Diligent Moves Medtronic’s Board Collaboration Forward
Medtronic plc is headquartered in Dublin, Ireland, with its operational headquarters in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA. It is among the world’s largest medical technology, services and solutions companies – alleviating pain, restoring health and extending life for millions globally. With 85,000+ employees, it serves physicians, hospitals and patients in approximately 160 countries. Medtronic has been a Diligent Boards™ user since 2011.
Co-founders Earl Bakken and Palmer Hermundslie opened a medical equipment repair shop in 1949. Since then, many products have not only been repaired but engineered and produced; this includes the world’s first wearable, battery-powered cardiac pacemaker, to name one of many inventions. After moving from pen and paper in a little repair shop to a giant medtech company with a Board of Directors and five committees, it was time to change pace and go digital. Keeping tabs on corporate governance was already difficult, with countless reams of paper, three-ring binders and the need to collate hundreds of pages around the conference table. Medtronic’s newly appointed Chairman and CEO, Omar Ishrak, immediately championed going paperless when he joined the company in June 2011. One of the first tasks requested of Sr. Legal Governance Program Manager Anne Ziebell was to go forth and select the best digital board book vendor and to order a batch of iPads for those directors who didn’t have one.
For Anne Ziebell, the challenge was not only the task of finding the right vendor, but the compressed timeline that she was given – only eight weeks to find, investigate, evaluate, approve and then have the solution implemented in time for an October board meeting.
“I basically was aware of the top three vendors and I started with them,” said Ziebell. “I met with them via WebEx or telephonically. While the board portal software offered differed slightly, it was Diligent’s superb customer service that made me choose them,” recalled Ziebell. She explained that it came down to who returned her phone calls immediately, who knew all about Medtronic, and who took the time to follow up with her.
“Diligent did all that before we even chose them. Dealing with Medtronic’s internal IT processes was very complex, technical and time-consuming. To get this new system integrated and rolled out on time was a huge undertaking. Diligent accomplished this in the best possible way.”
But this rollout also needed to satisfy Medtronic’s 25 online users, composed of external directors and executives. Ziebell’s role as head administrator included having the overall control for giving permission and designating access.
“So, before we started this process, the feedback was the books were too big and cumbersome, and there was skepticism about whether we could build an online portal ourselves. I knew I had to choose the right vendor.”
Once chosen, Diligent proved to be more than up to the task. It managed to get all the board materials loaded, people trained and the back end smoothly implemented – all in time for the October rollout.
“Diligent supported us before, during and after the rollout, and even trained our IT guys to troubleshoot. They also put people close to me to help me succeed,” said Ziebell.
The decision to go with Diligent Boards has paid off for Medtronic. Medtronic’s Board members now have more time to collaborate and are better prepared before coming to meetings, as all presentations are accessible to be read beforehand.
“Previously, we were using paper and visual presentations loaded separately into a slide deck that would be presented in the meeting room. Back then, the Directors would bring their paper books and then see the visuals for the first time during the meeting. In order to build more time for discussion, the visuals were loaded at the same time the materials were distributed. With this new approach, the presenter could simply plug in the iPad and present it from there.”
Ziebell stated that her time building the board books has gone down significantly. “Not having to work with so many members’ requests to change text, visuals, fonts or agendas and thereafter print, save, and insert into a paper book, has probably saved me 75% of my time. Another benefit of using this online portal software solution is the complete and searchable repository of the “final-final” books. Before, the Board and Committee meeting materials were all in silo, so it was impossible to search for things – the information was maintained by each Committee Secretary so it was hard to confirm with certainty which paper version was viewed by the Board.”
“The beauty of having Diligent Boards is that the Corporate Secretary’s office now has a solid corporate record. Before, it was always hard to remember who brought in what documents at the last minute and whether these edited documents, PDFs or visuals were included in the final paper book. Now since everything is in the Diligent board portal and easy to find, finalized and in the correct place, it is much easier to work with our internal and external stakeholders to provide requested documentation.”
Lastly, Ziebell said she’s very satisfied with Diligent. “In the five years we’ve been using Boards, we’ve never had any issues.” Medtronic has expanded its use to 16 international subsidiary meetings and another collaborative team that meets monthly.
In my eyes, Diligent has the best customer service and is very professional.
Sr. Legal Governance Program Manager
In the three years we’ve been using Diligent Boards, we’ve never had any issues.