The events of the last 18 months have put IT firmly onto boardroom agendas as the COVID pandemic and government lockdowns necessitated rapid transitions to home working.  Before then, IT rarely appeared on board-level agendas but the impact from COVID, increasing incidence of cybercrime and the opportunities available from digital transformation now makes IT a key area for board consideration.

The IT function has generally been off the radar at board level up to now since IT is just about ‘keeping the lights on’, isn’t it? If you could log on to your laptop, connect to the company’s servers and access the applications you needed, you didn’t give it a second thought. In essence, if you didn’t hear from the IT team, you assumed everything was fine.

That all changed with COVID. At a very basic level, the pandemic and move to working from home was an operational shock to many companies simply because their teams worked on desktop computers, not laptops; then when they had sourced the right equipment, they had to figure out how to safely and securely connect them to the company’s shared areas and networks. Many companies at this time found their IT infrastructure lacking in flexibility which has led them to re-consider their IT strategies.

Read the news and it’s no secret that cybercrime, in the form of phishing, ransomware, and DDoS attacks, has become more prevalent and the shift to homeworking has given cyber criminals the opportunity to exploit vulnerabilities in remote working connectivity. Cybercrime is a key risk to every company: do you have adequate firewalls and email filters? Do you have adequate cybercrime insurance? If you do, I bet the insurance premium has increased, and there’s a reason for this!

In tech you need feet on the ground, eyes on the horizon

If you’re like me, you’ll be hearing and reading a lot about digital transformation and how this can help your business. Everyone is talking about it and what you want to know is how this can actually improve your business operations, customer service, and ultimately your financial returns. There is tremendous opportunity for companies of all types and sizes to enhance the value of their business through digital transformation but there are many – particularly in the SME area – that don’t fully understand the concept. 

Whilst digital transformation programmes are being led by IT-heavy industries such as manufacturing, financial services, utilities and tech, all sizes of company in all sectors can benefit from making changes to their IT infrastructure, increasing automation, analysing performance data, and outsourcing their applications and hosting requirements. If you can make your operations slicker, improve your customer experience and enable faster decision making then you’ll be getting ahead of your competitors. 

If IT isn’t hitting board level in your company, then it should be! Essentially, we are discussing risk and strategy across the entire business, which is why there is a new appetite for working with robust IT support companies.

At SysGroup I have the  role of CFO and as an IT managed services provider we have a chief technology officer who sits on our executive board. This ensures that IT risks and opportunities are permanently positioned on our agenda. However, I know there are many companies, particularly in the SME sector, where the IT function reports into the CFO or FD. Being the type of people that CFOs are, we are far more comfortable with holding the responsibly for finance, legal and even the people functions. IT is the area which keeps CFOs and FDs awake at night because we feel exposed by our own lack of knowledge in this area whilst typically being the board member that sits in charge of business risk.

Treat your people like your best customer

If you look at how we deal with risk at SysGroup, we maintain a risk register where IT is front and centre because we understand the exposures and we’ve invested in it properly. However, it’s important that all companies have a handle on the business risks that sit within their day-to-day operations, along with the specific risks of cybercrime, tech lifecycles, systems resilience and disaster recovery plans. 

As a CFO or FD with responsibility for IT, what you can do is keep yourself up to date on IT developments, conduct a review of your IT risks, and talk to your IT support provider to see how IT digital transformation can enhance your business. 

It really is important that the board understands all of this, whether it’s the risks associated with IT or the benefits that can come from a programme of transformation. The pandemic tested every company’s IT infrastructure and it’s the right time to review your IT strategy. It’s time that IT is firmly placed on every board’s agenda.