First published on CIO.co.uk, May 2016. CIOs should still be careful for what they wish for.
For some time I’ve been voicing scepticism of the importance of the CIO having a seat on an organisation’s board to be effective. Too often it has sounded to me like a perceived shortcut to the hard work of building proper influence. Being offered board membership should be seen as an indicator of successful progress, not as a prerequisite.
I had a fascinating conversation this week with a CIO who has gone the other way. He is the CIO of a large manufacturing company, and for many years reported to the UK CEO. A few years ago, however, the international parent company decreed that CIOs shouldn’t be on the board, and so he found himself now reporting to the CFO.
The difference is stark. Unencumbered by the routine of board business the CIO has half of his week back, which is time to focus on the execution of strategy rather than the procedural matters of a directorship. Even more interesting is that he now gets much more time with the CEO – possibly because they aren’t getting sick of the sight of each other in long sessions in the boardroom. There’s more time one-to-one (more than with his CFO), and it’s of much higher value.
To an extent he thinks he is in this position now because of the network he was able to build when he was on the board, and if he were to take up a position today in a new organisation his hunch is that he’d want a seat at the top table to build new relationships. But there is undoubtedly much to learn from this relatively rare case of an ex-board CIO as to the effectiveness the different reporting lines and responsibilities can provide.