Five Tips for Putting Your Board Online
BY Ralph Ward
Using Communications Technology for Better Board Results
June Klein, president of Technology & Marketing Ventures in New York City, specializes in bringing technology into the boardroom. Here are a few of her ideas.
"Smaller companies, particularly those in high tech, are making the most use of their boards with technology. Secure online chat sessions let them use directors' expertise from around the world, and they use more electronic mail and host more remote committee meetings. These companies actually build technology into their boards."
"It's very important for the board to have its own technology adviser, someone who can talk about things like the year 2000 issue, other tech trends, and how they'll affect the company." Klein urges boards to actively search a variety of sources for a tech adviser and not just fall back on the corporate chief information officer, if one exists. "There's a saying that CIO stands for 'career is over.' You're going to be on that board a lot longer than the CIO will be there, so talk to the people responsible for technology in each business unit."
Speaking of monitoring technology issues, remember that some will have a direct impact on results. (The Securities and Exchange Commission is now mandating that corporations monitor and report their exposures to year 2000 problems). "You have to put together a team of contacts on legal, audit, and tech issues to know the effect of these matters on the bottom line. This is part of the board's fiduciary duty, and there can be liability exposures."
When remodeling company headquarters, build strong communications tech capability into the new boardroom. "It's not just a mahogany table anymore. It's very important when setting up the boardroom to coordinate the architecture, design, and technical specifications up front."
Liability Note: Remember that greater use of online technology for board discussion opens new exposure to liability and breaches of privilege. Klein's advice: "Monitor your e-mail, dispose of everything at the end of 30 days, build in encryption, and make sure that directors wipe clean their hard drives at remote locations too."