THE CEO PERSPECTIVE
Josh James, CEO and Founder of Domo
Several years ago, I had an idea about how to change the way we work with our board. I noticed big chunks of time in our board meetings were taken up by reviewing data that we knew inside and out as an executive team, but the board was hearing for the first. That face-to-face time is extremely valuable, and I wanted to make the most of every minute. That’s when I asked myself the question: if our entire company had direct access to real-time data about our business, why shouldn’t our board have the same? If the board already had the numbers when they walked into the door for a meeting, I’d hope we could spend our time together in more valuable ways. Technology made it completely possible, but the idea was something entirely new. And, to be honest, it was a bit unnerving.
Giving the board direct access to real-time data around our entire business—where would that lead? Nobody was doing that. Were we ready? Could we be comfortable with that level of transparency?
It took us a while to move from idea to action, but we made the leap a few years ago. We knew the board was in our court—and by having the board’s eyes on our business at all times, we’d have even more motivation to quickly fix those things that weren’t yet where they needed to be. I’d hoped we could get the board even more connected into the business, and not by throwing a mountain of data over the wall once a month—but by giving members the chance to live in our company’s world through a consistent feed of real-time data.
We started to see some positive impacts the next quarter, after giving the board access,. Board members didn’t need a deck the week before the board meeting to review numbers. Instead, we found they’d been following the data all quarter long. They weren’t waiting on the quarter’s closing bell to give input. The board now had the ability to advise how to pivot, hit the gas or hit the brakes when it mattered most. We’d not only engaged them deeper into the business, we’d made it easier for them to make a meaningful impact.
Since we no longer needed a significant portion of the board meeting for reviewing numbers, we could now focus our valuable group time collaborating and strategizing on action plans for growth, based on the information they had seen.
One board member told us the transparency made him feel more emotionally connected to our business, while another was thrilled he could spontaneously answer questions from his team about our business, because the data was always updated and available on his phone. For another board member, access to real-time data has made the end of the quarter feel more like an NBA playoff game. A few days before our last board meeting, I gave him a call. When he picked up the phone, I asked him what he was doing and he told me had just popped some popcorn and opened Domo to watch the month close in real time. True story.
In 20 years, I believe all boards will have real-time data visibility in their companies. In 10 years’ time, boards will demand it.
THE BOARD PERSPECTIVE
Glenn Solomon, Managing Partner, GGV Capital
As a Domo board member, how has real-time data access changed how you engage with the executive team?
I can drill down on many areas of the business in real time. As a board member, I have the responsibility to track and drill down on performance. But now, once I’ve looked at the numbers, I’m able to ask better questions and give more informed suggestions to the executive team. As a result, my interactions with the executive team have evolved from Q&As about performance metrics, to discussing the why and how behind the numbers. We get right to the drivers, which are sometimes found in additional metrics that are right at our fingertips. We also talk much more about the future based on what we know about the inputs and outputs today. The data parity lets me work as part of the team.
How has the new visibility changed your role?
I’m much more connected going into the end of each quarter. I don’t need to waste time with phone calls to ask for updates. Rather, since I have a real-time view of the business, I can lend a hand or offer encouragement where warranted.
Are you seeing any drawbacks to having a more connected board?
Only a caution: data doesn’t necessarily equal information. Both sides need to make sure there’s context in the data so no one number is over-interpreted. Josh and the Domo team do a great job describing the story behind each metric, but there’s a definite risk of too much data if you’re not careful with the execution.
Would you recommend this to other companies and boards?
Absolutely. The less a team has to update the board members, and the more a board can be used for advice and guidance once they have the right information, the more useful a board will become. After working in a data-connected environment, it now seems like a no-brainer.
What’s your prediction on the future of connected boards?
This is an inexorable trend. My life would be much better if all my companies used real-time data extensively and gave the board access to the same numbers they’re seeing. I believe companies that accept this as the new reality will see improved performance as a result.