Many directors are feeling outmatched by the ferocity of changing technology, emerging risks, and new competitors. Here are four ways to get boards in the game.

Today’s boards are getting the message. They have seen how leading digital players are threatening incumbents, and among the directors we work with, roughly one in three say that their business model will be disrupted in the next five years.

In a 2015 McKinsey survey, though, only 17 percent of directors said their boards were sponsoring digital initiatives, and in earlier McKinsey research, just 16 percent said they fully understood how the industry dynamics of their companies were changing.1 In our experience, common responses from boards to the shifting environment include hiring a digital director or chief digital officer, making pilgrimages to Silicon Valley, and launching subcommittees on digital.

Valuable as such moves can be, they often are insufficient to bridge the literacy gap facing boards—which has real consequences. There’s a new class of problems, where seasoned directors’ experiences managing and monetizing traditional assets just doesn’t translate. It is a daunting task to keep up with the growth of new competitors (who are as likely to come from adjacent sectors as they are from one’s own industry), rapid-fire funding cycles in Silicon Valley and other technology hotbeds, the fluidity of technology, the digital experiences customers demand, and the rise of nontraditional risks. Many boards are left feeling outmatched and overwhelmed.

To serve as effective thought partners, boards must move beyond an arms-length relationship with digital issues (exhibit). Board members need better knowledge about the technology environment, its potential impact on different parts of the company and its value chain, and thus about how digital can undermine existing strategies and stimulate the need for new ones. They also need faster, more effective ways to engage the organization and operate as a governing body and, critically, new means of attracting digital talent. Indeed, some CEOs and board members we know argue that the far-reaching nature of today’s digital disruptions—which can necessitate long-term business-model changes with large, short-term costs—means boards must view themselves as the ultimate catalysts for digital transformation efforts. Otherwise, CEOs may be tempted to pass on to their successors the tackling of digital challenges.

At the very least, top-management teams need their boards to serve as strong digital sparring partners when they consider difficult questions such as investments in experimental initiatives that could reshape markets, or even whether the company is in the right business for the digital age. Here are four guiding principles for boosting the odds that boards will provide the digital engagement companies so badly need.

Close the insights gap

Few boards have enough combined digital expertise to have meaningful digital conversations with senior management. Only 116 directors on the boards of the Global 300 are “digital directors.”2 The solution isn’t simply to recruit one or two directors from an influential technology company. For one thing, there aren’t enough of them to go around. More to the point, digital is so far-reaching—think e-commerce, mobile, security, the Internet of Things (IoT), and big data—that the knowledge and experience needed goes beyond one or two tech-savvy people.

To address these challenges, the nominating committee of one board created a matrix of the customer, market, and digital skills it felt it required to guide its key businesses over the next five to ten years. Doing so prompted the committee to look beyond well-fished pools of talent like Internet pure plays and known digital leaders and instead to consider adjacent sectors and businesses that had undergone significant digital transformation. The identification of strong new board members was one result. What’s more, the process of reflecting quite specifically on the digital skills that were most relevant to individual business lines helped the board engage at a deeper level, raising its collective understanding of technology and generating more productive conversations with management.

Understand how digital can upend business models

Many boards are ill equipped to fully understand the sources of upheaval pressuring their business models. Consider, for example, the design of satisfying, human-centered experiences: it’s fundamental to digital competition. Yet few board members spend enough time exploring how their companies are reshaping and monitoring those experiences, or reviewing management plans to improve them.

Board members also should push executives to explore and describe the organization’s stock of digital assets—data that are accumulating across businesses, the level of data-analytics prowess, and how managers are using both to glean insights. Most companies underappreciate the potential of pattern analysis, machine learning, and sophisticated analytics that can churn through terabytes of text, sound, images, and other data to produce well-targeted insights on everything from disease diagnoses to how prolonged drought conditions might affect an investment portfolio. Companies that best capture, process, and apply those insights stand to gain an edge.

Engage more frequently and deeply on strategy and risk

Today’s strategic discussions with executives require a different rhythm, one that matches the quickening pace of disruption. A major cyberattack can erase a third of a company’s share value in a day, and a digital foe can pull the rug out from a thriving product category in six months. In this environment, meeting once or twice a year to review strategy no longer works. Regular check-ins are necessary to help senior company leaders negotiate the tension between short-term pressures from the financial markets and the longer-term imperative to launch sometimes costly digital initiatives.

Boardroom dialogue shifts considerably when corporate boards start asking management questions such as, “What are the handful of signals that tell you that an innovation is catching on with customers? And how will you ramp up customer adoption and decrease the cost of customer acquisition when that happens?” By encouraging such discussions, boards clarify their expectations about what kind of cultural change is required and reduce the hand-wringing that often stalls digital transformation in established businesses. Such dialogue also can instill a sense of urgency as managers seek to answer tough questions through rapid idea iteration and input gathering from customers, which board members with diverse experiences can help interpret. At a consumer-products company, one director engages with sales and marketing executives monthly to check their progress against detailed key performance indicators (KPIs) that measure how fast a key customer’s segments are shifting to the company’s digital channels.

Fine-tune the onboarding and fit of digital directors

In their push to enrich their ranks with tech talent, boards inevitably find that many digital directors are younger, have grown up in quite different organizational cultures, and may not have had much or even any board experience prior to their appointment. To ensure a good fit, searches must go beyond background and skills to encompass candidates’ temperament and ability to commit time. The latter is critical when board members are increasingly devoting two to three days a month of work, plus extra hours for conference calls, retreats, and other check-ins. Board members need to increase their digital quotient if they hope to govern in a way that gets executives thinking beyond today’s boundaries. Following the approaches we have outlined will no doubt put some new burdens on already stretched directors. However, the speed of digital progress confronting companies shows no sign of slowing, and the best boards will learn to engage executives more frequently, knowledgeably, and persuasively on the issues that matter most.

“Brilliance and intelligence have no gender,” Jyoti Mukherjee, CEO and Founder, Software Technologies Limited

Information Technology is a hot sector, and it’s exciting to see more women getting involved. But let’s not count our chickens before they hatch. We still have a long way to go before we reach gender equality at the core of the industry, and the recent boom of “women in tech” might be misleading. Just as having a website doesn’t necessarily make your new company a “tech startup,” having a blog doesn’t necessarily make you a “woman in tech.”

Literature examining the impact of women in the workplace (specifically women collaborating on teams and in leadership roles) demonstrates the need for and impact of having more women in technology. Greater gender diversity in technology can impact businesses’ bottom lines, as research from Morgan Stanley indicated.

Calls for more female participation in the economy have grown louder, often based on political or cultural arguments founded on fairness. Yet, a persuasive argument for diversity and equality can also be anchored to the bottom line, where ensuring that more women are working and leading in the workplace is simply good business, especially for investors who not only care about the ethics, but also want returns.

But the fundamental building blocks of tech—the magic, if you will—come from the engineers who write code. They are the conductors in this symphony of 1s and 0s. Amber Reyngoudt, software engineer at Milk Inc., likened computer scientists to painters or sculptors: “We actually create something with our own hands and then say, ‘I made this.’

So why is it so important to have more female coders in the tech world? Reyngoudt’s respect for the power to create highlights one of the most compelling reasons: Inspiring a new generation of women to learn computer science empowers female entrepreneurs to come up with unique solutions to new problems. Additionally, as more and more industries step into the digital age, tech will imbue every part of our economy. Computer science is a growing field, one in which we desperately need more top talent. And one in which women can’t be left behind.

Although tech industry women like Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg and HP’s Meg Whitman deserve praise for their leadership, the tech world needs more coder role models like Google’s Marisa Mayer. Only then are we ever going to convince the next generation that computer science isn’t just for boys.

Implementing Gender Diversity in Technology

How can businesses attract more women in technology roles and leadership positions? That’s a challenging task, according to Gianna Scorsone, chief operations officer at staffing agency Mondo, but there are a few ways to enhance gender diversity in technology.

  • Focus on unconscious biases: Hiring and management practices can involve unfairness and biases that occur unconsciously. Left unchecked, they can create defensiveness for employees about the way things are. Companies should check job postings for gendered wording, and anything else that might send the wrong message.
  • Include women in the hiring process: Having women interview and hire people can remove bias in the process. Another benefit is that strong female representation can lead to female employees wanting to join that type of organization.
  • Expand work-life policies: Inflexible work arrangements disproportionately impacts women, with the most common example of childcare. The technology industry is becoming more comfortable with non-traditional work arrangements, and that can provide a relatively easy way to help attract increase the number of women in technology.
  •  No matter where you are in your professional development, or what technology-related field you’re in, we offer a broad range of support, programs and resources through our internship and employment opportunities. 

Companies do not exist in isolation but are constantly interacting with external parties including vendors, partners, regulatory bodies, customers, employees or competitors. Considering the complications of such relations, there emerges the need of a mechanism to govern relations and operations that companies are involved in.

As a result, most businesses use contracts to specify the terms, expectations or commitments to stakeholders and vice versa. Contracts form a central part of an organization’s functioning – ensuring that businesses and their stakeholders are adhering to the best practices and standards hence creating strategic relationships.

Given the importance of contracts for effective business performance, it is pivotal to have in place a process that will guide the entire lifecycle of contracts – from creation, negotiation, managing changes, approval, execution, monitoring adherence and obligations, analysis & review and renewal or termination of contract data. Contract management involves the process of methodically administering contracts to ensure financial and operational risks are minimized while maximizing stakeholder’s performance.

Logically, effective contract management drives business performance in organizations. At the same time, unstructured contract management processes lead to costly operational and financial risks.

What Constitutes Effective Contract Lifecycle Management?

Contract Management involves various phases and cycles which can guide the framework of a contract management approach.

The stages include; Initiating requests for a contract, Contract Authoring, Negotiating the Contact, Approving the Contract, Contract Execution, Obligation Management, Revisions and amendments, Auditing and reporting and Renewal/termination.

Much of contract management revolves around lifecycle management. Having a good grasp of the contract management process minimizes the amount of time spent in the administrative tasks while also mitigating risks in a business relationship.

Additionally, for your contract management approach to be more useful, businesses need to implement certain best practices that ease the process of administering contracts.

  • Centralized Storage for all Contracts

Have all your contracts in a centralized repository where you can access all your contracts instantly and that is accessible to all stakeholders. This ensures accurate arrangement & storage of contracts as well as tracking of different contracts, while also providing instant access& retrieval of contract information including terms and conditions, parties involved, approval status, renewals etc.

  • Real-time Collaboration throughout the Contract Lifecycle

The drafting or approval of contracts is often a tedious and time consuming task. One goal of a contract is to ensure each side represented obtains what they’re obligated to in the contract. Through collaboration and communication between different parties involved, a contract can produce terms that are representative of all stakeholders.

  • Facilitate Compliance throughout the Contract Lifecycle

Putting in place an effective contract management process helps in providing the ability to manage or avoid risks and compliance issues through ensuring adherence to regulatory/legal and corporate requirements.

Our Contract Lifecycle Management System enables you to Practise Effective Contract Lifecycle Management

Contracts are essential to your business requirements and thus need to be allocated resources accordingly. With so much at stake, an effective contract management system is equally vital to your business operations. By investing in contract management software, you can turn contract management into a strategic process by eliminating risks while also reducing the manual effort that goes into process management. Our Contract Lifecycle Management platform, eHorizon Mkataba is a secure cloud-based platform that completely automates your processes by allowing you effectively manage contract timelines, to collaborate on all your contracts in real time,  record your contracts’ experience, and ultimately bring uniformity to all your organization’s contracts.

In the process, we not only help your organization to reduce cost and minimize risks but also save a lot of time spent in manual contract administration. Sign up for a free demo today and see how it helps in organizing and managing your contracts.

Amidst the current global COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic that is still unravelling, governments across the world are making decisions which impact the way we do business. For instance, earlier this week, the social distancing control measure was put into effect and we expect governments around the world, the private sector and individuals to similarly adopt measures that decrease risks and exposures to the COVID-19 virus.

We recognize the seriousness of this situation and the potential impacts it may have on your business as our customer. However, we want to assure you that we are fully operational to support
you during these unprecedented times. Our ability to support you is predicated on our core values- as an organization that puts customers first, and our resilience- having been in the business for the past 30 years.

We are currently set up to successfully manage all systems. processes, compliance and communications in order to continue providing uninterrupted services to you. We have taken urgent measures to minimize the risk for all our employees while ensuring 100% business continuity.

Specifically, we have taken some critical actions, including;
• Educating our staff on COVID-19 and the measures they need to take to stay safe and to continue to provide services
• Contingent measures to work away from the office should the situation escalate such that it is no longer feasible for staff to report to work
• Support capabilities are geographically dispersed so we can draw on resources in other countries should the need arise
• A ramped up overall system capacity for the online approvals and video conferencing modules in anticipation of the increased number of virtual meetings
• Closely monitored system performance on a 24/7 basis to ensure quality services

Our mission to remain your true partner in solutions that address the management of people, processes and governance. We are here to continue supporting you and your organization during this crisis and well after.

Please let us know if there is anything we can do to help you.

From its humble beginnings 16 years ago, Cellulant has grown to become a leading Pan-African financial technology company providing a one-stop digital marketplace platform with offices in 18 countries that service 34 markets in Africa.

Cellulant was founded in 2004 by Ken Njoroge & Bolaji Akinboro with $3,000. The founders, currently Cellulant’s Co-CEOs saw an opportunity to build a world class business in Africa & to transform customers’ lives through mobile technology. Today, Cellulant runs a technology platform for marketplaces that matter to Africans. They also provide the underlying digital payment infrastructure that solves pertinent problems in Africa faced by businesses, retailers & consumers.

The Challenge

Cellulant has grown from a team of two to more than 450 staff seated across 18 countries. Cellulant recognized that to make this growth of people sustainable, a dynamic payment management system was essential for this.

“We are committed to growing our people, and investing in their growth. One of the fundamental, and possibly basic ways, is to make sure that at the end of the month, they can count on their pay reaching their bank account as we have promised,” Says Sam Kariuki, Chief People Officer at Cellulant. “As we grow in numbers we have increasingly needed to integrate our payroll systems and assure that all staff have a great experience in this particular area.”

Getting started on the Integration journey
Payroll processing was a manually driven part of the business, relying on monster-sized spreadsheets and largely reactive to anything HR related. Simple tasks were burning unnecessary hours each week due to the manual nature of the admin work involved.

Results that matter to the business
Chrispinus Odhiambo, Talent and Culture Operations at Cellulant states that with the integration of eHorizon HRMS in 8 countries, “this has contributed to the effectiveness of how we process payroll. This in turn has increased our productivity. The HRMS has brought simplicity, accuracy, and efficiency to the business.”

With the seamless integration of the payroll management system, processing has become much easier, faster and efficient. Instead of day-to-day admin tasks, the People Growth Team is concentrating on more strategic initiatives – and placing employee experiences at the heart of what they do.  It hasn’t stopped there. Chrispinus is now exploring more features through eHorizon HRMS, meaning he can look outwards strategically, rather than inwards. He is tackling forward talent planning, managing resources more effectively and reducing time spent on simple tasks such as leave management and employee self-service.

“The reports tabulated provide insight and enable us to effectively and strategically plan for our company.” says Chrispinus.


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