How software for board meetings helps keep your business across sensitive information
Dramatic headlines about board members being sued by shareholders tell only part of the story of the challenges boards face as they make decisions affecting the wealth of shareholders (and in many cases their own wealth) as well as the welfare of other company stakeholders.
Is it any wonder more and more organisations are turning to board management software to help address the problems?
Board papers for large organisations can run to hundreds and hundreds of pages across many documents. While modern word processing and laser printing has made it easier to produce documents, paradoxically it has encouraged a proliferation of written information which needs to be digested, annotated and referred back to in meetings.
The consequences of not being on top of all this information can be expensive for both the board members and the organisation they oversee.
Distributing documents shouldn’t be this difficult
High standards of reporting and disclosure are essential for proper accountability between an entity and its investors and stakeholders, and the board is directly responsible for the integrity of financial reports.
In New Zealand this task has been made harder with the introduction of a continuous disclosure regime which was introduced to improve the standards of disclosure in the listed issuer sector.
While the distribution of board papers has been made easier with computers, in many cases the information still has to be printed out and digested via hard copy.
There’s always the legacy issues of board members being used to paper and liking to have their hands on hard copies of information, but paperless board meetings have the potential to make life easier for everybody.
The problem with paper is that not only is it cumbersome, there is no automatic search function and the humble post it note can only ease the task of annotation rather than solving it…so where to from here?
Cloudy with a chance of better meetings
Laptops have provided some relief, especially as they’ve gotten smaller, but it is only the arrival of tablets such as the iPad in the past few years that has begun to provide a solution to the distribution, management and accessing of company board papers.
When the first mainstream commercial tablet came out in 2010, there were limitations on how much information you could store and limited numbers of applications to edit and search that information.
Now the combination of the cloud and a seemingly endless range of apps has made life much easier across the full range of mobile devices, be they Apple, Android or Windows based.
Board members can edit and make notations on documents, and have these with them during meetings in an easily searchable form. The result is better governance of the organisation through better management and distribution of information.
Maximising the effectiveness of management software
When it comes to using meeting management software there are some basics to take into account to help meet the information management challenge.
Actually, the key issue is not so much what you put into a board pack, but what you leave out. The challenge is to supply the data and information needed to ensure meetings are as productive and effective as possible.
It has to be kept in mind that directors have a statutory obligation to be properly informed in their decision making, so care has to be taken to make sure all the relevant information needed to make decisions is provided for meetings. But too much information can also chew up time and diffuse the board’s focus when it comes to decision time. Board members are typically very busy people.
Here the challenge is to avoid too much emphasis on financial and operational aspects of the business – the age old issue of needing to distinguish between governance and management
So what is the correct balance between having enough information while avoiding too much detail?
- Stick to matters of substance
Board papers need to prioritise issues and focus on key matters of substance, rather than on operational detail. It is important to manage the number of documents in circulation to ease the burden on directors. Lengthy documents should contain an executive summary, table of contents and section and page numbering system, for easy reference and key points, options and recommendations should be highlighted.
- Keep abreast of the basics
There are the obvious basics when it comes to putting meeting papers, including an agenda, minutes of the previous meeting and documents supporting matters that require decisions.
- Stay focused on individual needs
Beyond that, each organisation will have specific focus on individual aspects of the organisation. An important part of meeting management software in this case is that it allows papers to be cross-referenced and individual items readily identified.
The future of document distribution is digital
These and other benefits easily repay the time and investment involved in implementing an electronic solution to board paper management and this doesn’t even take into account the direct cost savings in staff time, postage and courier fees.
Beware software sold as a solution to all your board paper management issues and as with any business process decisions, the key is to clearly understanding you own needs before putting in place new systems.