Is the new face in the boardroom a digital NED?  If it is, what is expected of them and what are their challenges given the reported low level of digital savviness in the boardroom?

It is going to be different for every organisation influenced by competitive forces and what disruption is occurring as a result of the exploitation of digital.  That word digital is hard to define precisely and it is easier to think about its impact in ways that we have experience of; how we buy and sell, how we access government services, how we book a holiday, how we bank and the list goes on.  It is getting harder to name a sector of the economy that has not been impacted by digital.

With so much digital already put to work I am curious to know what is expected of the digital NED?

On 14th November 2017 Harvey Nash and London Business School Leadership Institute launched their report on what is happening in boardrooms against what they describe as a steady state of volatility and uncertainty.

The report delivers many insights into the working agenda of the board and the stand out for me was that ‘digital skills will be the most required specialist competency for non-executives over the next five years’.

Click here to download the report

The report drives home the digital theme:

Reporting on What Makes a Good Chair?  Answer – Be Digital aware

Reporting on Facing Up to Digitisation:

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

I started looking for an example of a well known business that put digital to work and the history after its implementation.  Click here for two short two minute videos that tell an interesting story about the digital transformation of a business.  That business was subsequently acquired and its capability to serve customers enabled by its digital transformation was a key decision factor for the acquisition.

Here are the reasons the CEO of the acquiring organisation gave for the acquisition: ‘the rationale for the takeover is to help shift (acquirer) towards modern online and convenience shopping habits . Underneath what we are buying [acquired] is the ability to deliver very quickly to wherever shoppers are in the UK.  Care to guess who the acquirer and acquired were?  The videos provide the answer.

Here is the thing, the CEO did not use the word digital once, it was the impact of digital and how it served the acquirer to better serve its customers.  I guess that’s the bottom line to figure out – the impact and how that is measured.

How real is this enthusiasm for the digital NED?  I found that in a blog post by Warren Partners (a leading UK executive search firm) with their tips on landing a digital NED role and what’s on the mind of the Chair that will interview you.

Korn/Ferry Institute published a report ‘The Digital Board – Appointing Non-Executive Directors for the Internet Economy’ a comprehensive read and they answer the question I set at the beginning of this blog.

What is expected of the digital NED?

Click here to access the report.



I have written about digital transformation previously and you can follow these links to read more.