December 13, 2013
by Joe Ruck, BoardVantage
The advent of tablet devices including the iPad settled the debate about the readiness of technology for the boardroom. Readability and portability improvements addressed long-standing usability concerns about the devices, while advances in the software architecture let the portal map to the existing process necessary for going paperless.
With a variety of solutions emerging that support the paperless boardroom it is important to understand what features are important in choosing a portal technology. Five product attributes that are currently considered must-haves for a successful outcome include:
1. Online-Offline Syncing
Directors carry their iPads wherever they go and rely on them for access to their board materials. Not unreasonably, they expect ready access to those materials even if they’re not able to be online. An essential requirement is briefcase technology that syncs content seamlessly between online and offline so any notes made while offline are immediately available when a director is back online. Also, to ensure directors have the latest information, the system lets the general counsel push new materials directly to the director’s briefcase.
2. Protect Against Discoverability
The iPad is a groundbreaking mobile device, but there is a tension between mobility and the risk of discoverability. Having the board book on a director’s iPad creates a potential legal exposure because directors may forget to purge this information. The way to eliminate this risk is with a system that centralizes control with the general counsel so that downloaded content and directors’ notes can be purged remotely by the general counsel, without relying on the actions of directors. This is akin to the traditional practice of the general counsel collecting and shredding paper boardbooks following the meeting.
3. Online Equivalent to Paper Process
Board communication is characterized by varying levels of access to sections of the boardbook. For example, what members of the audit committee see is often different than what members of the governance committee see, or outside counsel may be added for a single meeting and then her access rights revoked. In other words, a big part of board communication is about who sees what and when they see it. Today, that control exists with paper. It may be onerous, expensive and slow, but it works. It is critical then that the portal has an equivalent ability to differentiate access between various users. In the portal this comes in the form of a control matrix and content segregation.
4. An Experience that is Better than Paper
When you change a long-standing process, you have to offer people an incentive. What you give them has to be better than what they have today. That means the user experience for your directors has to be more engaging and satisfying than what exists with paper. This requires an application that takes maximum advantage of the rich graphics and animation of the iPad to improve directors’ entire boardroom experience.
5. Embrace Two-Way Communication
For years, the board portal was a one-way communication tool. The general counsel distributed materials and directors retrieved them online and rarely communicated back. Now portals are shifting to two-way interactive capabilities that can improve decision-making by providing greater efficiency but also allowing directors to focus on the substantive issues rather than minutiae.
Observing these five must-haves will dramatically increase the odds of a good experience for the board as they shift to a paperless environment.
About the Authour
Joe Ruck, CEO, BoardVantage, is an executive communications thought leader, author and frequent speaker on the impact of technology on leadership teams. He has over a decade of experience with BoardVantage actively developing products that meet leadership communication challenges. Learn more at http://www.boardvantage.com about BoardVantage and its Director solution for boards.