Board Meeting Books in Less Than Five 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 five 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 thirty 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 hand you over to Nathan.

Nathan B: Thank you very much. The agenda for today’s session follows the 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 organizing 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 would be very helpful if we conducted a couple of polls to understand how people are collecting that material today and how long it takes. The first of those polls you see on the screen now, and we’ll open up the poll for voting, is asking How you’re documents are currently distributed. There are five options that you see there. The first one is documents being printed and distributed via 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 a board portal such as that that Diligent provides. We’ll wait a moment or two 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 distributed that via email. In fact, we see fairly similar results here. Just under 50% are creating PDF documents, reviewing it and sending it via email. Quite a few printing via 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, is sort of two or three fold. Firstly, the usability of that system for directors being able to easily navigate to the information that they wish to see. Secondly, the security of sending documents in PDF format 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. So the poll is open now. 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 four. Again, we did a similar poll in the United States recently on a similar webinar. 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. 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 … describe a typical process. This is what we see. Typically it happens in organizations today when it comes to collating and distributing the material. On the left hand side, you see the different parts of an organization 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 is the responsibility of the administrator in the center to pull all of 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.

Now if the 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 catered for in this process. For example, if you have any last minute papers or additions that come in. The story we’re often told is it’s the finance and the figures that are the things that are last to arrive. It’s accommodating those and including those in a way that the directors can work most efficiently.

So 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 board’s application and on the right hand side you’ll see a file window open, file explorer window open. If you cannot see the explorer window on the right hand side, it may be because your GoToWebinar control panel is in full display mode. The easiest way to minimize 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 board’s administration panel. This is the view that the administrator would work with. It’s not the view that the director would see when it comes to receiving the material. We’ll show 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 center of this panel here. I just right click and say I wish to create a book from scratch. What is asks me for, in the center, 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 OK and what it will do is bring up a panel where I’m able to start to structure and put content into the book.

Now 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 to now in a matter of minutes through an enhancement that we introduced last June the Diligent solution called bulk upload. What it does is it recognizes that the way 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, could be in a server, could be in a SharePoint repository, things like that.

For the simplicity of the demo today, I am 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. If I double click, for example, on the sales update what you see is 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 along side that. Once I’m ready to produce the book and I’ve collected all of my information in my sub folders that you’ve seen there. In order to do the book creation and to make one nice beautiful book from all of these 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 file structure, you can see it matches exactly.

Within each of the structures that we are creating, each of the sections, it’s going to bring in all these different documents and create one lovely book from all of those. So what I’ve done now is say, “Okay, I’m happy with that structure.” I’m going to start to import those documents into the Diligent system. At this point, what we are doing is taking a copy of each of those files. We’re converting it to a secure, encrypted format and we’re transmitting it up to our data center in Germany for our European, Middle Eastern, African customers. It’s at that data center that we’re going to collect the information together and create the single book that the directors will then be able to view and work on.

Now 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 an do something else, have a coffee, eat lunch, whatever it happens to be. All of the hard work is now being done on the service side to convert the information and to create a single book from that. So 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 can 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, finalized 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’ve just created with my revisions on the structure, moving around the organization of the tabs.

To approve it, I can either follow a single step process or a two step process. This flexibility allows you to apply whatever workflow is appropriate for your organization. Sometimes the material comes to the administrator pre approved, so there’s really on a check needed to make sure 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 will just approve it all in one single step, so make it all approved final. 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 are approved and finalized. It gives me a warning saying that if I take this step, it will approve everything in this 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 finalized 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 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 it will be viewable on the directors site. I have other options here. 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 disallow certain users from using it. So 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.” We see the current status of this book is current.

Just to give you an idea on how this looks from a directors 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 that I have beside me in the room at the moment. 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. What it will do is it will look for anything that’s recently created. As you can see in the center, I’ve got a new board meeting book that’s been created. The one we setup just now called Feb Board Meeting. To download it, all I need to do is tap there and synchronize that meeting content. You can see it’s downloading that book for right me now and within a matter of seconds I have that book available on my iPad. I can now be disconnected. I can be on a plane and I can work with that content.

Just to give you a very quick view of how it looks for a director, I just tap on the book here to open it. 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 eBook. 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’s concerned, this is one lovely book. Not a multitude of different files and it’s setup 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 for how I wish to make notes. I can either highlight, use a pen, or add a sticky note where appropriate. Now the purpose of this isn’t to do a big long demonstration of the director side of things but I’ll just quickly show you that if I wish 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 the 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 eighteen meetings a year. She’d been doing that for four years, so by my calculations that’s 72 meetings in total. I asked her, “On how many occasions had all of the materials arrived seven days ahead of the meeting?” so 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 last minute modifications are finance reports. One of the things that she appreciated about Diligent was the fact that it’s very easy to include those.

I’ll talk 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. Okay. 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. I’ll just drag the Excel file over and I have a choice. I can either replace some existing content or I can append, include it in a separate. In this case to make it simple I would just add the document there. 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 the latest numbers.” Having done that, I now upload that single file to the server and it’s going through a very similar. In fact an identical process except just for one of those documents. So its now converting it, encrypting it, uploading it to our data center in Germany and we now have this additional file that’s going to be part of the board book.

Now that file has not been approved yet. So I go through a similar approval process to that we did previously but now just for this one file. I can see where it’s going to fit in the book. I can see here it’s highlighted up here that it is a new update. I’m fine with that so I will approve the document as approved and final. Having done that, that document is now available for my director to view. If 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 synchronize button on that book telling me that an update has occurred. To synchronize, I just tap there and you may not have noticed because it happened so quickly but it synchronized the change within a second or so. The reason for that is the only changes the items are being updated. It doesn’t download the complete board book again. For a relatively small document, that may not be a big issue. If you are working with a 400 page board 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 being changed.

It’s also shows me that there is an update history, a notification. If 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 highlighted bit 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 notify a 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 makes a difference. Directors do not like to be bombarded, in our experience, with any update that may have occurred. So 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. So what we’ve seen is the process from beginning to end. If we go back to the overview chart, you see we’ve taken a number of files from different parts of the organization 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 five 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 disparate files, it’s one lovely book all beautifully sectioned in the way that you would expect. We’ve also shown how last minute updates or additional information can be applied.

One very quick point on that. Whenever you apply those last minute updates, you can be sure that any annotations that the director has made are preserved. We have recently implemented a very elegant way of doing that that’s both in the control of the administrator and also the director. Don’t really have time on this webinar to go into details around that but would be very happy to 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 tightly. It is 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, wherever your directors happen to be in at any point in time, that material is available to them. Once they have got it on their tablet device they are able to work with it whether they are online or offline.

So that’s taken us twenty minutes or so to go through that. I think it allows a little bit of time for questions. Before we do that, Diligent as an organization for those of you who don’t know. I’ll just spend a very brief time introducing the company. We were founded in 2001. 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 3,500 customers and over 10,000 users worldwide. One of the things we’re proudest of is that our client retention rate is over 97%. So, 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 anymore 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. Now I think we’ve come into the end of our time. Please let me know if there is any specific questions that have been asked that you’d like us to answer at the moment.

Diligent host: Thank you Nathan. Yes, so we’ve had a few questions come through regarding the same topic, so I’ll ask this one. What happens to notes if I replace a document? Do they get lost? Are they retained somewhere?

Nathan B: 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 board’s applications 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 be 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 is 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 are managing this and as I say we would 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 who asked this question often uploads documents or sends documents out to their directors as a reference after a meeting has happened.

Nathan B: 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 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 use or the different use cases for it. Yeah, absolutely possible to 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. We will 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 are 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.

  • The agenda for today's session follows
  • Nathan Birtle

    VP of Sales, EMEA

    the typical process for creating and delivering board meeting materials.