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Tech leaders belong on the board

Last month Crimson’s CIO Search practice hosted an intimate dinner at the historic George Hotel in Stamford, Lincolnshire. A dozen technology leaders from the public, private, and voluntary sectors were invited to enjoy an evening of fine dining and discussion. In this series of blogs, we unpack the debate and explore unmissable content around IT leadership.

Topic one: CIOs and board membership

Today’s CIO needs to work collaboratively across the business; their ability to interact, influence, and empower people is paramount. CIOs need to be at one with internal and external customers and the organisation itself – they are first and foremost business leaders. Organisations that do not recognise the potential of technology leaders to revolutionise an organisation and get closer to customers will not survive.

However, the remit of a CIO can differ depending on factors such as sector, tech maturity and reporting lines. For example, some organisations treat their CIO as a Head of IT, responsible for commodities and managed by the Head of Finance. Elsewhere, a CIO is an executive team member responsible for strategic direction. For example, the police are now actively recruiting senior IT people to be part of the executive team.

The number of CIOs on the board is falling

According to the Nash Squared Digital Leadership report, published in 2021, only 65% of CIOs are executive board members. Surprisingly, CIO board membership fell by six percent from 2017-2020 despite the need for technology during the pandemic. The Chief Digital Officer or the Chief Technology Officer are much more likely to have a seat on the board. Why is this?

CIOs are often involved when there is an issue, which is also alarming when we think about the top priorities for CIOs, which have shifted towards developing new products and services or changing business models.

Last year the Nash Squared Digital Leadership report highlighted the different elements of the IT strategy that C-level technology executives are responsible for.

Senior technologists responsiblities web ready

Are we beginning to see some changes?

The State of Digital, a 2022 insight piece for tech leaders, suggested that CIOs need to balance control and collaboration to enable other technology professionals within the business to lead on changes pertinent to their skillset. Will the future boardroom be more of a revolving door, with different technology experts stepping in to advise the board?

CIOs want to drive business decisions

CIO Search Dinner guests discussed the importance of having a diverse board that is digital native and the significance of building up trusted relationships with the board. Being present for discussions is also preferable to a Non-Executive Director (NED) relaying information. Hearing ideas first-hand helps IT leaders pivot quickly and avoid acting retrospectively.

The board's appetite for change is a huge consideration for many CIOs before stepping into a role. Of course, being digital first will help organisations attract more talent, although we all know that IT leaders love a challenge!

CIOs are tomorrow's Non-Executive Directors 

Tech leaders are taking matters into their own hands by seeking out Non-Executive roles to support their career development. Meanwhile forward-thinking organisations are on the hunt for tech savvy change-makers.

Do you see yourself as a NED?

Crimson is hosting a masterclass for tech leaders aspiring to become Non-Executive Directors. You will learn how to find opportunities and the steps you need to take to become a successful NED first-hand from our network of inspiring NEDs. To request more information, please get in touch with Christine Dineen, Senior Researcher, Crimson's CIO Search.


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Read the next instalment of the CIO Search Dinner blog

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Crimson is an IT consultancy, an IT solutions provider, an IT recruitment agency, and a Microsoft Gold Partner operating across the UK.