Although the term “digital transformation” verges on overuse, its effects are hard to overestimate—especially for today’s boardrooms. Board members, and sometimes even C-suite executives, are struggling to understand how technology is changing their companies, and the pace is difficult to match.

In this episode, Diligent CEO Brian Stafford and Vice President of Thought Leadership Dottie Schindlinger discuss how the speed of business is impacting today’s boardrooms. Stafford and Schindlinger co-authored a new book, Governance in the Digital Age: A Guide for the Modern Corporate Board Director, which is a collection of interviews, examples, strategies and tools designed to help today’s corporate directors navigate the digital age.

“We were interested in writing a book not so much about technology itself but about the boardroom practices,” Schindlinger said. Specifically, “how things are changing in response to the speed of information and how much that speed is increasing.”

“When your business model can be upended in a morning because of a tweet, it really becomes much harder for boards to stay on top of…,” she said. “So we wanted to write a book that looked at some of these changes and speak to directors [about]…how they are coping.”

First-hand insights from extensive interviews

What I hope…people take from [the book] is a practical set of best practices and tips that come from many…of their board member peers.

— Brian Stafford, CEO and President, Diligent and co-author of Governance in the Digital Age

We took a very practical approach,” said Stafford. “This is not meant to be didactic academic research from sitting in an ivory tower. This is from sitting with board members and collecting their thoughts and ideas and tips.”

One aspect Stafford found most interesting: The board members they interviewed took a proactive approach to adding new skills and expertise to their board: “It was a constantly active conversation around, ‘how do we add the right skills and expertise to our board?’”

For some interviewees, this involved adding new people with skill sets that weren’t as prevalent with current board members. Other boards opted to bring in experts to speak to the board. Schindlinger explained, “In every interview we conducted, we were hearing over and over again how hungry these directors are for better information, and they’re not just waiting to get that information from their own company. They’re going out there and doing their own digging.”

This includes exploring institutions in a similar industry and learning more broadly about technology itself. “They’re digging into things such as AI, algorithms, deep learning techniques,” she said. “They want to know as much as they can about technologies that could be disruptive so they can be ready.”

Practical guidance for all stages of digital readiness

There are a lot of boards that feel a lot of pressure to be more knowledgeable on technology issues. They’re looking for practical guidance, and I think that’s one of the reasons we were excited to write this book.

— Dottie Schindlinger, Vice President of Thought Leadership, Diligent, and co-author of Governance in the Digital Age

Although some boards include technology experts and are outperforming their peers, Schindlinger said, “I think there are a lot of boards that are feeling the pressure to know more, to be more up to speed, to be more knowledgeable about technology issues”—a challenge the book seeks to help them overcome.

The book breaks down tips and best practices based on four detailed board archetypes, Stafford explained. “Not all boards are at the same stage in their evolution.”

Another goal of the book’s research, he said, was to gain ideas from board members about how governance professionals and companies can be more prepared for changes in today’s world, such as cyberattacks, activist investors, social movements, and regulations.

How can boards quickly access data mined from a variety of sources and use it to make more informed decisions? It’s crucial that this data is updated in real-time, not just refreshed every four or five times a year in alignment with board meetings.

Above all, this book is meant to be practical and actionable, Schindlinger said. “It’s really meant to be read on a flight from New York to L.A. and give you some practical guidance and some tips you can try.”

“There are so many books that are about when things go wrong; we wanted to write a book about when things go right,” she said.

Let’s go back to governance in the digital age, and what does the digital age mean? It means that new things are coming at companies unbelievably quickly and the bar—the expectation [of] companies to respond quickly—is so much higher.

— Brian Stafford, CEO and President, Diligent and co-author of Governance in the Digital Age

Governance in the Digital Age is currently available in hardcover and e-book through its publisher Wiley, as well as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other major booksellers. An audiobook version and translations are in the works.