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On the same page: Keeping boards informed and engaged

I REGULARLY TALK to non-executive directors and those facilitating board meetings about the daily challenges they encounter. Over the past ten or fifteen years it has become clear there has been a significant transformation. Today, directors perform their responsibilities during a time of intense regulatory change and scrutiny. Concerns about governance and compliance are paramount. As a result, board materials often run to well over 1,000 pages, placing a huge demand on directors who are already struggling to absorb large amounts of information in a limited time frame.

Increasing travel commitments, frequency of meetings, disparate sources of information and difficult-to- navigate packs also contribute to distractions inside and outside the boardroom. Ensuring the board is briefed and engaged with all the content needed to make decisions is a growing challenge. That’s why a board portal can provide directors access to the documents needed to fulfil their duties effectively, alleviating these pain points by streamlining communications and ultimately helping them to improvegovernance.

Fully equipped, fully engaged
Consider one non-executive director serving on six boards in Germany and the UK, who explained how he struggled to deal with the sheer volume of information that needed to be reviewed on a regular basis. Prior to his board’s adopting a secure board portal solution, the secretariat team for each organisation manually compiled the board packs and couriered them to his home address. Each contained hundreds of pages and the inevitable revisions, often single pages, were also delivered for his review.

Given his extensive travel schedule, materials and their subsequent updates could take days to reach him and were inconvenient to transport. Staying up to date was almost impossible. This story is far from unique, and the knock-on effect quickly becomes clear: board members who feel under-informed are not fully equipped to make coherent decisions.

Another director using board portal solution addressed relevance of information. With a typical pack for monthly meetings containing greater than 750 pages, it became increasingly difficult to access information most pertinent to him. Paper packs compiled manually weren’t customised based on the board member’s role and committee responsibilities. Clearly, this leads to an overload of information and a lack of engagement. Other directors using secure email and PDF technology to distribute materials also suffer from one-size-fits-all materials. How can we expect directors to be fully-equipped and engagedif the board materials lack relevance?

With a secure board portal, users have the convenience of getting board materials on their iPad or browser – with content tailored to their specific roles, committees and boards, ensuring higher relevance, not to mention tighter security.

On the same page
When a board goes digital, the technology that replaces paper allows directors to receive, read and annotate their board materials far more easily than the original paper version, whilst mirroring the traditional format. With instant updates at the touch of a button, easy navigation and an intuitive interface, it doesn’t present a significant cultural change for directors. More important is the level of support provided to the users – even small routine tasks such as password recovery can be distractions, especially with directors on the move and across a number of time zones. Any board portal solution should provide a dedicated support team 24 hours a day, every day of the year for whatever problems may arise. The result? A smooth transition and high adoption rates.

As tablets continue to increase in popularity, any business that is weighing best practices in corporate governance should consider adopting a board portal. Getting everyone on the same page digitally, with information that’s relevant, timely and easily-accessible allows board members to focus on what’s important: making informed decisions about the business at hand.

Charlie Horrell is EMEA managing director for Diligent Boardbooks 

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