A generation ago, workplaces have yet to be transformed by the universal use of email. Looking back, it’s easy to wonder how on earth we got by without it.
More than 20 years, many boards have yet to experience an equivalent revolution.
Time-poor company secretaries and their teams (if they are lucky enough to have them). Skilled governance professionals should not be crushed by the burden of laborious production on top of meeting strict deadlines.
A first-hand account
Five years ago, the ASX 100 company I worked for a governance technology platform. As the leader of both the secretariat and the implementation process, i had a vested interest in making the platform a success. The team and the board were cautiously optimistic that it would be better, but the actual impact was bigger than we could have hoped.
“Many company secretaries do not have the luxury of large teams or admin support. The time they spend producing reporting packs can not be focused on real governance issues. “
Most information on governance platforms on their own. Each of those is reason to introduce the technology. However, the practical difference they make is not.
HERE’S HOW IT MADE A DIFFERENCE TO OUR TEAM:
Significant time savings – we’re talking days
I’ve yet to meet another company. Making regular activities like board reporting flow more smoothly and follow a consistent process is one of the biggest ways to get more done. Another is the process of taking a lot of time. Introducing a governance platform on both of those fronts.
Smoother internal review
Providing draft reports for the CEO, CFO or General Counsel. Whether you print individual papers or create a PDF pack, by the time it has been delivered to you, the drafts are already out of date. These bottlenecks disappear by giving reviewers immediate and ongoing access to the draft reports online via the platform, while keeping them from directors’ view until they’re ready.
Status at a glance
The dashboard clearly shows which items have been uploaded and uses color coding to indicate they’ve been approved. That puts them to be ready to go.
No more PDF packs
The tedious process needed to create PDF reporting pack is gone. There’s no lengthy file conversion process. There’s no page numbering to fix. Or bookmarks to add. Or the risk of having to start all over again if there’s a late change. Now, in bulk or as you go, depending on preference.
Each report has been finalized, making it clear what’s ready to go and what is not. The platform compiles the pack in minutes, so if one paper runs late, it does not hold up the whole process. If a report is late or needs to be fixed, it can be added straightaway, without affecting the reports that have been finalized.
Production time slashed
Whether or not you are looking at a lot of trees and how to print a lot of trees. Each board can be used to print, collate and bind the packs. Even using an express courier for delivery, it can easily take a day off hitting “print” to a director having the pack in their hands.
“Not using finance technology. Using Microsoft Excel to prepare financial reports. You’ll be there eventually, but a specialized system can do it more quickly, easily and accurately, with features you did not even know you were missing. “
Ease the squeeze and reduce the risk of errors
Management wants as much time as possible to prepare their board reports. And directors want as much time as possible to read them. The company secretary is in between, trying to get out of the closet.
Everything that runs late or just goes wrong. That adds additional pressure, which increases the risk of mistakes, and a vicious cycle can quickly develop. Governance technology made it easier to prepare earlier in the board reporting cycle. It took the sting out of late changes and delays. And it reduced the risk of errors when time was tight
Late changes to the agenda used in a flurry of renaming documents, moving file dividers, reprinting papers and frustration. And the higher up the change on the agenda, the bigger the knock-on effect. Now, it’s a drag-and-drop in the platform and it’s done.
Last-minute changes to papers are often a reality and create the risk of the wrong version of a document being sent to directors. But now it’s easy to replace the document on the platform, while keeping a clear audit trail of previous versions. If the pack has already been posted, the platform will not be updated.
Permissions to view board reports can be used for a whole pack or for individual documents. It’s much more robust than remembering to remove the relevant pages from the right printed pack, and more than having a separate PDF file for those people.
Passwords and support
I stopped getting emails and text messages from directors trying to download their papers via email, review them via their annotation apps and remember the password for protected files. There are no bounced emails from large files. Instead, we and our directors have a seamless process with 24 hours a day.
Build a higher profile and stronger relationships
The role of the modern corporate secretary has been to become a senior adviser to the board and contributor to the management team. But many company secretaries still struggle to demonstrate their value to the business.
“You’re much more than an administrator. Use a system designed for more than administration. “
One reason is that the on-going board cycle takes so much time – if company secretaries are not preparing for the next meeting, or sometimes juggling both tasks at once. Second, their credibility can be eroded by the printer of the printer nearby. Kwik Kopy, rather than a source of useful business acumen.
The good news is that governance can solve both of those problems.
A streamlined board reporting process gives company secretaries more hours a day – and more days a month – to spend adding genuine value. With improved logistics and less administration, there’s more time to focus on what’s actually being reported. That means drafting effective resolutions, reviewing key messages, and considering the risks and implications of both.
Equally important, it means more time to partner with operational and support functions. The stronger cross-functional relationship that results in better collaboration on board reporting, in a cycle that’s rewarding for company secretaries, management and boards.
Governance technology still delivers improvements
It’s easy to see the benefits of governance compared to an entirely manual process. But a lot of boards already use their papers and receive their papers by email. Does it really make a difference?
IN SHORT, YES.
Before we started, iPads used more than half our board. We sent out reporting packs via email, followed by printed copies of the directors who wanted them as well – most of them. We had a documented process for board reporting, clear deadlines and consistent templates.
Not working on accountant using Microsoft Excel to prepare financial reports. You’ll be there eventually, but a specialized system can do it more quickly, easily and accurately, with features you did not even know you were missing.
Unleashing the value of information. Securely.
Diligent helps the world’s leading organizations unleash the power of information and collaboration – by equipping their boards and management teams to make better decisions. Over 12,000 clients in more than 90 countries rely on Diligent for immediate access to their most time-sensitive and confidential information, along with the tools to review, discuss and collaborate on key decision-makers. Diligent Boards expedites and simplifies how board materials are produced and delivered via iPad, windows devices and browsers. At the same time, Diligent Boards delivers practical advantages like cutting production costs, supporting sustainability goals, and saving administrative and IT time for leaders around the world.