In September, Diligent’s Modern Governance Summit 2020 shared best practice tips and education as well as offering networking and product training opportunities.
The virtual event delivered insights to a range of governance professionals, from corporate secretaries and general counsels to board administrators, clerks and executive assistants.
Among the presentations was a session entitled “Entity Governance is a Team Sport,” where Teresa Redman, Entity Manager at World Fuel Services, and Kristin Drake, Senior Director of Customer Success at Diligent, presented a practical session. Redman shared her experience using entity management software to streamline and improve World Fuel Services’ legal entity governance. Here are several of the session’s key takeaways.
Entity Management Inefficiencies Laid Bare
Drake opened the session with a common complaint she has heard innumerable times; those responsible for entity governance are “so tired of answering the same questions over and over again.”
This duplication is symptomatic of an unstructured or uncoordinated approach to entity management. Inefficient approaches lead to unnecessary repetition – and importantly, to unreliable entity governance.
Conversely, having a single source of truth for all your entities ensures data integrity, making entity governance simpler, smoother and more robust.
Having been through three implementations of entity management solutions, Redman is well-placed to talk through the potential pitfalls as well as the success factors.
Encouraging Users to Optimize Entity Management Software
As anyone who has ever tried to implement any new software knows, adoption is the key.
At the start of the implementation process, Redman engaged directly with users – or as she calls them, her clients – who are wide-ranging, including finance directors around the organization, as well as accounting, tax and treasury teams, to understand the data and insight they would need.
Because they often use this data, in Redman’s words, “at a moment’s notice,” giving this group fast, unconstrained access is essential, as is being able to configure the software in a way that mirrors users’ needs. With Diligent Entities, Redman could create data libraries and quick links that allow users to access the right information instantly.
Customizing the Portal for Optimal User Experience
Of course, it’s not just the end users who need to be considered. The needs of the system’s administrators are equally important, as Drake pointed out. Entities gives administrators their own portal, which can be configured to make their own lives easier.
As Redman noted, the software is “So versatile…any bucket of data that you want to put in, you can,” with hot keys giving users at-a-glance insight into their priority areas.
The management group, of course, won’t need access to all the data seen by administrators. Redman therefore created a custom management portal that was highly streamlined in comparison to the administrators’, and designed very much with her clients in mind.
All information within a certain group or region can be easily retrieved, giving users immediate access to their required data sets.
Creating saved searches means that all back-office teams – tax, company secretarial and accounting functions – can quickly and easily access the information they need to produce annual accounts and reporting across all entities.
Some teams – legal, for instance – may have increased requirements around security and access. Redman addressed this by building specific areas for her legal team, with access to data libraries controlled.
The portal-based approach is invaluable here, making it simple to add security parameters where needed, but enabling those with permission to find it information swiftly and simply.
“I Don’t Even Have to Train My Users”
Another key benefit of Entities’ portals is their ease of use. Because they are intuitive and user-friendly, no formal training is needed. As Redman says, it’s possible to tell users to “click around, do whatever you want – you can’t break anything”.
As a result, administrators save time in not having to walk anyone through the solution. The ability to set up bespoke portals gives all users a single source of truth in the most reliable way, and with minimal impact on the administrator.
The Benefits of Sub-Portals
Building her legal advice data library showed Redman the benefits of sub-portals in delivering specific information to particular groups.
When the credit and collections team wanted a synopsis of all the information on the legal site, Redman built a bespoke sub-portal within the legal advice library.
This gives the team the facility to see relevant information – in their case, around ship arrests in different jurisdictions – without needing to wade through the wider site. Entities enables you to build tailor-made sub portals for very niche areas; a huge help in a global organization where it can be very difficult to stay on top of legal entity governance.
Similarly, a sub-portal Redman built for her treasury team enables them to access legal documents in the simple and relevant way they need. A checkbox approach allows the team to search relevant information, while the ability to show whether a document is active or historical (and default the treasury view to show active documents only) streamlines their searches, making the team’s life easier and saving significant time.
In this way, Entities provides comprehensive storage, and reassurance that all historical data is retained, while guiding users to the most relevant content.
Maximising the Use of Data Libraries
The data libraries in Entities provide the “backbone” of Redman’s approach; she believes this is the most customizable area of the software.
Redman and Drake agreed that the key here is to work out your required process first and then to decide what you need by way of solutions to help you follow that process. As Teresa says:
“You have to build your processes, and then implement those processes using the database. First you have to figure out what you want to do, then implement”.
Because Entities is so customizable, it has demonstrated its ability to support any process that Redman has wanted to implement to date.
Deep Dive Into Minute Books
Kristen noted that keeping minute books online is a growing trend, as organizations realize the value of being able to access and search previous minutes remotely.
Redman has used Entities’ data libraries to build minute books that mirror what would typically be found in hard copy on the corporate secretary’s shelf, but with the added benefit of being easily accessible and searchable.
Following the “Keep it Simple” approach – inputting enough data to be useful, without over-complicating – Redman has indexed past minutes, enabling teams to find specific information, decisions and actions by date.
The categories available in Entities make this search powerful, with set fields eliminating the potential for free-text searches that miss potential matches. Checkboxes make this foolproof, enabling corporate documents to be reached easily, simplifying year-end activity and making it more robust.
Oversight of Power of Attorney Status
Power of Attorney (POA) information is another area where legal entity management software can be invaluable. Being able to quickly and accurately see the signatory authority someone has, and for which entities, is vital for business continuity, and an issue Drake noted is a problem for many organizations when someone leaves a firm, particularly if unexpectedly.
Entities makes it easy to see which POAs you need to cancel in this situation. Additionally, the ability to set alerts for POAs expiring both helps people to manage their own authority and provides management teams with requisite oversight.
Entity Governance Is a Team Sport
Redman points out that, as with raising children, entity management “takes a village”; something she sees evidenced daily. She recounted stories of people coming to her having spotted missing information – because Entities makes it so easy to see what’s not there.
As a result, people in the business teams take ownership of the database, identifying missing or incorrect data, and consequently keeping it current. Teresa gives people access to manage their own areas, but makes them accountable for maintaining data integrity.
As she notes, “It’s become a database that everybody owns” – and anyone who manages database software will know how rare that is!
Helping Others to Help Themselves
The presentation shows that the governance of entities is indeed a team sport. Everyone is responsible for accessing and using the data at their disposal, and for keeping this data accurate. A good entity software solution facilitates and supports this, making it easy for people to do what’s needed.
Making the most of the system you have; empowering your teams to access and use the data available; finding software that will support your processes and streamlining access while delivering robust information – all of this will increase the efficiency, robustness and reliability of your entity governance.
The last words are probably best left to Teresa Redman, describing Diligent Entities:
“You can do anything you want with [Entities]. You can build any database of knowledge within it.… There’s so much organization you can do that doesn’t take long.… Then it helps everybody.”
Find out more about Diligent Entities, and how it can help you to ensure entity governance is a team sport in your organization, on our website.