The Digital Board: Appointing Non-Executive Directors for the Internet Economy

In less than a decade, technology has restructured our lives, from the way we get the news in the morning, to how we buy our groceries, to how we communicate with friends and colleagues. ‘Digital revolution’ seems the only term expansive enough for this social and economic paradigm shift — streaming videos, social networks, new touch-screen devices, e-commerce, real-time data analytics, and mobile everything.

These changes have been slower, however, to infiltrate the workings of corporate boards in the UK and the rest of Europe. Among the FTSE 100, for example, just 1.7 percent of non-executive directors (NEDs) would qualify as ‘digital’ — that is, executives who have spent the bulk of their careers either in companies where the Internet is central to the business model, or in strategic roles focused on leveraging the Internet.

Most chairmen would characterise digital issues as important to the board. Undeniably, these changes are altering business models, giving rise to new competitors and creating new risks and opportunities. Navigation of this shifting landscape cannot be left to the executive team alone.