Uncertainty about what technology is available for the boardroom and why it should be used, coupled with time constraints, is what keeps board members and executives reaching for the traditional, insecure, and now outdated tools time and time again.
There are several outdated tech tools that are still being used by board members globally. Some are not efficient or productive, and others are downright dangerous, increasing the risk of data security threats. Here are 5 outdated tools that boards should stay away from.
1. Free email service providers. We recently took a look at board members' primary form of communication-email-and found that currently more than 30% of board members are using free email service providers such as-Yahoo, Gmail, Hotmail and Comcast-to communicate. Free email service providers are easy to use and great for personal communications. However, they do not offer the level of security necessary to protect confidential company information. It's recommended that board members refrain from using these free email service providers, or any providers that aren't supported by a strong IT team, to exchange sensitive information, or else they run the risk of being exposed to phishing attacks, password hacks and other exploits to which these email providers are vulnerable.
2. Text and mobile messaging. Similar to emailing, executives also enjoy the mobility and convenience of texting to exchange brief, real-time messages. However, mobile phones can be lost, stolen, or confiscated and mobile communications can be easily intercepted. Hence, best practices advise against using text messaging for board and executive conversations unless you address concerns around security, compliance and adoption. You need to be sure conversations aren't being intercepted, that messages are kept or deleted as required by regulations, and that the whole team is on board if a mobile messaging solution is going to work.
3. Free file transfer services. Free file transfer services have provided the world with a convenient way to send and save large files. They weren't however, built to manage highly-sensitive materials. They do not have the stringent security nor the features to limit unauthorized access or mitigate the risks associated with storing and sharing confidential information.
4. Printed board books /presentations. During board meetings, board members need to have access to and review large volumes of sensitive and confidential data. Information available in paper format can easily be lost, stolen or misplaced resulting in security risks, not to mention the weight, cost and hassle of using dead-tree-technology.
5. File storage on hard drives. Board members need to have access to the most up-to-date materials, including annual reports, analyst coverage, industry data, and competitive intelligence. Storing multiple versions of these documents year after year on a hard drive can make it difficult to know which version of which document is the most current. Furthermore, hard drives are not secure. Just like cell phones and printed materials-laptops can be stolen and hacked resulting in confidential data ending up in the wrong hands.
Board members and executives typically adopt a mix of these different tools due to the lack of 'one-stop collaboration solutions' available. The ideal solution should minimize the number of tools being used and make life easier for the demanding, time-conscious senior executive while mitigating risks and improving the usability of board materials.
Protecting information for the future
For sensitive board communication, consumer tools and legacy technologies don't cut it. Unless you adopt enterprise-class productivity tools designed for board members and executives, they'll be, at best, inconvenient and at worst leave companies vulnerable to security risks.
As information custodians, board members should be proactive in minimizing security threats, and have access to enterprise productivity apps that can safeguard company data, improve governance and efficiency, and are easy-to-use. Going forward, eliminate the urge to reach for insecure tools.
Brian Stafford is CEO of Diligent Corporation and is responsible for all day-to-day operations, with a focus on accelerating global growth and incorporating scale into the business to manage the growth seamlessly. Brian is also an active seed stage investor and start-up advisor. He is a Brooklyn Academy of Music board member.