Embracing Technology in the Future Boardroom

James Beasley is Head of Board Advisory in the EMEA region at Nasdaq. This post is based on a publication by Nasdaq Governance Solutions.

Technology is transforming how businesses operate and communicate. Businesses of all shapes and sizes are constantly assessing how new technologies might expedite and enhance ways of working—the boardroom is no exception. Technological developments in the boardroom can help enhance oversight and decision-making effectiveness and free up time.

As the current debate around rapid developments in artificial intelligence (AI) has shown, it is important to consider the risks alongside the potential benefits of emerging technologies. The work that boards perform, as well as the nature of the information they receive, means that any decisions around embracing new technologies carry weight. But that doesn’t mean that boards should shy away from innovation.

I recently discussed the opportunities for board members to embrace technology in the boardroom as a guest on The Chartered Governance Institute UK & Ireland’s podcast, where I offered some perspective for boards looking to improve their efficiency and decision-making.

The Importance of Embracing Technology in the Boardroom

Boards need to be planning for the next stage of their evolution in the years ahead and consider how emerging technologies might enable them to discharge their responsibilities more effectively through more informed and efficient decision-making.

Just as board members embraced the iPad and board portal software, today’s board members should exercise curiosity when encountering new and innovative technologies and take ownership for understanding trends and new developments as they emerge.

Emerging Boardroom Technologies

An important tool in member’s arsenal to tackle complex issues is scenario planning and wargaming, where companies play out “what if” scenarios to understand the potential impact on the company. In such scenarios, we can imagine the use of “chaos bots” and AI technologies to run real-time scenarios, challenge assumptions and actions and to uncover challenges or solutions that hadn’t been envisaged.

Innovative technologies could help in the boardroom day-to-day as well. One concept that wouldn’t require a big leap is robotic corporate memory—virtual or digital assistant technology in the boardroom—providing an interactive source of information to support decision-making by allowing board members to ask questions about historical performance, events or discussions.

Similarly, board members may imagine utilizing real-time analytics, “living” management information taking the concepts of dashboards and infographics a step further as a useful boardroom tool. Harnessing this technology would allow board members to access and visualize data as they need, rather than relying on what is presented to them alone.

Finally, crowdsourcing technology could help boards access and understand stakeholder perspectives when they need to do so, by gauging responses to particular scenarios or plans and allowing that information to be analyzed in the boardroom.

Finding the Right Fit and Recognizing Risks

With all the amazing technology that will surface in the future, boards need to be careful to identify opportunities for real, added value and think carefully about how and when those tools should be used. While there are benefits of leveraging technologies like the ones referenced here, there are also potential risks.

Integrating new technology in the boardroom is an exciting prospect, but board members need to be mindful of risks such as over-reliance on technology in decision-making. Boardroom discussions could become limited by deferring to technological solutions that are supposed to enhance debate but instead, distract board members and derail productive discussions. As a worst case, board members can imagine questions around abdication of responsibility, deferring to technology in place of, rather than as an aid to, board members’ own inquisition and due diligence.

There are also valid concerns about the impact of cybersecurity and information security, where AI or interactive bots might be involved. Boards will need to carefully consider how data is stored, what information would be accessed and what discussions might be listened to.

Therefore, it is important for boards to see the best opportunities for technological advancement in their own boardrooms and consider how technology will support their work and not distract from or compromise it.

But while technologies may carry risks that need to be addressed, innovations can also help improve security and enhance efficiency. While not new to the boardroom, board meeting management technology for example, like Nasdaq Boardvantage, is designed with end-to-end security features. Boards can manage meetings, collaborate and make decisions—from one central dashboard—knowing multiple layers of security are in place. When done right, and with potential risks suitably in mind, technology will continue to transform how companies are led for the better.

Adapting for the Future

No matter the challenges boards may face in the coming years, a duty of curiosity is key to meet the constantly evolving landscape of risk and seize new opportunities. My advice for boards looking to integrate new technology in the future is to be connected to the right advisers and think about those partners with whom the company has valued, trusted relationships and connect them with the board.

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