Board members' time is at a premium, so it's essential for organisations to streamline board meetings, and the process of gathering and sharing information among the board, as much as possible.
This doesn't just mean making improvements to the meeting experience, but also improving the workflow of those responsible for compiling and updating the packs of information that are distributed to the board ahead of each meeting.
Board packs are lengthy documents - often running to hundreds of pages - that require considerable time for support staff to collate and edit, make the inevitable changes right up to the last minute, and then distribute to board members in good time for them to review the content.
Doing all this on paper is hugely inefficient. By implementing a digital board portal - a way of creating, accessing, distributing and annotating board-level information securely - organisations can make significant savings in both time and cost, making meetings more productive and freeing up support staff to work on other projects.
Digital board portals benefit boards and administrators in three main areas:
Streaming information gathering and collation
We've seen businesses halve the time it takes their support staff to collate, proof and distribute board materials when they made the switch from paper to digital board packs.
Board materials are often sourced from a variety of people, all of whom need to submit their content in time for support staff to put the information together and send out the packs. Doing this using paper can be a real headache. Doing it digitally, however, makes it quicker and simpler to edit or upload late materials, and cuts out the need to print and re-print lengthy packs. As soon as the material is published, board members are alerted to it and can access the information at the click of a button. If there are changes to be made, new versions can be uploaded to the portal and users alerted to the updated versions.
In the case of Berry Gardens (a client of Diligent, which is the market leader in digital board solutions) board materials are compiled once a month for around 18 people. The company's board members are located all over the UK, prior to using Diligent, each meeting required a panicked race to compile packs and distribute them via courier. Nick Allen, the company's finance director, told us that: 'The process took two days' worth of work for the administrators to complete the packs and half a day of my own time every month.'
Proving a more efficient use of board members' time
By the time they get to the meeting itself, we often find that board members have used the time and opportunity afforded by the digital platform to share views and ideas with each other. This means they will have a more developed a more informed opinion of the issues tabled for discussion during the meeting, before they have even set foot in the meeting room. This makes for a much more efficient meeting. Berry Gardens found that switching to a digital board portal shaved over two hours off board meeting times.
Board members can also use the portal to make and share notes, vote on important issues and view historic information. Organisations can see a tremendous benefit from freeing up more of the board members' time by simply switching to a more efficient content delivery and collaboration system.
Securing corporate information
In today's climate of heightened security awareness, security is arguably the most important factor in switching board packs from paper to digital. When considering a board portal solution, check that your materials will be stored on a secure system, and users have the ability to annotate and collaborate on materials within the system, rather than keeping their notes and discussions on paper or unsecured email.
By implementing access control features, organisations can ensure that confidential data can only be viewed by the intended recipient, something that can't be guaranteed when relying on paper.
A 2014 study by Canadian consulting firm Korn ferry showed that board directors can spend up to 304 hours a year on board-related duties (this is more like 215 hours for EU board directors). Time spend preparing for board meetings is valuable, and needs to be used efficiently. The organisation must do all that it can to make the board member's work more efficient, effective and intuitive.
By the time the participants sit down to a board meeting, they should have been able to read the materials on a secure portal, discuss them with their fellow board members, and be in a position to power through the meeting agenda. Digital board portals offer a way for organisations to make the board member's job easier and make the best use of their limited time.
In the case of Berry Gardens, board meetings have become much more efficient and well-organised. Nick Allen attributes this improvement to the lead time the Diligent Boards solution affords executive board members.
'Now they really have the time to pre-read all the material and formulate opinions on major decisions,' observed Allen. Today, the company's meetings are shorter by upwards of two hours per meeting.
Charlie Horrell, Managing Director EMEA, Diligent