Old Game, New Rules: How boards of today are preparing for tomorrow – The Harvey Nash / Alumni Board Report 2017/18 In Partnership with London Business School’s Leadership Institute

Despite seven in 10 boards increasingly focusing on digital disruption and innovation, 43% don’t have the skills to deal with the issue, according to research released today from Harvey Nash, the global technology recruitment and outsourcing group.

For the second year in a row, the Harvey Nash Board Report: Old Game, New Rules: How boards of today are preparing for tomorrow, has collaborated with London

Business School’s Leadership Institute to investigate how boards are responding to the changing and challenging world of business and corporate affairs. The research represents the views of more than 826 non-executive directors from the UK, Nordic countries and the Asia-Pacific region.

This year a major theme originating from the survey is that for business leaders the early part of the 21st Century has been considered a period of flux, an era caught between the old and new. While nearly a third (30%) of respondents felt that a lack of technical skills is a significant block to the growth or their organisation, a high number of the survey respondents were aware that there was a need to adapt to, and in some instances lead, innovation in the digital economy. Particularly in the UK, the research suggests a heightened awareness of digital change among business leaders, with over a third (38%) of UK respondents stating that they are facing digital disruption within their organisation.

Yet there is clearly a skills gap to manage this disruption. Of the 480 board members who responded, only about 3% were from a digital background, however digital and technology experience was overwhelmingly voted as the most important skill to have, with over 45% listing this as a top priority.

With digital disruption transforming the way customers interact with every organisation from their bank to their supermarket, it’s little wonder implementing a digital culture is high on the agenda for today’s businesses.

Simon Jones, Chair of Energy Market Intelligence says: “In the tech sector the market moves so rapidly that non-executives are increasingly hands-on in strategic thinking, picking up on risk, the value proposition and the defensibility of the offering.”

Outside the technology sector, however, companies clearly need to reflect on the transformations being brought about digital technology in the wider marketplace.

“Gone are the days of taking an idea through a year-long series of meetings, committees and approvals,” says Albert Ellis from Harvey Nash. “The world moves at a faster, less tolerant pace in 2017.”

Cybersecurity concerns continue to feature at organisations globally, with more and more companies concerned about vulnerabilities and threats to their networks. Identifying suspicious activity on IoT networks and imported mobile devices are key areas of concern, as is the poor security behaviours and awareness of personnel.

Boards have an ever-increasing need to understand, anticipate and mitigate for disruptions beyond those of simple cyber security but also business transformations and technology spending. The survey identifies the following areas of necessary activity:

  • Recognise and plan for digital vulnerabilities
  • Widen the search for digital talent
  • Acknowledge that taking digital risks can bring great rewards

Albert Ellis commented: “Cyber security is moving relentlessly higher in terms of priority in this year’s survey. With new corporate or political breaches Internet security underlines the need not just for corporate vigilance, but also proactive action.”

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