Aimé Achard, ECA: “Having a dedicated committee allows for a more detailed treatment of IT matters”

Read the article >> What is the role of boards of directors in digital transformation?

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Why is digital transformation a topic for the ECA Board?

IT is a bit of a misnomer of matters dealt with by boards of directors, as it generates risk, costs money and improves the profitability and functioning of the company. Upon returning to the matter, the board of directors corrected an anomaly. Beyond IT, digital transformation interests the board of directors in many ways. First of all, a transformation process represents a significant weight for the company and the board can hardly refrain from observing it. So this transformation often has a strategic dimension and the board of directors is responsible for taking care of the strategy, helping to plan and making sure that we do what we decide to do. . It is also the inalienable duty of the Board to manage risks and digital transformation brings many of them.

The ECA Board of Directors created a committee dedicated to digital transformation and cybersecurity. Why such a structure? What is his role? Who composes it?

There are many ways the board can approach IT and transformation. You can nominate someone to the board who has knowledge and experience in the field and who wears the IT hat – that’s one of the reasons ECA reached out to me. The risk of this approach is that this member finds himself a little alone to get interested in the subject and ask questions while the other members are bored. The board also does not have enough time to devote in depth to matters and tends to address digital transformation and cybersecurity issues solely from the cost angles when discussing budget and risk via the audit committee. & risk. The digital transformation and cybersecurity committee makes it possible to approach IT from other angles and in more detail. The structure has several advantages. First, she relieves the board by bringing relevant information to it without hogging their time. Second, the committee does not just have a monitoring function: it is also an advisory body. We go deeper into the issues, prepare them for the board, discuss the best way to explain them. For example, we did this recently for the insurance SI transformation project, one of the three pillars of the ECA along with prevention and protection. In order for these exchanges to be really useful for the organization, the general manager and the head of IT sit on the committee alongside three members of the board of directors. This hybrid composition is, moreover, a third advantage. For board members who do not have an IT background, the committee has a formative effect. And the committee takes advantage of the fact that, as outsiders, they are better able to challenge things that seem normal to people closer to the countryside.

How often does the cybersecurity and digital transformation committee meet? What topics do you usually address there?

We meet about five times a year for three hours – far more than the time the board has for these topics. There are two mandatory meetings: the preparation of the IT budget at the beginning of the year and its execution at the end of the year. Then there are recurring themes. We take stock of major projects, check where they are, and ensure they are aligned with the strategy. And cybersecurity, both from a strategic point of view and in reviewing major incidents and responding to them. In addition to these topics, there are also ad-hoc topics. It could be a project in preparation for which management wants to sound out the committee, or trending issues such as the metaverse, for which we organize a meeting with outside experts.

How is the committee perceived by management and the board?

Feedback is positive from both sides. Management understands that the committee can help it and facilitate the transmission of projects to the board of directors. As for the Board of Directors, the performance of the committee saves time in meetings, gives peace of mind in decisions and allows approaching the topic from a purely strategic point of view. Note that, like the other committees, the IT committee has no voice in decision-making, it prepares an issue and notifies the board.

How to find the right level between the strategic decisions that are of interest to the board and the operational ones that are the responsibility of management? Let’s take the example of a project to migrate certain systems to the cloud…

The thing is simple, since the canton does not allow us to enter the cloud. Now assuming this is possible, I would say that the decision to go to the cloud is an eminently strategic choice. On the other hand, choosing the Amazon or Microsoft cloud is an operational issue. At most, the board of directors could put in a few red lines. But I recognize that the distinction is not always easy. Let’s take as an example the migration of a CRM system to a market tool. If it is simply a question of changing CRM providers, it is an operational choice, but if we want to go further, using it as the basis of the information system, it becomes a strategic choice.

What factors do you think deserve special attention in digital transformation projects?

Like all transformation projects, change management is an important part. The Board of Directors is very committed to ensuring that this dimension is taken into account. It is not enough to consider the budgetary and technical aspects of a project, it is necessary to ask whether users are able to take ownership of the new systems. It is a condition for the success of a project. We also ask that this cost of adoption – in terms of resources, effort, communication – be integrated into the project and monitored by the PMO. Change management is also about other transformations. The TCE has a big movement project and the subject is also current.

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