Board Meeting Books in Less Than 5 Minutes!
Diligent Host: Good morning everyone and thanks for taking the time to join today’s webinar with Diligent. Today we will discuss how you can build board meeting books in less than 5 minutes. I’m joined today by my colleague Nathan Birtle who heads up our sales and business development here in EMEA.
Together we’ve helped hundreds of admin teams streamline their board meeting preparation process. Before we get started today I have a couple of housekeeping notes. This webinar should last about 30 minutes. We are recording it and a replay will be sent to everybody that’s registered likely sometime tomorrow.
Please feel free to forward this along to any of your colleagues or board members who may have missed today’s webinar. Also, feel free to ask a question at any time. You can do so by using the ‘Ask a question’ pane on the right hand side of your screen. At the end of the demonstration, we’ll answer as many questions as we can and anything we don’t get to we’ll come back to via email. Moving on to the reason why you’re all here today, I’m going to hand you over to Nathan.
Nathan: Thank you very much. The agenda for today’s session follows a typical process for creating and delivering board meeting materials. As you see on this chart from left to right we’ll go through in a demonstration a process of organising files, uploading them to a server, applying the appropriate permissions and approvals, then publishing them so the director can review and annotate the information and other shortcuts you might need.
For example, if last minute additions come in, late papers, etc. Before we get down to that, I think it’d be very helpful if we conducted a couple of polls to understand how people are collating that material today and how long it takes.
The first of those polls you see on the screen now, we’ll open up the poll for voting, is asking how your documents are currently distributed. There are 5 options that you see there. The first one is documents being printed and distributed by a courier through to documents being created in PDF and then sent via email. Alternatively you may use Dropbox, SharePoint, or some other file sharing solution.
Fourthly, you may have a custom developed, in-house solution or finally you may be using the board portal such as that that Diligent provides. We’ll wait a moment or 2 for the poll to close and we’ll display the results in a moment. We conducted a similar survey in the US recently and we found that most people were using PDF and distributing that via email and in fact we see fairly similar results here so just under 50% creating a PDF document, reviewing it and sending via email.
Quite a few printing by courier and then smaller percentages in the other solutions. That’s not unusual. As I mentioned, it’s in line with other surveys that we’ve seen. Typically the concerns that people have relying on PDF and email are sort of 2 or 3 fold. Firstly the usability of that system for directors, being able to easily navigate to the information they wish to see. Secondly, the security of sending documents in PDF formats and sending them via email. Thirdly the time it takes for people to collect and distribute that information.
That actually leads us on to the second poll and this is the last poll of the day where we look at how long it takes people to create the information for a board meeting today. The poll is open now and if you would vote, the options range from a few minutes to a few hours, a couple of days, a couple of weeks or some other time period. Hopefully it falls within one of the first 4.
Again, we did a similar poll in the United States recently on a similar webinar and the majority of users were saying it took a couple of days to create that material and distribute it. We’ll close the poll and display the results in a moment. What we should see is that, again, 44% a couple of days, 41% a few hours which would probably be in line with creating a PDF but then you have the concerns about security and updates around that as I mentioned before.
Some people, a couple of weeks in fact if you have particularly complex or lengthy board books. I think that what we have to show today will hopefully alleviate some of those issues that arise from both the way the information is distributed and also how long it takes and the hassle involved in producing those.
Before we look at the demonstration, we’re going to go through … I’ll describe a typical process. This is what we see typically happens in organisations today when it comes to collating and distributing the material. On the left hand side you see the different parts of an organisation, who might contribute content to the board material.
That content can come in a variety of formats, typically different Microsoft Office formats such as Excel, Word. Could come in PDF or graphic files etc. It’s the responsibility of the administrator in the sense to pull that information together and collate it into a board meeting package to send out to the directors in time for them to review ahead of the meeting.
If a typical board pack consists of maybe 200 to 300 pages, it is not uncommon for an administrator to have to work with between 20 and 30 different files in different formats in order to prepare and deliver that one book. Also, as you see, on the right hand side at the bottom, there may be updates that are provided and need to be [inaudible 00:05:59] for in this process.
For example, if you have any last minute papers or additions that come in and the story we’re often told is it’s the finance and the figures that are the things that are the last to arrive and it’s accommodating those and including those in a way that the directors can work most efficiently.
The process we’ll show you is effectively that in the demonstration today. What we’ll be using is the Diligent system. I will now bring that up and display that to you. What you should see on the screen, on the left hand side you see the administrator panel for the Diligent Boards application. On the right hand side you’ll see a file window open, a file Explorer window open.
If you cannot see the Explorer window on the right hand side, it may be because your go-to-webinar control panel is in full display mode. The easiest way to minimise that is to click the arrow in the orange box on the top left of that panel. That will enable you to see the full display more easily.
On the left hand side, as I mentioned, we have the Diligent boards administration panel. This is a view that an administrator would work with. It’s not the view that the director would see when it comes to receiving the material. We’ll show you that briefly as part of the session today.
If I want to create a board book, it’s as easy as me going into the centre of this panel here. I just right-click and I say, “I wish to create a book from scratch.” What it asks me for in the centre is the date of the meeting, so I’ll set this up for a meeting next month, say February 26th and I’ll just call it, “Feb Board Meeting.” Sorry for the lack of originality there. I click, “Okay” and what it will do is bring up a panel where I’m able to start structure and put content into the book.
The old-fashioned way of doing this would be at this point to start creating different tabs, different sections, and then putting content into those sections. That can take several hours to do. As we said in the session, we can do this now in the matter of minutes through an enhancement that we introduced last year in the Diligent Solution called, “Bulk Upload.”
What it does is it recognises that the way that most people tend to work in this sort of environment is to collect the information from the various departments in a file structure. Could be on your own personal machine, it could be in a server, could be on a SharePoint, a repository, things like that.
For the simplicity of the demo today, I’m showing it in my own file system here and I have a demo book file structure. If I double-click there, it will show you the different sub-folders within that book and if I double-click, for example, on the sales updates, what you see is there are a couple of files here, one is in Word format, one is in PDF.
Similarly, if I look at the financial reports I have an Excel file and a Word file alongside that. Once I’m ready to produce the book, and I’ve collected all my information in the sub-folders that you’ve seen there, in order to do the book creation and make one nice, beautiful book from all those different individual files, I just drag the demo book from here, drop it there, and what it does is show me an import panel. It says, “This is the structure of the book we’re going to create.” You see on the right hand side here.
If I drag it over and compare it to the first structure, you can see it matches exactly. Within each of the structures that we’re creating, each of the sections, it’s going to bring in all these different documents and create one lovely book from all of those.
What I’ve done now is say, “Okay, I’m happy with that structure”, I’m going to import those documents into the Diligent system. At this point what we’re doing is taking a copy of each of those files, we’re converting it to secure, encrypted format, and we’re transmitting it up to our data centre, in Germany for our European, Middle Eastern, African customers, and it’s at that data centre that we’re going to collate the information together and create the single book that the directors will then be able to view and work on.
You can see that once … This is currently 66% of the way through the process. Once I’m over 50% I could actually shut my PC down, go off and do something else, have a coffee, lunch, whatever it happens to be because all of the hard work is now being done on the server side to convert the information and create a single book from that. As an administrator my work is done at this point unless I wish to rearrange some of the sections for example.
If I collapse all of the tabs here, I can see the broad structure of the book. If I decided I wish to move AOB, for example, to the end I can do that. If I wish to move the sales update further ahead, then it’s just a simple matter of moving the tabs around in that way. I’ll expand them all again so we see the complete structure and the upload is now complete. That’s taken a few moments to convert, encrypt, send up to our server, and allow the server to work on the material to create the complete book.
The next phase that you would typically want to do at this point is to go through an approval process to make sure that what you have in place is approved, finalised, and ready for directors to view. Very simple, in order to do that, I can just click on “approve” here. It takes me through to another panel where I get a preview of what the information looks like. Here’s the first page which is the agenda. I see the same structure that we just created with my revisions on the structure in moving around the organisation of the tabs.
To approve it I can either follow a single-step process or 2-step process. This flexibility allows you to apply whatever workflow is appropriate for your organisation. Sometimes the material comes to administrator pre-approved so there’s really only a check needed to make sure that it looks correct. In other cases, there’s an approval for the content and then approval for the final way it looks upon delivery.
For the purposes of this demonstration I would just approve it all in one single step so I’ll make it all approve final, and once I’ve done that you’ll see the different sections which are currently red showing they’re not approved will turn to black showing that they’re approved and finalised. It gives me a warning saying that if I take this step it will approve everything in the document. That’s fine for the purposes of this demonstration. We’ll go ahead and do that.
We’ll give it a moment and it’s now finalised all of these sections and the whole content of that board book. One final step now, to make it available to directors. We’ve uploaded it, we’ve approved it but it’s still currently, as you see here, in a hidden status. If I wish to make it available now to the board of directors, I just click here, and it allows me to make that book a current book so I’ll be viewable on the director’s side.
I have other options here to, for example, if I only wanted specific users to look at that book, I can just check the users who are allowed to use it or I can just allow certain users from using it. Depending on whether you wish to apply some specific permissions here, you have the ability to do that.
What I’m going to do is just make that a current book now and say “Okay” and we see the status of this book is current. Just to give you an idea on how this looks for a director’s point of view, what I’m going to show you now is an iPad application. This is the Diligent board’s director’s view of the application. What you see on the panel here is an image of an iPad I have beside me in the room at the moment and it’s logged into the Diligent system. It’s an app that you download from the app store like any other and you have to be provided with the appropriate credentials to use it.
Once you have that, I can just tap here and then check for any updates and what it will do is it will look for anything that’s recently been created. As you can see in the centre, I’ve got a new board meeting book that’s been created, the one we set up just now called “Feb Board Meeting” and to download it all I need to do is tap there and synchronise that meeting content.
You can see it’s downloading the book for me right now and within a matter of seconds I have that book available on my iPad. I can now be disconnected, I could be on a plane, and I can work with that content. Just to give you a very quick view as to how it looks for a director, I just tap on the book here to go open it, and the first thing it takes me to is the agenda, and I can page my way through by just swiping from left to right.
It looks like an E-book, it’s not a big, long, cumbersome PDF document. Very simple to navigate my way through. I have a little navigation button here that will show me the overall structure of the book. As you can see as far as the director is concerned, this is one lovely book, not a multitude of different files, and it’s set up for the director in a way that makes perfect sense.
If I wish to make a comment or annotation on any point here, I can just tap the pen and I have a range of options on how I wish to make notes. I can either highlight, use a pen, or add a sticky note where appropriate. The purpose of this isn’t to do a big, long demonstration of the director’s side of things, but I’ll just quickly show you that if I was to highlight a couple of items to review later on, I can do that now and those annotations stay with me throughout the lifetime of this book and any changes that occur to this book.
Speaking of changes that might occur to the book, one of the things that often happens, in our experience, is that updates come in at the last minute or changes happen to a book at the last moment. In fact I was talking to an administrator for a large pension fund just recently. She was telling me that when you include board meetings, executive management meetings etc, she had to prepare materials for 18 meetings a year. She’d been doing it for 4 years so by my calculation that’s 72 meetings in total.
I asked her, “On how many occasions had all of the material arrived 7 days ahead of the meeting so that the papers could be published in the appropriate time with no further changes after that?” She just laughed at me. She said, “Nathan, that has never happened in my experience. I would love the day when I see that occur.” She mentioned that, quite often, the things that come in late or have lost minute modifications are finance reports.
One of the things that she appreciated about Diligent was the fact that it’s very easy to include. I took you through that quickly. Now, if I look at my folder again, what I also have here is a simple Excel file that is new financial information that I want to pass out to the directors as part of this board meeting package. If I … All I need to do now to include that is find the appropriate place in the document. Probably should go in the financial section here and I just drag the Excel file over and I have a choice. I can either replace some existing content or I can append, include in a separate …
In this case, to make it simple, I would just add the document there and here it gives me an option to mark it as a “New addition” so that I can make the directors aware that this change has occurred and provide some advice to them. Here I might say, “Please review our latest numbers.” Having done that, I now upload that single file to the server. It’s going through very similar process to before, in fact, an identical process except just for one of those documents.
It’s now converting it, encrypting it, uploading it to our data centre in Germany, and we now have this additional file that’s going to be part of the board book. That file has not been approved yet so I go through a similar approval process to that that we did previously, but now just for this one file and I can see where it’s going to fit in the book, and as I can see here it’s highlighted up here that it’s a new update. I’m fine with that so I will approve the document as approved and final, and having done that, that document is now available for my director to view.
As a director, I now come out and I check for any updates that may have occurred. I can see here that I’ve got a synchronise button on that book telling me that an update has occurred. To synchronise I just tap there and you may not have noticed because it happens so quickly, but it synchronised the change within a second or so. The reason for that is the only changes the items that have been updated, it doesn’t download the complete board book again.
For a relatively small document, that may not be a big issue. If you’re working with a 400-page bullet book, and you only wish to update one page and directors are in transit, they’re very grateful for the fact that you only update the item that’s been changed. It also shows me that there is an update history, a notification. Instead of opening the book by pressing here, I tap on this “Update history.” What it will do is show me what’s changed, where the changes occurred, and even with my misspelling, it’s told me to, “Please review the latest numbers.”
If I wish to go directly to that part of the report that’s changed, I just tap there and it takes me straight through and we see the highlights with the new update there. As a director, my time is made much more efficient because I’m taken straight to the things that have changed, especially any important updates. As an administrator, I have control over what I notified director about and where to direct his or her attention. That’s very important because the communication with directors needs to be concise and to the point. Only that stuff that really makes a difference. Directors do not like to be bombarded, in our experience, with any update that may have occurred. You have the choice as to how you do that.
That was pretty much what we wanted to show by way of examples on the board book demonstration. What we’ve seen is the process from beginning to end. If we go back to the overview charts, you see we’ve taken a number of files from different parts of the organisation, in a variety of formats. We’ve just dragged and dropped in that file structure to create a board meeting material, and that process itself, I think, took around 5 minutes with allowing time for explanations etc. We’ve also had a quick look at how that book appears to a director.
It’s not a number of [inaudible 00:22:30] files, it’s one lovely book, beautifully sectioned in the way that you’d expect. We’ve also shown how last minute updates or additional information can be applied. One very quick point on that is whenever you apply those last-minute updates, you can be sure that any annotations the director has made are preserved. We have recently implemented the very eloquent way of doing that that’s both within the control of the administrator and also the director. Don’t really have time on this webinar to go into details around that, but we’d be very happy in a follow-on session to describe that and show you that in more detail if it’s appropriate.
In summary, we believe that working in this way helps you to build books faster. You can control how the information is distributed much more totally. It’s easier for directors to find information such as last-minute updates and to review that information effectively. Because this is a system that is available 24/7, 365 and supported world-wide, where ever your directors happen to be at any point in time, that material is available to them and once they’ve got it on their tablet device, they’re able to work with it whether they’re online or offline. That’s taken us 20 minutes or so to go through that. I think it allows a little bit of time for questions.
Before we do that, Diligent is an organisation for those you who don’t know. I’ll just spent a very brief time introducing the company. We were founded in 2001, so for the last 15 years our sole focus has been on improving the efficiency, usability, and reliability of the way board meeting materials are created and distributed. We have a global footprint. We have over 3 1/2 thousand customers and over 10,000 users world-wide.
One of the things we’re proudest of is that our current retention rate is over 97%. 97% of our clients choose to continue working with Diligent year on year and we’re told that’s because they appreciate the usability, the robustness of the system, and the excellence of our customer support. I won’t say any more about Diligent, but obviously we’d be very happy to describe any aspect of the company or the service that we provide in more detail should you wish.
I think we’re coming to the end of our time. Please let me know if there’s any specific questions that we’ve been asked that you’d like us to answer at the moment.
Diligent Host: Thank you Nathan. Yes, we’ve had a few questions come through regarding the same topic. I’ll ask this one. “What happens to notes if I replace a document? Do they get lost? Are they retained somewhere?”
Nathan: Yeah, thank you for that question. It’s a common concern for directors because nothing is more irritating for a director when working with these board meeting materials if they’ve spent several hours reviewing, annotating some document or some aspect of the book, and an update comes through and wipes out those annotations. You can imagine how frustrating that is for them.
As I briefly mentioned towards the end of the demonstration, we have provided an update to the Diligent’s board application towards the back end of last year that, we believe, has the most elegant way of handling preservation of notes when those changes occur. You can guaranteed that none of the notes will get lost and, in fact, you have a couple of elegant options for how you choose to manage those. If an administrator is making a change to a page, for example, and knows it’s a very minor, cosmetic change, they can allow the notes and annotations to be preserved without bothering the director.
If there’s a more significant change on the book, then the director is in complete control as to how he or she wishes to manage their annotations for the replaced pages. We’ve had very positive feedback for the way that we’re managing this and, as I say, we’d be delighted to demonstrate that in more detail if anyone would like to see it.
Diligent Host: Great, thank you. The second question, and this is probably the last one we’ll have time for today is, “Can you add documents after a meeting has taken place?” The person that asked this question often uploads documents or sends documents out to the directors as a reference after a meeting has happened.
Nathan: Yeah, absolutely. You can either create new books after the meeting or you can add updates to the existing book while it’s still in, what we call, a current book status. Then you as the administrator make the choices to, when you archive that material. You could archive a board meeting book that has updates provided after the meeting itself. There’s a variety of different ways that that application could be used or the different use cases for it. Absolutely possible to do that and many of our clients work in that way.
Diligent Host: Fantastic. Thank you. We do have a few more questions but we are running out of time so we’ll make sure we come back to each and every one of you with an appropriate answer. We just wanted to say thank you very much for your time today. We hope you found the demonstration useful. If you wish to learn more about board portals as Nathan said, you can visit our website where you’re able to download any of our white papers and case studies from our existing customers.
You can also schedule a demo. Don’t forget to sign up for the next webinar in our Winter Webinar Series. That one’s taking place on February 25th and the topic of that one is “Working hard or hardly working.” Thank you very much for joining today and have a great day. Thank you. Bye bye.