Advisory boards for Digital, Social Media and Cyber Security, or advisory councils, provide the knowledge of young technology executives without the financial or legal responsibilities necessary to be a board member.

PartnerCom-Advisory-Boards-Digital-Social-Media-Cyber-SecurityAs cyber security, cloud computing, e-commerce, and digital/social media are rapidly developing, businesses around the world are under increasing competitive pressure to undergo a digital transformation. Corporate directors and senior executives often do not want to allocate a valuable board seat to a digital/IT expert, who is often in his or her 20s or 30s and without financial, management, or regulatory expertise. Instead, they are creating technology, or digital, advisory boards.

The rising stars of the digital and social media worlds often prefer the occasional strategy sessions of these councils to the scheduled time demands of corporate boards. Formal board service also often requires extensive pre-reading preparation and time spent at board and committee meetings — none of which are of interest to digital advisory board members of this cohort.

Who is creating them — and why?

AmEx/ OPEN, Medtronic Diabetes, Unilever, IBM, and Clubcorp, among others, are creating these new advisory boards to:

  • Help anticipate digital trends that will be shaping the expectations of customers and demands of suppliers.
  • Address structural issues, such as whether social media should be a separate discussion or integrated throughout the corporation.
  • Provide dialogue on social media, big data, or mobile technology initiatives.
  • Provide input on the ways to drive new customer revenue online.
  • Develop digital and social media guide- lines for executives and employees.

Who is joining?

Digital advisory boards tend to be comprised of 5-8 members from a variety of ages. The younger ones may work at Facebook, Google, Huffington Post, or successful startups. Older members are often senior executives at companies that are implementing digi- tal strategies for themselves (e.g., Disney, a Big 4 accounting firm, Verifone) or directors of companies that are using social media in an effective way (e.g., Bebe, Hot Topic).

Successfully creating and 
managing an advisory board
requires planning and developing a skills matrix based on
the company’s strategic goals
and challenges. What are the
gaps in knowledge that this
advisory board candidate can
address? How has this person
driven strategy in their own
company similar to what we
want to achieve in ours? Where can this per- son bring the board and the top team up to speed on what’s happening digitally in differ- ent geographies around the world?

How do digital advisory boards communicate?

These advisory boards typically meet 2-3 times per year, with updates from the company’s executives and monthly memos. Sometimes there is a conference call on a key issue such as a new digital media strategy or a website launch. It’s important to structure the meetings to discuss not only the vision but the strategy and tactics as well. In order to commit the time, rising stars at innovative companies want to make sure that the meetings will provide them intellectual, social, and creative capital.

Digital advisory boards tend to work separately from a company’s board of directors. While their meeting notes may be shared and board members are generally welcome in any meeting, the advisory board reports to management.

Role models and ‘proving grounds’

In addition to providing outside-in thinking, companies utilizing advisory boards are gaining diversity and better understanding of young customers, relevant mobile expertise, and insight into digital platforms. These advisory boards also serve as role models for younger employees as companies seek to cultivate this kind of talent from within the organization.

And, as board nominating committees evaluate prospective board directors, advisory boards also function as “proving grounds” for director candidates. These councils give corporate directors and senior executives an opportunity to evaluate potential new directors by seeing the candidates in action and how they contribute to the organization.

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