Is Technology Ready for the Boardroom? (Part 3 of a 3-part series)

September 17, 2013

Post by Joe Ruck, CEO of BoardVantage

Today, if you're using a paper process, you have the control you need over sensitive board documents. It may be inefficient and slow, but it works. Understandably, our customers want assurance that they won't lose that control when moving online. If we expect customers to go paperless, online control has to reasonably replicate paper control.

A one-size-fits-all model does not work for that, so we designed our system with (a) a Control Matrix that can produce an online experience equivalent to the paper process, (b) Content segregation for overlapping board structures, and (c) Self-sufficiency for real-time responsiveness and administrative efficiency.

In part2 of this series we discussed our Content Matrix. In this post we consider the other two parts of our system.

Content Segregation

It's not just corporate boards that need the combination of online access and control over their content. So do fund trustees, subsidiary boards and leadership teams in a wide range of industries. As the iPad makes inroads in the enterprise we see this play out every day. In these scenarios we often encounter overlapping board structures. It's for that purpose that BoardVantage built a Multi-Board architecture, which segregates content between portals, effectively creating communication focal points. It lets directors switch back and forth between different portals seamlessly. Each one is configurable with its own functionality and customizable with branding that corresponds to the board's identity.

Since every portal is ring-fenced with our 4-1-1 security, directors only have access to those portals for which they are explicitly authorized. A fair question to ask is how practical is absolute control like this? In other words, it's great to be able to exercise control but do you take an efficiency hit in the process? Not if you have the right technology. It is the BoardVantage position that online control only works if the tools are straightforward enough to make administrators self-sufficient. That means combining the control that you're accustomed to in paper with the efficiency that is the mark of great technology. Let's look at that self-sufficiency next.

Self-Sufficiency

The creation and distribution of paper boardbooks is a notorious time sink. Depending on scope, the process can occupy a staff of several administrators for well over a week, sometimes longer. Capturing this process online collapses elapsed time from weeks to days or from days to hours—an order of magnitude improvement. From a director's perspective, instead of having to wait for the arrival of the overnight shipment, the boardbook is available within minutes. It can even be 'pushed' to the director's Briefcase so it's simultaneously available offline, without any action on the director's part.

This results in a scale improvement in responsiveness, in this case from hours to minutes, which is particularly useful in the event of last-minute changes. Since BoardVantage gives the CS staff desktop drag-and-drop, right-click, a folder tree structure and "round tripping," the ability to edit documents in native and save them directly into the online repository, managing the backend is a familiar experience and a short learning curve.

We use a similar approach in systems administration. Users may be added or removed on short notice—perhaps a new director joins, a lawyer is added into the review process, or an entire new workspace must be formed to collaborate around a special project. Whether creating the team experience (e.g. TeamSpace formation), administering users (e.g. provisioning), managing content (e.g. remote purge) or delivering service (e.g. password resets), the administrator has the self-sufficiency to make any changes without assistance from IT or third parties.

All of this combines to shorten the learning curve, improve response times and deliver gains in administration efficiency.

Virtually all enterprise today is conducted in a 24x7 context, with the vast majority of communication done online. It's no exaggeration to say that the creation and distribution of voluminous paper binders is an anachronism ripe for technology improvement. To gain meaningful efficiencies, boards have to go paperless, but that can't happen without control because existing paper-based approaches frequently rely on an undocumented process. That process needs to be captured and controls need to be put in place before the shift to paperless can be made.

Related articles:

Is Technology Ready for the Boardroom (Part 1 of a 3-part series)

Is Technology Ready for the Boardroom (Part 2 of a 3-part series)