The Team Approach

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It's only a matter of time before virtually every company has a board-level committee dedicated to overseeing information technology, according to a leading academic thinker in the field of IT management.

Harvard Business School professor Richard Nolan believes this development will be a matter of legislated corporate governance procedures that are bound to be adopted by the feds in the next several years. But I believe many companies already are adopting this approach proactively as a matter of good business policy. Moreover, this shifting philosophy has interesting ramifications for solution providers.

HEATHER CLANCY Can be reached via e-mail at

Nolan's thesis is predicated on the emergence of various regulations over the past several years, including the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. Several major companies with which Nolan is involved at the board level already have adopted the committee approach to help guide IT strategies, including household names like A&P, Mellon Bank and FedEx.

"None of us is as good as all of us," Nolan told attendees of last week's SIMposium, a gathering of IT managers in New York. His thoughts were echoed later by Doreen Wright, CIO of Campbell Soup, who said, "CIOs themselves cannot be the sole catalyst for change."

But it was one of Nolan's other comments that really got me to sit up and listen: He contends that at least one of the members of this new breed of committee will need to be what he dubs a "certified IT expert." This role has yet to be defined, but to me it signals the rise of a richer boardroom role for independent companies that can provide a solutions-oriented view of technology.

If you're involved with midmarket or enterprise customers, you will be called upon at the board level to provide perspective on strategy, liability and accountability. Your role will become more strategic. Among tasks for which the new IT oversight committee will be responsible include ensuring that a company is earning an adequate return on existing IT assets, advocating management practices to guard against obsolescence, implementing a corporatewide security policy, setting and enforcing service-level standards, ensuring against liability and, last but not least, evaluating and adopting emerging technologies.

A tall order for just one executive, don't you think?

What boardroom discussions are you having? HEATHER CLANCY, Editor at CRN, welcomes your feedback at

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