"The stakes are higher for directors today, who are trying to navigate between their ongoing oversight duties and their increasing responsibility to provide foresight so that their companies are positioned for a future full of unknowns," says Susan Stautberg, chairman and CEO of WCD, the largest organisation of women directors in the world.
Amid the unknowns around everything from Brexit to cyberthreats to the "Uber economy", directors at WCD lists the trends that are forcing themselves onto boardroom agendas this year:
1. The Internet of Things and risk management
With the Internet of Things creating as much as US$11 trillion in economic value by 2025 - each year - directors are craving information on this phenomenon ranging from smart homes and cars to smart supply chains, health devices, and more. "Your opportunity as a board director is to think about how to get value out of the Internet of Things," says Florence Hudson, SVP & Chief Innovation Officer, Internet2, and a former Director of Society of Women Engineers and IEC Electronics. "But the flip side as a director is the risk management around all of this. This is an Apollo 13 moment for us - what are the risks in the Internet of Things, and how are we addressing them?"
2. Transformation of the production ecosystem
"The data enablement of products and devices has transformed the value chain - we are moving from a product-centric value chain into a customer-centric value chain," says Dr. Claudine Simson, Director & Business Development Executive, Research and IP, Worldwide Growth Markets, IBM Corporation, and Director at PRIMA Quebec. "This is disturbing the whole ecosystem. Now the product manufacturers have direct access to the end users, which they never had before. And on the engineering and product design side, they get direct feedback with the field data on their products and can analyze how the products work in specific applications - this cuts down the product development cycles."
3. Rising importance of customer support
The world of increasingly interconnected devices has the ability to make our lives much more efficient and convenient and effective - but we still have to know how to use them. "Customer support is an important vacuum in the whole evolution of innovation," says Maggie Wilderotter, former Executive Chairman of Frontier Communications Corporation and Director at Costco Wholesale Corporation, DreamWorks Animation, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, and Juno Therapeutics, Inc. "When you have smart devices and something doesn't work, people feel like they are just on their own. So companies like Frontier are the first call by customers who need help, including app use, set up, and troubleshooting. Customer support becomes part of the basic product. We are the safety net and are there for customers 24x7."
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