Why Your Board Should Switch to a Board Management Software With Chat

Shelagh Donnelly
Do any of your acquaintances enjoy photography? You may know more than one individual who has invested in a fine SLR camera but shoots solely in automatic mode. The camera can still yield impressive results, but your photographer friend isn't taking full advantage of its functionality. The same could be said of one acquaintance who celebrates his business successes by investing in cars. He's rather infatuated with one European luxury car, in particular, to the extent that the vehicle has its own room in the house, rather than residing in the garage. It does leave the property from time to time, primarily for road trips or special occasions.

Nor is it uncommon for people to acquire smartphones and comfortably carry on using only some of the available features. This isn't necessarily right or wrong. However, people may feel simultaneously empowered and frustrated on learning ' long after the first battery charge ' just how useful some of those features can be.

The same may be true if you and your board have board management software but aren't taking advantage of its secure chat functionality.

This is particularly relevant given cybercrime and the risks associated with digital breaches. Hackers specifically target directors and those who support C-level executives. Despite this, and with good intentions, many board directors turn to email, text or apps for their electronic governance communications. Have a look at your board contact list. When you and your colleagues write to your directors, or send them attachments, what percentage of those communications are going out to personal email addresses or other non-secure channels?

If you communicate with even one or two of your directors via personal email addresses, you're mutually placing your board at risk ' likely without even realizing it.

Using Board Management Software With a Chat Function

You're also in good company, as reflected in Forrester Consulting's October 2018 report, Directors' Digital Divide: Boardroom Practices Aren't Keeping Pace With Technology. The report follows Forrester's April 2018 study, commissioned by Diligent Corporation, to evaluate the technology used in board governance. In the process, Forrester surveyed 411 governance professionals across 11 countries in North America, Europe and Asia Pacific.

Forrester found that 56% of directors use personal email to communicate not only with their contacts at the organizations they oversee, but also to communicate with fellow directors. An only slightly lower percentage of C-level executives, 51%, take the same approach to their governance communications.

Personal email usage is a fact of life for boards of all company sizes, even though the percentages vary moderately from one region to the other. Forty-eight percent of boards in Asia Pacific use personal email, while 51% of European boards and 53% of North American boards rely on it for their governance purposes. Even directors with access to board portal software were found to turn to personal email for board communications.

Forrester found that, although boards expressed concern over the security of data sharing and board communications, a number of governance professionals and directors don't recognize that their own communication practices are contributing to cybersecurity risks.

That raises some questions: Have the board's cybersecurity practices ever made it on to a meeting agenda? Do your onboarding protocols include any discussion of cyber safety from a governance perspective? Or has your board been so focused on oversight of the organization that its own cyber practices have been a blind spot for the board?

Reducing Boardroom Communication Risks

How to reduce such risks? The boardroom and its practices are evolving, and you can make a significant leap forward by introducing the concept of Enterprise Governance Management (EGM). EGM is the application of technological resources to meet governance needs, including, but not limited to, secure communications. It's not only corporations and institutions that need to adapt and innovate in an era of digital disruption; boards must also evolve.

Board management software with secure chat functionality is one aspect of EGM. Chat functionality refers to the ability to chat electronically, in an individual's choice of one-to-one or assorted group configurations. A key consideration, from both governance and cybersecurity perspectives, is whether you're equipping your directors and colleagues to send and receive such communications in a secure manner.

If your board is typical of the 58% of boards that Forrester found to be without board management software that has chat functionality, it may be time to ramp up the rate of evolution in your boardroom. As with other aspects of technical progress, Forrester found variances among the three regions it studied. The study concluded that boards in North America have the lowest usage rate of chat functions, at 31%. That compares with 45% of boards in Europe and 48% of boards in Asia Pacific.

Engage your board in discussion of why and how it should turn to EGM. Just as expectations of directors and the governance professionals who support them continue to rise, so, too, should your expectations of your board management software.

Board Communication Technology

Diligent continues to innovate. Through Diligent Messenger, one component of Enterprise Governance Management (EGM), you and your board can securely communicate in real time. You can message individuals or groups, and you can share attachments. Diligent Messenger functions as a stand-alone product as well as integrating seamlessly with Diligent Boards'Ѣ. With device usage on the rise among boards, it's good to know that the Diligent Messenger app can be downloaded to smartphones and iPads. While beneficial for all involved, that's also likely to be convenient to directors who travel frequently.

If your board management software offers secure chat functionality but your board isn't utilizing it, raise the discussion. Is the board neglecting to fully capitalize on its investment, and at the same time, leaving the door open to cyber breaches? People take comfort in the familiar, and old habits die hard. There'd be little comfort, though, should a board communications cyber breach become the factor that drives the formation of new communication habits among your directors.

If you think resistance to change may be a factor within your board or organization, it may help to discuss EGM not only in the context of phishing/email fraud, but also in terms of inadvertent data leakage. The Forrester report shows that almost one in three (30%) of directors lost or misplaced a hardware device in the previous year. In the same study, 21% of boards reported that, also during the previous year, someone had stolen a director's personal information and subsequently used that ID to access sensitive information. Adopting and using board management software with secure chat functionality can make substantial inroads in mitigating these risks.

Don't let internal communication practices be your board's blind spot; take the discussion and some solutions to your board.
Related Insights
Shelagh Donnelly
Shelagh Donnelly writes about governance and the world of administration, and speaks internationally on both topics. She's been a direct report to C-level executives, including four CEOs, in the private and public sectors. Shelagh spent the last decade of her 21-year higher education career immersed in the world of governance. As the institution's governance point person, she elevated the directors' onboarding program, championed the introduction of portal software, and introduced efficiencies and practices that enhanced operations and ongoing board development. Responsible for effective operations of the institution's governance system and accountable to board Chairs and the institution's CEOs, Shelagh supported all five of the board's committees. She worked with four board chairs, more than a dozen committee chairs and multiple directors. Shelagh's professional affiliations have included the Institute of Corporate Directors (ICD) and the National Association of Presidential Assistants in Higher Education (NAPAHE). Through the Association of Governing Boards' (AGB's) Board Professionals Leadership Group, she served as a board professional mentor. She remains a member of Governance Professionals of Canada (GPC) and has served as Chair of the Board of Directors of CICan:GPOP (GPOP), a national professional association affiliated with Colleges and Institutes Canada (CICan). She is one of only two individuals to be recognised with the CICan:GPOP Award for Distinguished Service. Shelagh began publishing Exceptional EA, an online professional development resource for career assistants, in 2013. She continues to publish Exceptional EA and write for other publications, and is the author of the forthcoming book, The Resilient Assistant. Exceptional EA: 'https://exceptionalea.com/ Colleges and Institutes Canada (CICan): https://www.collegesinstitutes.ca/