READER QUESTION #1

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We have a relatively small IT department and are looking for suggestions on how to make our board more aware of the work we do and what's involved from our side in many of the projects undertaken, without setting up an invitation for board micromanagement. Does anyone have any suggestions for pulling this off?

Terry Treadwell, Director Market Strategie, Summit Information Systems, Corvallis, Ore.

Developing board confidence in your IT department abilities is commendable. Helping them understand how your credit union's management information systems will directly support the credit union strategic directions and initiatives-further develops this confidence.

Assuming your credit union has a strong internal control culture in place, providing them with an executive overview highlighting the major milestones for each key project should be sufficient.

For large IT projects such as a core system conversion, it is helpful to provide your board with summary information so they understand your conversion plans are clear, comprehensive, and on track.

Board members are better educated in credit union operations today and are regularly participating in high-level strategic planning sessions with the credit union management team.

These meetings set the stage for reviewing and discussing the strategic issues relevant to the future of your credit union and its members leading to the creation of detailed operating plans for the upcoming future period.

Micromanagement is avoidable when board members are able to critically consider credit union exposure risks and then approve the plans-with specific implementation tasks left to the discretion of management.

Theresa Benavidez, Chief Technology Officer, USERS, Valley Forge, Penn.

If you have not already done so, I would recommend that you put together a solid technology plan that is both narrative and project-focused.

The narrative portion of your plan should aim to provide your board with a good description of what it will take to complete your projects from a task-oriented perspective, as well as a financial perspective.

Don't forget to articulate the business goal of each project, i.e., why is this initiative of value to the credit union, what business goals is it aligned with, and what benefits do you expect it to provide?

The project portion of your technology plan should include a concise description of each project in layman's terms, along with high-level milestone dates for each. A well-developed plan should provide your board with enough information to understand what it takes to run your IT department and to implement the technology initiatives that are critical to your organization, without giving them the impression that they need to get in there and help you.

Christopher Barber, Chief Information Officer, WesCorp,

San Dimas, Calif.

At WesCorp I publish a high level monthly "news letter" outlining the major initiatives completed during the previous month. To make it easy to read I provide an "Executive Summary" listing each initiative with a brief description.

At the end of the brief description I provide a hyperlink to a more detailed description for readers who want more information.

This way the reader can scan the summarized listing for the big picture and get more detail if needed.

Jim Berthelsen, SVP/General Manager, Harland Financial Solutions, Pleasanton, Calif.

One of the best ways of ensuring that Credit Union Board members are aware and involved in the work accomplished within the IT department is to get them more involved in deciding which projects to undertake. The primary reason a Board would micro-manage would be if they did not understand or agree with the projects IT was undertaking.

Ideally, the Board would be setting goals and objectives for the organization and these goals and objectives would directly drive the work IT is doing. If this isn't the case, it is the job of IT to demonstrate to the Board the value of the projects they are undertaking. If IT cannot convince the Board of the value, then there may not be a valid reason to undertake the project.

If the Board is fully aware of the projects, agrees with the value, and is happy with the results, they would have no reason to micro-manage. Publishing a roadmap, timeline and required resources may assist in keeping the Board apprised of progress on projects. They will then feel as if they are informed without the need to go directly to employees for updates.

A good IT department is working towards the agenda of the company, not its own agenda. Get the Board more involved up front and you'll probably have a more informed and happier customer.

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