Corporate Leaders Urged to Embrace Tech Changes

Annual Governance Conference Emphasizes Need for Foresight, Flexibility

As smart phones get smarter, connections get faster and technology further redefines our world, corporate executives and board members must replace long-held business models with next-generation strategies designed to leverage emerging and “disruptive”  technologies and succeed.

This was the message delivered by corporate executives and other experts to C-suite officers and board members at the UT Dallas School of Management for the ninth annual corporate governance conference, held by  the school’s Institute for Excellence in Corporate Governance’s (IECG) on Sept. 29.

Moderated by IECG’s executive director, Dennis McCuistion, the daylong event, “Technology: Opportunities and Risks in Corporate Governance,” featured presentations and panel discussions about risks and responsibilities that business leaders face in today’s rapidly changing digital world.

“Five years from now, the press is going to be looking back at this five-year time period and say this was the great transformation,” said corporate strategist Dan Burrus.  The author ofFlash Foresight and an authority on  technological trends told the audience that 98 percent of business problems are predictable and solvable by using a systematic approach to foresight.

Executives and board members must constantly be looking forward and master the art of disruption, turning it into a fundamental tool of their business, said Philip Asmundson, telecommunications sector and managing partner at Deloitte. Cloud computing, mobility and social networks are just a few of the technologies that are reshaping the competitive landscape at an unprecedented pace, he said.

Admundson explained how it is not unusual for a big corporation to dismiss the value of a disruptive technology because it doesn’t reinforce current company goals, only to be blindsided as the technology matures, gains a larger audience and market share and threatens the status quo.

“If you make a product, you’ve got to wonder how it’s being handled by the cloud. … The cloud is going to be very important in virtually any business,” said Asmundson. “The cloud has to be an important strategy. If you’re at a board meeting and you’re not hearing what they’re doing in the cloud, you need to question that.”

Asmundson recounted the startling pronouncement made by Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google, at a technology conference in California last year. “He said every two days in 2010, we created more data than from the dawn of mankind to 2003, because it’s escalating that quickly.

“So how do boards keep up with all this? This is the challenge that we now face.”

The ability to think about the rapidity of future trends and respond quickly to change is a cornerstone of opportunity for corporations, said Stephen Schuckenbrock, president of Dell Services. Forty percent of most companies’ products have to be new at least every four years to stay competitive, he said.

“How is it that we, as board members, have the ability to hold the management team accountable for the innovation required to win while at the same time driving short-term results? If you’re not innovating, if you’re not creating speed, you’re done,” Schuckenbrock said.

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