Board portal Technology: The advantages of going digital


Qais: Hello, everyone, and welcome to our webinar on Diligent Board Portal. My name is Qais Gharaibeh, and I am responsible for developing Diligent’s business in the Middle East region. Prior to Diligent I’ve held several leadership roles within multinational companies that operate out of Dubai over the past twenty years. I’ve worked with the likes of SAP, Hewlett Packard, and EMC.


I’d like to start by taking you through the agenda that we’ll be covering today. So I’ll start by giving you an introduction about some of the market dynamics and the challenges that are facing the Board of Directors today, which are driving the need for having a solution like the Diligent Board Portal. I’d like to also then explain to you how we define a board portal solution, and from there I’d like to move towards giving you a quick demo of the solution itself and how it works.


Following that, I’ll touch a little bit on the advantages of the Diligent board portal solution, give you a little bit of background about the company, and then open the room to answer any of the questions that you may have.


Before starting with the details of the webinar, just feel free to log in any questions that you may have on the right side of the screen. We will be sending you as part of the webinar some questions for you to answer, so please provide us with your answers. We will e-mail you of course the recording of the webinar on the 21st of January, and we have prepared some handouts for you to download as part of the panel that you have on the right side of the screen.


Qais: Okay, so starting with the challenges that are facing the Board of Directors. We’re seeing a number of dynamics that are influencing the Board of Directors to look for more advanced solutions, or IT tools that will help them cope with these challenges. The first one that we see is that there is a more emphasis and in-depth examination by regulators and shareholders, which is driving the need for having more control on the information related to the board, and of course having more governance on it. The second thing that we have witnessed is that the board is receiving information from different sources, and there is a need for having a technology solution that enables them to have more current updates of this information, and be able to capture all the different sources. In addition, we see that the board material that the board receives and looks at is continuously changing and sometimes there are many last-minute updates, even up to a few minutes before having the board meeting. So again, there is a need also for having more dynamic tools that enable flexibility to update information up to the last minute.


Of course, the board documents are sensitive, they contain sensitive and confidential information, so there is more emphasis on how the production and the distribution of these documents can be more secure than conventional ways that are being used today. Of course, these changes and dynamics have driven some companies to look into adopting technology practices in order to create and produce and distribute the board material.


We see that some organisations have begun to use e-mails with PDF files to distribute the material to Board of Directors, and we’re also seeing some of them have gone towards using shared tools or document sharing tools that are on the cloud. These solutions have proven to have some vulnerability. For example, the PDF is not prepared or does not provide an enjoyable screen-reading experience, so you find a lot of directors end up receiving the PDF, printing it, and from there on you end up having some issues with how to control the security around the data and the confidentiality of this data. In addition, you find that there are some cloud-sharing services that are being used by some customers … are having some security attacks, which is not compatible with the requirements for security for the confidential information of the board.


That has triggered the emergence of secured portals like Diligent Boards, where customers can rely on having a secured storage for their confidential information. The portal also enables the directors to be able to have some collaboration between them, and be able to function better as board members more effectively. In addition, it also gives the administrators or the company  secretary the ability to upload last-minute updates for the information, making the information more current for the board of directors.


Of course, the information and all documents that are being stored on a Diligent Board Portal solution is secured and encrypted, and they are stored in secured servers in our data centres that are redundant and offer high availability of the data. Some of these data centres that we have operate out of Germany and this is where the Middle East customers are being hosted.


Qais: So I’d like to move towards the first question in our survey, and the question is: “How do you create documents for your boards?” As you can see there are a number  of different options for you to choose from. Are you currently using documents that are printed and distributed in paper? Do you have documents that are forwarded in PDF format via e-mail? Are you using shared services, cloud services like DropBox® or SharePoint® platforms to distribute information? Are you using customised in-house developed tools, or are you using a board portal from another vendor? So please go ahead and give us your answers. Okay, thank you.


So I can see here from your responses that about eighty percent of the audience is currently using PDF as a form of distribution, which is typical in this part of the world. Portal solutions are not yet mainstream, I would say, in this region. So that is also a good opportunity for us to explain to you the benefits that the board portal solution and what it can bring into your organisation.


So let’s start first by defining what is a board portal solution. A board portal is a secure system that is used for producing, distributing, and sending confidential information and documents to the Board of Directors and company executives, in order to prepare them for their board meetings, where the Board of Directors in return can access this information via their laptops or their mobile devices. Once they access this information they’ll be able to examine the content, they’ll be able to annotate the content, and they could potentially collaborate in order to verify certain points and potentially use some other functionality like voting, which would help them function better and more effectively as board members. The solution or the board portal is of course a secured environment, where data is encrypted, and it is securely stored, which ensures that this kind of information in the board is not falling into the wrong hands.


The Diligent Board Portal solution has two user profiles. There is one user profile, which is addressing the board secretary and the assistants who are responsible for preparing the board material, and the distribution of the board books. This is a profile that is served by a desktop application which is called OneClick within the Diligent world. The second user profile is of course a board member or company executive that is expecting to receive this information and be able to access it via his mobile device.


In a way that they can easily read the content and be able to navigate through it, they should be able to annotate effectively and be able to exchange information with one another. So this is done with Diligent through a mobile app that users can download through the {Apple} App Store®, and they would be able to access at the operating environment of their company, or within the Diligent app, and be able to access the information that was produced and generated for them by the company secretary or the administrative team that is responsible for building this material.


Qais: So moving forward, we have the second question in our survey, and the question is: “What is your position within your company?” Are you a secretary to the board? Are you a board member? Are you an IT officer, security officer, or other? So can you share with us this information? All right, thank you very much.


So it’s clear here that we have the majority of the audience, about sixty percent, are secretaries to the board; and we’ve got of course some IT officers as well. So this is great, you would find the demonstration very useful – specifically the company secretaries – because you’ll be able to relate to exactly how much time and effort it helps you save, and how you are able to produce higher quality outcome to serve the board of directors.


So I’d like to move from here now towards demonstrating the actual product. We mentioned that there are two user profiles, so I’d like to start by the Admin profile. I’d like to show you very quickly, as a company secretary, how easy it is for me to create a book from scratch and be able to distribute this information to the Board of Directors in preparation for the board meeting very quickly. So I’m going to move out of the presentation into my desktop, and I’ll show you that application.


So this is a desktop application which is called OneClick®. As you can see on the lower right of my screen, I’m just moving the mouse towards it, and once I click on it and enter my username and password I will be entering this environment here, which you can see in front of you. As you can see here, the environment has many different places for me to be able to create documents. In this particular example I will be creating a document for the main board meeting. I’ll be creating the document within the current box which is an area that is used to store content for Board of Directors, for board meetings that still did not take place.


As you can see here, I have two documents that I have published already, but what I would like to do as well is to create another book from scratch. So I’m just going to right-click on the screen and then create a book from scratch. I’ll be able to put a name to it, so let’s say “Company Y”, and I’ll put here let’s say today’s date, I’m going to choose the book to be current book so that the Board of Directors can view it, and [inaudible 00:12:34] just going to produce this book for the Board of Directors, and I want all the Board of Directors to be able to access it. So I’ve done all of the setup and then I will ask the system to create that folder for me, and the system will automatically create that folder of the board book, as you can see here.


So I’m just going to minimise the screen that’s behind it, I’m going to drag it to the right side of the screen, and then as you can see here, there is also a folder on my desktop which is called “Board Meeting Material.” So this is a place where I have consolidated the information that I have gathered from the operation as a company secretary, with regards to a predefined agenda for the board meeting, and I did some classification within this folder where I created some tabulation system which is aligned with the different agenda topics, and as part of these tabs I have inserted different documents that are related to different content that I have received from the operation related to that agenda topic.


As you can see here, the file types could be anything from PDF to Word® to Excel® to PowerPoint®; it doesn’t matter. All you need to do is store those relevant files that you have received in those particular folders. So, all I need to do now in order to convert this structure into an electronic book, as part of the Diligent Portal, is to be able to drag that folder and drop it into the book folder that was created as part of the system. As you can see, the Diligent Board Portal solution automatically creates the tabulation of the book, inline with the structure of the subfolders that I have created within my desktop. And it also lists the different files that are part of each one of those subfolders. If you see here, for example, there might be files that are not put in the sequence, don’t worry about that now because I will have the opportunity once I have uploaded the content to be able to make changes to the sequence of those files.


As you can see here, now the system is uploading the information. In fact, what the system is doing is three three things. The first thing that the system is doing is that it’s taking the content from the original format of the files and converting it to the Diligent format. It’s also encrypting the data and then it’s uploading it into the Portal. And then as you can see here, the book is being created with different tabs. The first tab is the Agenda, the second tab is the Approval of Minutes. Everything is in line with the structure that I have created in the subfolders on my desktop, if you remember. So we’re just going to wait a little bit to see that the system getting all of the upload completed.


But in the meantime I’d like to show you a couple of things. So I’m just going to collapse all these different tabs, and in case for example, I wanted to change the sequence of one tab or the other, all I have to do is just simply drag and drop the tab into the right sequence, and the system will automatically take this change. If for example, within a specific tab – so I’m just going to click on this Approval of Minutes tab – if I would like to have one file in a different sequence than where it is today, all I have to do is also just simply drag it and drop it. So as you can see, the system is highly flexible and offers a lot of publishing functionality that is quite useful for the secretarial team who is responsible for preparing the board material.


So as you can see here, we are about eighty percent complete. Now typically, this is a process; if it’s to be done manually or if those files are to be converted into one unified PDF file you will find that the secretarial team is spending a lot of time and effort in either consolidating the content and aligning its formats, or being able to print the content in a presentable manner for them to be able to distribute it to board members. As you can see here, the system is very quick in being able to do this process. Once we’re at a hundred percent, loading is complete, all we have to do is just simply check the content that’s being uploaded and make a decision whether it is ready for publishing or not.


So the system now has completed uploading the content, and now what we would like to do is to go and try to approve the content. So here is an editor that enables us to look at the content and check its format, check its content, make sure that everything is in the right sequence. As you can see here on the left-hand side, the tabulation of the book is highlighted in red, and this simply means that the content is not yet approved for publishing. So what I have here – so let’s say that we have a two-step approval process – I will start here by approving the entire book by myself, assuming that I have done all the checks and validated it. So once I do that approval but not final, all the tabs will be converted into blue colour indicating that I did the first level of approval. Then I can have another colleague who is also doing a second approval go and check the content again. And if he or she is happy with it then they can do an approval for the entire book.


Okay, so what I have now here is an entire book that is fully approved, that is ready for publishing, okay? Now of course the Administrator tool has a lot of functionality which is – of course I won’t be able to share all this functionality with you today but I’m just going to restrict myself towards a simple process of creating a board book and then distributing it to the board members. Just so that you can see how efficient the process is, compared to other conventional ways that you may be currently using today.


So I have done and completed this process, and now what I would like to do is to pull out my iPad screen. As you can see here, I have an application on the bottom left side of the screen which is called Diligent Boards. I’ll click on that, I’m going to log in with a username called director1, I’ll go to put in my password, and once I put in my password I’ll be able to quickly access the application. In this particular example I’m a board member in two different companies, so I will choose the company that I want to access. So let’s call it, [inaudible 00:19:43] I’m accessing the Diligent Boards environment, and then once I access this environment, the system automatically takes me towards the Current Books area and in this particular example I am a member in three different committees within Diligent so I will choose the main board. As you can see here I have a new book that is prepared for me by the Administrators. It’s called “Company Y” and this is the book that I was working on. I press on that book in order to download the content and synchronise it, and as you can see the system is synchronising this content into my iPad.


As you can see here, now the book is being completely downloaded, and once I click on it I’m immediately able to access this book. In this particular case I can quickly show you how quickly I can navigate through the book, so I can scroll left, scroll right, I can take the cursor at the bottom and then just drag it all the way so that I go to a specific page number. I can also click on the bottom-right of the screen and then I can touch specifically which page number I want to access, and the system automatically takes me there. Any time I want to go back to the Agenda I can press on the bottom-left side of the screen, so I’m back to the main agenda.


I’d like also to show you the ability to annotate – sorry, before I go there, let me just show you another way of navigating the contents. If I want to navigate the document based on the tabulation of the book, so I can easily give the Appendix out and as you can see here, I’ll be able to go to specific sections just by clicking on them. And then eventually I can just scroll left and right to be able to go to those specific pages that I want to see. Sorry.


Now, once I have reached there, as a board member I’m reviewing the material; what I would like to do is to highlight things that I agree on. I’m going to highlight those things that I agree on with, let’s say green. I’m going to highlight things that I would like more clarification on, in yellow. And then things that I don’t agree on, I’m going to highlight them in red. So as you can see, we provide a three-colour system, which enables you to do something like the example that I’ve just provided.


I can also use a pen in order to circle around or just simply write my own scribbles. I can use this pen in different colours and I can use it in different thickness, and then I can say for example, “I want this,” or “Please check.” So I’ll be able to write on the screen as I want. Never mind my handwriting, it’s not the best one.


In addition what I can do is I can also create sticky notes. And this sticky note basically is a place where I’ll be able to type a message or a remark or a note. For example, I’ll type “Please check,” and then I can choose to make this note private, I can choose to make it public to everyone, meaning everybody that’s part of this committee that’s receiving this book will receive a copy of my notes. Or I can share it with specific and selected members of this committee. This is a collaboration environment which enables direct [inaudible 00:23:17] notes from one another, and this note is specific to a content within the book. As you can see, I’m able to drag and drop this note anywhere in the screen, where it’s relevant, and the other board members will be able to see this note and will be able to comment on it as soon as they receive it. So they can open this note, they’ll be able to see who they received it from, and they’ll be able to add their comment on it and say, “I checked.” Then they can also choose to make this note public or they can share it with selected board members.


And there you go. So as you can see here, I can easily annotate and write my own scribbles and annotations. There’s also, if you go to the left-upper side of the screen, there is two index tabs. One is called Navigation and other one is called Annotations. Annotations here keeps track for me of all the different notes that I have created on the book. So in case I’m at a different page and I want to access the page where I have written the notation, then I can easily access that by going to that index.


If I want to present some content on the screen, for example, on a big screen I can type the annotations that I have written. And once I’m done with my presentation I can go back and I can bring out those annotations again. So this is simply just to show you how easy it is for me to receive the content and be able to deal with it once the company secretary has sent this information for me. Of course there is also some additional functionality related to the function of the board.


So let’s go for example, to another book. So I stepped out of that book, I’m back into the main area of the current books, and I can see here that there’s another book where there’s a work in progress. So let me go and check this one, so as I can see here that there is a document that’s been prepared for my signature, and I still need to place that signature on that. I make a selection, “Vote For” or “{Vote} Against” or “Abstain”. In this particular case I would like to “Vote For”, I confirm, and then as you can see my signature comes out and then there’s a time stamp and a date stamp for when my signature did come out. Any time I want to check the status of the voting process, and see who needs to sign that still didn’t sign, I can check here and as you can see there is Sarah Jackson which still did not “vote for”. I “voted for” and it also shows that there are two people that are required in order for this vote to pass, and the vote is still in progress.


Qais: Okay, so as you can see as a board member, I was quickly able to do a number of things. I was able to receive content very quickly, I was able to navigate through it very smoothly. Having a book experience which is very easy for screen reading, I didn’t need to print anything, and I was able to write my own annotations. I was able to create a note and send it to different board members, and was able to receive content or reply back from different board members on that same note. So you can imagine how simple [inaudible 00:26:37] collaboration between different board members, whether it is during the board meeting, before, or after.


Okay, so this is basically a summary demo of what I wanted to show you with regards to the board portal solution from Diligent. There are many advantages to the solution, but here is what I would like you to remember about the benefits that Diligent Board Portal can provide.


First thing for board members, I think it was clear to show how a tool enables better communication between different board members and help them to be more effective in their job. The second thing is of course what we did with the Administrator tool, to give you the understanding or the conclusion that it is an amazing tool that will save time and money in the preparation process and the distribution process for board material. Of course, another advantage is that the security that’s being put around the method of creation and production, and of course also about the method of distribution. And this is something that ensures that sensitive board material is not falling into the wrong hands. Of course, when you look at the overall process of the function of the board, this is a tool that improves productivity and makes more effective meetings for the Board of Directors.


Qais: Moving on, I’d like to give you just a short background about the company. So we are Diligent, we operate in over twelve different markets. We have over three thousand, three hundred customers worldwide, which translates into over one hundred thousand board members that are using the service from us. The interface that we have, of course, is available in five different languages. As you can see the mix of our customers, so we have a good mix between local Middle Eastern customers and global customers. We have a good mix between global large-size companies and small or medium enterprises. And we have a good mix in different industries. We are taking a leadership position in this marketplace, and we have managed to successfully achieve a client retention rate of ninety-nine percent.


Now, the main drivers for this retention rate is of course three areas. One is simplicity of use, as you may have witnessed with the demo of the product that I have showed you, but also with regards to the security that we provide [inaudible 00:29:19] content and the information, and more importantly with regards to the level of service that we provide when we are taking care of our customers once we get into contracts with them.


Basically, we provide 24×7 support, our systems are designed to make sure that we are highly responsive to all customers, so we don’t have a callback service or anything. In fact, about ninety-eight percent of the calls that we receive are addressed and resolved by the same person who is picking up the call. Customers are extremely satisfied with the level of [inaudible 00:29:59] experience that the support team has. We also have our Success Team, which is assigned to the customer’s account from the beginning. These people are not only responsible for configuring the environment for the customer requirements, but they are also responsible for training and making sure that every person within the customer side that’s interacting with Diligent Boards is properly trained and able to interact with the system. Of course, these services are unlimited and they are part of the subscription fee that is charged by Diligent. We also like to claim that we provide the best service in the industry and we’re being recognised by different industry evaluators as such. Therefore, when you speak to our customers and you see how satisfied with the level of service that we have, we end up with a result where we have the ninety-nine percent retention rate, and we’re really proud of this achievement.


So that’s it from my side. If you liked what you have heard about Diligent today, there’s a number of ways that you can get more information. You can visit our website, Or you can download the whitepapers that we have provided as part of the handouts. There’s also some case studies that we have shared with you. More importantly, if you would like to schedule a more detailed demo to see how the solution [inaudible 00:31:31] your environment, please feel free to contact me on my numbers that are listed on the screen. I am based out of Dubai and I will be more than happy to do either a web demo or a face-to-face demo with you, as you might find suitable for your environment.


So that’s it from my side, thank you so much for listening, and I hope you found the information useful. What I would like to do right now is to be able to address some of the questions that you have logged in while I was giving the webinar.