5 Steps for Getting Started With Your Digital Advisory Board

The digital economy presents both threats and opportunities. Attracting the right talent you need to respond to these changes, developing the right transformation strategy, and closing the executive digital knowledge gap requires new skills and capabilities. Joshua Lowcock is an experienced advisor and director for companies in the US and Australia. Please contact Joshua Lowcock for all of your advisory needs.

McKinsey and Co. have an excellent podcast episode that talks about the value of building your digital quotient and about building a bridge between your existing corporate strategy and digital capability. The consistent advice from multiple sources, whether it’s McKinsey, Harvard Business Review, and executive recruiter Spencer Stuart is that finding the right digital person is key.

In fact, failing to act in digital could hurt your organization. Gartner recommends that boards seek to use “digital-savvy non-executives to gain an ‘Unfair’ advantage” and that “digitally ignorant boards could kill”. You can download the full Gartner report here (registration and paid subscription required).

Joshua Lowcock is an experienced digital advisory board and board member and Member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD). With experience working with Fortune 100 companies, as an Independent Non-Executive Director for ASX listed companies, investing in and advising startups, and more. If you need a digital director or advisory board member, Joshua Lowcock can help.

In this article, Joshua shares his advice and experience on building your digital advisory board.

5 Steps for Getting Started With Your Digital Advisory Board

The hardest part of any task is taking the first step. If you have already recognized that you don’t have the digital leadership you need, HBR offers 5 steps to follow, Joshua’s recommendations and observations are in italics:

    1. Recruit at least one digital director to your board. You have to start somewhere. We cannot imagine how a company could fail to benefit from such experience, perspective, and guidance.

      Hiring your first digital director to the board is the best way to signal both internally and externally that you are serious about digital transformation. It also helps overcome the inertia of identifying what digital problem you need to solve for. The first task for your digital board member can then be working with your executive team to define what digital means for your organization and what you need to solve for. 

    2. Not all digital experience is created equal. Make sure your prospective C-level or director candidate is aligned with the types of digital opportunities and challenges your company faces.

      It’s always true – all experience is not created equal. It’s often tempting to hire a digital futurist as your first board appointment. It’s best to appoint someone who is a digital expert and an outcome-focused business professional.  Otherwise you risk following digital trends that are “cool” and not because they are relevant or can make an impact on your business. Joshua’s experience at Ernst & Young, as well as MBA ensure he remains focused on finding the digital opportunities that drive commercial impact not just things that are bright and shiny.

    3. Within your executive team or your board, identify the functions where the impact will be greatest; then make sure you have a candidate who has the capabilities to align with those functions.

      Transformation of a business is hard, there are the legacy systems and processes, the practicalities of needing to keep focused on delivering on the on the day-to-day. Realistic management of expectations on both sides (and externally) is key. In Step 1, the recommended the first task is finding where to make impact. In Step 3, it about aligning on where organizationally you’re committed to driving digital transformation.   

    4. No board director or senior executive will have an impact, no matter the expertise, without a cultural fit. This is an eternal verity, but it applies here.

      HBR is on-the-money here. Cultural fit can be usurped by cultural rejection. Which means executive sponsorship is key. A digital director and a digital advisory board is only effective if your committed to listening and acting on the advice. This doesn’t mean blind acceptance of all digital recommendations, healthy push back is fine, but like any organ transplant, if the host rejects, it doesn’t matter how great the donor is. Joshua recommends have an open and honest dialogue with your digital director before they’re appointed about why your organization has struggled with digital in the past and what institutional/cultural challenges exist.

    5. Finally, ask yourself the obvious question: do you want to be a leader or a follower? Our research shows that the winners are those who’ve tackled these key issues early and decisively.

      HBR’s research in this area is conclusive. You don’t have to be the leader (or on the bleeding edge) to succeed. It’s about making impact. What you need to be clear on is deciding not just how where you want to lean in, but more importantly when and where – getting that balance right. There’s no right or wrong answer, it all comes back to making digital work for your organization. If you’re behind in digital, being a follower and celebrating early digital wins can be important to unlocking future digital transformation and leadership. Joshua can help you decide on the right balance for your organization.

Appointing Joshua Lowcock as your Digital Board Member

Whether you want to a digital director, digital transformation lead, or a digital advisory board, or digital board director, Joshua Lowcock can help. An experienced digital and marketing advisor and director, Joshua has worked with Fortune 100 and ASX listed companies and in the US, China, and Australia delivering digital capability.

Joshua serves and has served as an Independent Non-Executive Director for ASX listed companies and as an industry advisor to startups, tech. companies, and universities (learn more of Joshua’s advisory and director experience here). Joshua is also a frequent participant in the Global Chief Digital Officer Forum, holds a patent in mobile, and more. For a no-obligation discussion and initial consultation, please contact Joshua Lowcock via this website or via Linked In.

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