Southern Railway provides train services from London to the South coast of England on 414 miles of track. The railway operator manages 156 stations, operates a fleet of around 300 new or refurbished trains seven days a week, and employs more than 4,000 people, most of whom work at the company’s stations and aboard trains. Given the environmental implications of running a transportation company, Southern Railway has initiated a number of sustainability initiatives to minimise its environmental footprint, one of which was implementing a board portal solution.
A railway that boasts 176 million passenger journeys every year requires the highest standards of governance. Each month, Southern Railway holds group and executive board meetings. This is where the activities of all of the four sub-boards of the railway company — from HR to finance to fleet management — are reviewed with the managing director, Charles Horton. In turn, the railway’s sub-boards also maintain a monthly meeting schedule.
But the process of gathering the reports from as many as 20 different sources was daunting. Printing, collating, binding and distributing papers for different boards and sub-boards into cohesive board packs took up to three full days of staff time. According to Heather Spring from Southern Railway’s administrative office: “It took us half a day just to collate the material for each of the different groups. All totalled, three days of valuable resources were effectively gone each month. Although it’s important work, doing it more efficiently would have freed us up to focus on more urgent matters.”
Frustrated by the inefficiencies of paper processes, management decided that Southern Railway would modernise, and instead switch to a digital approach for board meetings. A number of board portal solutions were scrutinised by a team from the railway, and ultimately the Diligent Boards™ solution was selected for its impressive security and features.
Initially, the executive and group boards adopted the solution, followed by all four sub-boards. Board members, directors and administrative teams were trained by a dedicated account manager from Diligent on using the tablet-based solution. The transition from paper to digital was nearly instantaneous. Heather Spring explained: “What we wanted most was the ability to adopt the solution without any productivity hiccups. And since the Diligent Boards solution is so intuitive, none of our directors had any issues.”
From a board member perspective, the Diligent Boards solution saves them from transporting large board packs from meeting to meeting. And it makes annotating reports much easier. From the administrative side, the solution saves time: Instead of the three days it took before, it now takes no more than a half hour to prepare the information — from loading the board materials to linking to the agenda and publishing to the directors. It also saves paper, toner and other waste, something that’s important given the railway’s focus on reducing its environmental footprint within its facilities and across the English countryside. One unexpected benefit, according to Heather Spring: “It makes sharing documents with other relevant people, such as external auditors, easier as well.”
Overall, using the Diligent Boards solution has resulted in tangible time and environmental savings for the Southern Railway team. As Heather Spring said: “We are delighted the system continues to work so well for us.”