Social Media, Big Data Get More Attention From Corporate Directors

A PwC study found 41 percent of directors say they are now at least moderately engaged in overseeing the company's monitoring of social media.

big data and IT management

Nearly half of corporate directors have not discussed the company’s crisis response plan in the event of a security breach and more than two-thirds have not discussed the company’s cyber-security insurance coverage, according to a PwC report.

However, there was a noteworthy year-over-year improvement in directors’ views about their company’s IT strategy and IT risk mitigation approach.

Forty-five percent now believe their company’s approach very much contributes to, and is aligned with, setting overall company strategy, while 26 percent of directors very much believe it provides the board with adequate information for effective oversight (compared to 37 percent and 22 percent in 2013).

A greater percentage (66 percent) also believes their company’s approach is supported by a sufficient understanding of IT at the board level (compared to 64 percent in 2013).

The use of external IT advisers to assist boards is also on the rise, with 38 percent of directors now saying their boards use external IT consultants—compared to 26 percent in 2012.

The study also found 41 percent of directors say they are now at least moderately engaged in overseeing the company’s monitoring of social media for adverse publicity–compared to 31 percent in 2012.

There was also an 11 percentage point increase in directors who are at least somewhat engaged in overseeing employee social media training and policies. Similarly, almost half of directors are now at least somewhat engaged in overseeing employee use of mobile technologies–double that of two years ago.

"Directors are increasingly recognizing the role that social media is playing, or can play, in the success of their companies," Don Keller, partner in PwC’s center for board governance, told eWEEK. "Social media can be integral to company strategy and can provide an excellent source of customer feedback to products or services offered by the company, but even more importantly, monitoring can lead to more effective marketing and targeted offerings by providing early product acceptance and pricing feedback to allow for immediate response."

Keller said other benefits can come from more effective product development, increased collaboration techniques among the workforce and early detection of potential problems, including warranty and service issues.

"Social media monitoring can also detect potential activist campaigns and serve as an early warning to other potential challenges that require the application or development of crisis management plans before the crisis occurs," he explained.

Directors acknowledge that big data and cloud technologies are two areas that could use more of their attention, with over a quarter saying they are not sufficiently engaged.

Only 53 percent of directors say their company’s IT strategy and IT risk mitigation approach “at least moderately” take sufficient advantage of big data.

"Directors are asking their companies about the use of big data and the relevance of the data to their particular business model. In situations where big data is relevant to the company’s business, directors are also inquiring about and establishing which key metrics they would like to have reported on a periodic basis to the board," Keller said. "They are asking questions about the relevance of big data in the context of the overall company strategy but are mindful of the potential for lost productivity due to ineffective analysis of the data."