Guest post from Amanda Biggs, web manager and governance writer. By participating in the expansion of the Leading Boards portal for boards of directors, she has specialized on issues concerning the arrival of technology inside the boardroom.
All through the last decade new technology solutions and tools have moved from being non-existent to becoming a “must have” for many directors worldwide. Indeed, research and development led to “board portals” which are adapted to the boardrooms’ needs and have become be necessary for the modern challenges that boards face concerning workflow and management. The advent of the iPad with its mobile benefits and user friendly interface has accelerated the use of these portals and of their dedicated apps offering a new way for directors to access the information. With a raise of the number of directors per board and their geographical location being further away, technology is now a necessity for boardroom communications. Therefore it has also trigged changes inside such organizations.
An online board portal gathers all board materials and information in one high security place. It also helps meeting organization and allows an electronic distribution of board packs. Advanced portals offer great tools such as note taking and discussion features adapted to the usual habits of directors. A portal should respond to the motto: simplicity, security and efficiency. By shifting from paper processes to digital, four topics are to be highlighted bringing deep changes inside the boardroom.
By opening the doors to technology, the management of the board of directors has been completely refreshed to become more efficient. The corporate secretary or board administrator has the role of organizing all the board’s data, preparing the meetings and keeping the directors informed. A portal lifts the weight of the hundreds of pages of documents off the arms, lightens the workload of tasks like archiving, saving time and stress. Therefore, time is freed for more rewarding tasks such as a deeper involvement for good governance practices. With a special easy tool for creating online agendas and with all documents filed inside the portal, the administrators can send out board packs or general information in a timely manner. This distribution is more secure, saves money and shows an engagement towards a sustainable development.
While using paper for the board of directors’ communications, a major risk was the loss or the theft of a confidential page. A board pack could also never be delivered, or worse sent to the wrong person. The portal therefore ends the eternal paper chase! The same risk applies to e-mails or cloud storage where non-secure addresses can be hacked by criminals or accessed under the US Patriot Act. This law also concerns American board portal suppliers. The risk is avoided if the data is stored in a portal like Leading Boards, with dedicated servers in Canada and no links with the US. Moreover Canadian laws concerning the respect for one’s private life will be applied being more thorough then the US laws.
A board portal supplier should provide several protection levels and servers certified by international computer security standards. With a strong password policy, each member has their own private and personal access to their very own online briefcase.
Enhanced boardroom dynamics
Board portals have been developed to adapt to directors and not the other way around! Most directors are not digital natives and did not grow up surrounded by technology in their everyday life. An online portal looks much like a traditional board book but it is much lighter, no documents are falling out of it and the portal offers many new intuitive features.
Having an immediate access to all the necessary information well filed in one location leads to more informed directors, as they can consult the data whenever they want or need to well before a meeting. Therefore, directors can more easily fulfill their duty of diligence towards the company.
Like on paper, a board portal allows users to highlight sections and take notes with electronic “post its”, in handwriting or voice dictation. It also offers many new features such as an easy search through data and documents, sharing notes with other directors and discussing matters before a meeting, thanks to collaborative tools. By being more informed, more prepared and having the possibility to discuss securely beforehand, board meetings are optimized and have a more efficient decision making process and focus on strategic issues.
Providing iPads to the board of directors, especially to the non tech-savvy members, is beneficial for the corporate governance of the company. Indeed, cyber-threats have risen to the top 5 risks which companies will meet in 2014. Directors oversee risk management and therefore should have a proactive behavior. Directors must first understand these risks and for this they must get a grasp on the “whys and the hows” of technology. Implementing a board portal helps directors seize technology and understand its interest, such as the amount of free business information available on the internet. Being up to date on technology makes directors more aware of the risks but also of the many opportunities these new tools offer for the future in a digital economy. Getting the board to go digital may be tricky. Board portal suppliers should support and guide the board through the transition of going paperless. With personal training and unlimited support, all users and administrators will enjoy a rapid adjustment and fulfilling digital experience.