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Advice to the C-Suite: Bring Your IT Pros into the Boardroom

April 27, 2012
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Dr. Robert Plant

BlackBerry and Blockbuster fell short when it came to looking ahead in technology investments, according to the School’s Robert Plant, an associate professor of computer information systems. Plant, who’s published dozens of academic articles and frequently writes about technology for Harvard Business Review and The Wall Street Journal, discussed IT issues facing CFOs at an interactive breakfast discussion in March.

The discussion, “Getting Smart about IT: Strategic Perspectives on Information Technology Investment,” was co-hosted by the School of Business and the South Florida chapter of the CFO Alliance in conjunction with its South Florida Board of Advisors and Partners. The event brought together the region’s finance leaders to discuss the importance of integrating IT into board meetings and the “corporate culture.”

Plant stressed how a company’s CIO, or lack thereof, affects its success, while helping CFOs see past the complexities and uncertainties synonymous with anything related to information technology. He praised Apple for its visionary leadership in the early 2000s when the company shifted gears from trying to sell their processing systems, which have never been able to compete financially with Microsoft, to products such as the iPod.

“Apple knew what it was doing by looking ahead for the next big thing,” said Plant, who credits other companies such as Netflix and Cisco as “winners” in the IT game.

What can a company do to stay afloat as technology constantly changes? Bring IT professionals to the boardroom and board members to IT, according to Plant.

“A CIO needs to see very far into the future and this can have tremendous benefits for companies,” he said. “If your board is connected to IT and technology, good things should happen.” Currently, there is only one CEO of a Fortune 500 company in the U.S. who sits on a technology committee and only 91 of these 500 have technology committees within the company.

“It’s very rare for board members to have technology backgrounds, but that may change,” said Plant, who sees the roles of CFO and CIO merging in the future.

Director of the Intelligent Computer Systems Research Institute, Plant has authored more than 60 peer-reviewed research articles and books in the area of technology. He earned his PhD in artificial intelligence and computer science at the University of Liverpool, England.

The partnership between the School of Business and the CFO Alliance has facilitated numerous discussions and debates among CFOs in the area, helping them overcome the corporate challenges they face in today’s market. Through live in-person events, virtual interaction and a knowledge base that delivers relevant information and support, the CFO Alliance provides financial executives with information and guidance to lead their organizations through times of challenge and transition, and to drive performance and results.

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