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One of the constant challenges for Boards is to ensure that the urgent things get done – while also preserving space for the important things.

Traditionally, this has been achieved by delegating what’s urgent to executives, while keeping the important (strategic) decisions for the Board – and the important strategic decisions involve taking not only the recommendations of executives but also independent advice.

However, in view of current challenges, it is just probably necessary for the Board to have a more differentiated list of the key tasks that need to be done.

Boards need to keep an eye on ensuring that company executives are doing the following (going from the urgent to the important – i.e. going from what is much more actively the responsibility of executives, to what is much more actively the responsibility of the Board):

  1. Keeping up with government schemes to support businesses – e.g. furlough arrangements for employees.  Some executives are, for whatever reasons, disinclined to look to government help, not least because government regulations are normally cumbersome and long-winded.  In the current circumstances, however, it may be essential to tackle those.
  2. Cutting costs of course – indeed, slashing costs wherever possible! – but at the same time focusing on keeping employee morale high.  Depending on the culture of the company and the country/ region concerned, this may mean (apart from bigger structural business decisions) deciding on the mix of layoffs, furloughs, and proportional or disproportional pay-cuts across the whole workforce, including executives.
  3. Demonstrating concern about the physical, mental, spiritual and emotional health of your employees (including the manner in which news of cost-cutting is conveyed first to those directly affected, and then to everyone else in the company). That means not only any direct practical steps that executives take in relation to individuals and teams, but also (importantly!) being accessible, being open, and being vulnerable about the true situation of the company and its future. Of course, communication is key to that. Not least about the following points.
  4. Reconsidering the fundamentals of the company’s business:
    • all declines or increases in demand;
    • the sudden scarcity of capital, internationally;
    • the unexpectedly increased cost of capital, at the same time as bank rates have (paradoxically) declined even further;
    • changes required in the product-portfolio/service-portfolio/ infrastructure-portfolio mix,
    • changing competitive situation, and therefore:
    • if, and to the extent necessary or useful, bringing to the Board possible changes in mission/ goals/ structure/ operations and business strategy.
  5. Finding simple ways to delight, encourage and support your clients and your suppliers – who will all be feeling the stress of the current situation.  If you look after your current clients and suppliers as well as you can at this time, they will be your best ambassadors for the future.
  6. Keeping in touch with how they’re feeling and what they’re thinking will also help you to plan and scenario your business more intelligently: how many of your current clients and suppliers will change their business behaviour in the period immediately after Lockdown ends, and how many over what succeeding time-frame?
  7. Systematically keeping a wide view of developments in the entire business landscape (and not only in your immediate business areas!), will enable you to: (a) pivot your business model in advantageous ways, (b) spot opportunities for acquiring properties and businesses, and (c) consider entering into partnerships that may not have been even conceivable only a few weeks ago.

Does the current crisis, triggered by the Coronavirus pandemic, represent a one-in-a-lifetime threat?

Perhaps so, but it is also a unique opportunity for your company.

Whenever crisis-related developments enable governments to release us all to normal business, we will find that attitudes and realities are entirely different from what they were only a few weeks ago – whether in politics, in law, in finance, in business, among clients, in society or among technologists.

That is why, as you know, you need to re-evaluate all aspects of your business.

Core competencies and competitive situation need to be re-assessed, along with the entire vision, mission, strategy, structure, business portfolio, and operations.

This is the best possible opportunity to shed what is not going to be optimal for the future, and to re-focus our resources on the new directions and goals that will help take us to a bright future.

But the time to exploit this opportunity is right now.

A few of us may still be frantically busy putting out fires, but for many of us at least the routine pressures of daily business have been lessened.

So let’s use the opportunity to prepare for what we can already see will hit us immediately after this pandemic is over.

The companies that are best trained, equipped and motivated for the future are the ones who will win.


Interested?  Get in touch!

PHOTO BY Steve Jurvetson from Menlo Park, USA; CC BY 2.0,


Companies need to have an overview of the implications of the arrival of quantum technologies.

This is my attempt at summing up my work on all this so far:

1. SECURITY: The largest companies as well as governments are working on protecting themselves from quantum disruption of existing security systems – whether they are working as efficiently and effectively as they should is a different question! But it is not clear to me that less-large companies are doing much to prepare for quantum disruption of their existing security systems. Whether your company is large or not-so-large, if you need (free) help with this matter, in terms of an outline of the sorts of things your company can do, drop me an email and I will send it to you for no charge and no obligation:

2. PRODUCTS: The largest telecoms companies and other large providers would have been expected to have got into the field by now, but (so far) there are only a very few companies that are involved – for good reasons, as well as not-so-good reasons. What that means is that less-large companies (if they have the will, and a 5-10 year horizon) can get into the field for a relatively small budget.

3. SERVICES: Very few companies are offering services in the field of quantum technologies, so this is also a field which companies (large and not-so-large) can start eyeing, if they have a 3-5 year horizon.

4. INVESTORS: quantum technologies are a field about which you certainly do *NOT* need to inform yourself if you are a short-term investor. I expect those who are NOT short-term investors to include governments, large companies, pension funds, reinsurance and insurance companies, but also *individual* investment analysts if they expect to work, of if their investment horizon is, beyond the next 3 to 5 years

5. EXECUTIVE DEVELOPMENT: If quantum computing is not already part of your curriculum, then you are programming your organisation for obsolescence in something like 5 years. If you want to avoid such obsolescence, do ensure that you include at least the following: the basics of quantum physics, an update on the current state of development in quantum technologies, and a discussion of the implications for your company.

6. RECRUITMENT INTERVIEWS: Do you already establish whether ALL potential recruits (including those who are intended NOT to work in IT) are at least somewhat up to date on quantum technologies? If not, do ensure that your company trains everyone involved with recruitment for your company both in the minimum they need to know, and for the best ways of checking on the level of knowledge and awareness of potential recruits.

7. TRAINING: Are basic modules on quantum technologies (quantum physics, and an update on the current state of development in quantum technologies) included in your training programmes for every recruit? Let me emphasise that that includes not only everyone working, and expected to work, *in* IT, but also everyone working, and expected to work, *outside* IT.

8. BUSINESS PROCESSES: Though some companies have indeed worked out the security-related implications of quantum technologies for each business process, I am concerned that very few seem to have done thought through the implications for each business process itself. The least your company can do is some scenario-planning in the light of developments in quantum technologies, given that it will probably take your company at least 3-5 years to implement changes in key business processes.

9. GOVERNANCE: There is huge discussion about relatively unimportant things like diversity in Boards, when essential developments such as AI and quantum technologies are being ignored. Adequate attention at Board level means asking at least the following:

9a. Do Board members have regular briefings (at least once a year) on latest developments in what I call “horizon technologies”? These include quantum technology and AI, though of course companies in different fields need to keep other specific business-portfolio-relevant “horizon technologies” on their radar.

9b. Has the Board created a mechanism for ensuring that there is an up to date dashboard of the portfolio of technologies in the company which are fully-integrated, those which are partially-integrated, those which are experimentally-integrated, those which are being evaluated for integration, and those which are being watched on the horizon? Is the key person responsible for each of these named, with at least 3 successors in line for each? Are the budgets for each of these adequate?

9c. How does the Board currently benchmark against key competitors the company’s level as revealed by the dashboard?

9d. Is the dashboard regularly vetted (at least every 6 months) by a qualified external board of experts?

9e. Is “technology-competence” adequately defined for members of the Board, members of the top Executive Committee, other senior executives, mid-level executives, and tech professionals? Are these definitions regularly vetted (at least every 6 months) by a qualified external board of experts? Are Board members and other members of the company regularly assessed in relation to the definitions of competence required at those levels? Are proper incentives in place to encourage company executives to keep up with the increasing levels of competence required? Are appropriate training and development opportunities in place?

I’ve probably missed at least one or two things in my summary and overview above.

Happy to have corrections/ amendments/ additions/ caveats/ questions. Best via an email to me: