7 Tips for integrating tech talk into your boardroom

29 October 2014


Business and boards are now challenged by the possibilities and risks from using technology every day. David Thodey, CEO of Telstra, speaking at a recent AICD event, divulged, "As a board we wrestle with it (technology) – we are constantly asking: what are we going to be? What are the business models that are going to take us into the future?

Technology forces many businesses to constantly re-invent themselves - a continual change to tap into consumer behaviours - exacerbated by connectivity, speed, availability of technology and of social media. According to Thodey, the pace of evolution will only accelerate, not stagnate, and enterprises need to develop a robust mechanism for constant adaptation and renewal.

We know that technology is driving different business models, even for traditional businesses; particularly, the way we interact with our customers, the way we go to market, the way we capture and analyse data, even market perceptions and hence, shaping the society in which we work and live.

Following a recent Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD) event on technology, which BDO co-sponsored, and using our experience working with businesses of all sizes in this space, we have developed the 7 tips for technology and your business, a boardroom perspective:

  1. Be Customer Centric: Make the customer your focus and technology the complementary tool. The only true measure of success is how satisfied your customers are - this is often easy to say and difficult to do. Technology needs to solve problems for your market - or improve the way you support your market - for it to be pertinent. The customer relationship is always first - technology is just the enabler to fulfilling their needs.
  2. Simplicity: Technology is meant to add value through simplifying not complicating. Often as board members, we are masters of complexity and complexity is a killer. Rather, think: how will technology simplify your offering, optimise your processes or solve the problem for the market?
  3. Transparency: It is imperative that as a board we understand the different degrees of transparency and innovation that technology brings; embrace it, and use it as an opportunity. The consumers of today are more astute and discerning. Open communications has allowed the market to further dictate change, expectations are higher and the increased competition means smaller margins for error. Through direct feedback, trends and data analytics, we are better placed to make informed decisions to better service our market.
  4. Culture: Culture beats strategy every day! A business relies on the purpose and values of its people. As leaders, you should aspire to live up to your values everyday and ensure your technology is aligned with your vision and core competences. Beyond tools, this fundamental support will help spread passion and energy, and stem innovation.
  5. Innovation: Is more than a buzz word - it's not just about the technology, it's everything you do: the design; the product/service offering; culture; your approach to solving problems - all combined.

    Innovation has often been left to start-ups but it needs to come from every business. If you are not innovating, will your business survive? We all need to grasp technology and work out how it can be used to enhance our solutions. When it comes to technology, taking calculated risks can equate to opportunity. However we need to actively steer its development – continuously propagating the alignment to our strategy and objectives - to drive value.
  6. Change Management: The change process doesn't come easy. Competitive advantages – if any – are increasingly short-lived, and constant evolution is crucial to your survival and success. Competitors’ innovation is now a key determinant for customers’ expectations; even technologies in different industries can shape the consumer’s expectation of a frictionless user experience.
  7. Governance: Your boardroom must understand the impacts and risks of technology. An understanding of digitisation entails: what it means for your business, how it impacts the business and the risks and opportunities that will result. Remember, knowledge is power, hire change agents as well as technical experts who understand technology and are also willing to continue learning. You need to have an understanding of the risks and opportunities to be able to manage them.

Technology is not an option, there is no taming it. To thrive in the market, we must constantly be reminded that innovation is no longer a right, rather it is a responsibility. In the face of rapid and unrelenting change, this culture may be the only competitive advantage we can sustain.