recent public board-level capabilities. Previous board experience may be encouraged but not an absolute necessity, and organizations could consider a broad-reaching ‘Head of’ who meets any other requirements.

Technology moves fast, and it is only speeding up. Waiting to find a board member who ticks all the traditional boxes could leave organizations well behind their competitors.

If you would like to discuss your needs around CIO, CTO, CDO or CISO roles, please contact Diane Gilley, get in touch with us here or your local Odgers Berndtson contact.

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