Sitting as an executive on the board can help CIOs do their job “much more effectively”, delegates at Digital Health’s Leadership Summit in Bristol heard.

During a session entitled ‘Digital leadership essential for boards’, a three-strong panel of chief information officers debated the arguments for and against CIO or CCIOs having board voting rights.

Christine Walters said being an executive board member at St Helens and Knowsley Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust enabled her to “understand the priorities of the business and the rationale of why decisions are made”.

She said: “It helps me do my job much more effectively because I understand how to align technology with the wider aims of the organisation.

“It keeps your feet on the ground and allows you to develop an understanding of staff priorities.  It’s very easy when you run technology to get disconnected from day-to-day realities. Taking part in the activities of the hospital really helps me to understand my job better.”

Lisa Emery, CIO of West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust, argued having a CIO or CCIO as an executive board member could also help highlight “the importance of digital”.

“WannaCry did many trusts a massive favour as in it got members of the board interested in digital,” she said.

Emery also said the malware incident last May helped “pave the way for a broader conversation about what digital can do to transform the trust”.

She also showed a number of slides including one which featured tips for CIOs and CCIOs on ‘winning over the board’.

These were:

  • Know your audience
  • Play the room
  • Learn the lingo
  • Get aligned
  • Be clear and concise
  • Act like you belong
  • Prepare, prepare, prepare
  • Be receptive
  • Stay current

It was argued that understanding the perspectives of the other members of the board is key if you need them to coalesce around a business case or strategy for example. And a number of people at the session felt it was important for a CCIO or CIO to have a seat at the table so as to ensure any discussion is fully rounded, and that they can exert influence.

However there was some CIOs who felt they were able to do this successfully without being on a board.

Darren McKenna, CIO at Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust argued he does not feel disconnected and would rather concentrate on the task at hand.

Digital Health News is now putting the question out to our readers and asking them whether they feel CIOs/CCIOs should be executive board members. Vote in our poll below.