Victoria University makes seamless transition to Diligent Boards from BoardPad
More than 1.3 million students are educated each year at Australian universities and the sector employs more than 120,000 full-time equivalent staff. Victoria University (VU) is one of the largest and most innovative but, as with many universities, has a complex hierarchical structure that can make efficient governance a challenge.
VU identified board portal software as a key part of the solution but an unexpected change highlighted that strong support and training are just as important.
Victoria University (VU) caters to more than 40,000 students enrolled in higher education and vocational education.
“We have quite an interesting governance structure because it’s the higher education sector,” says VU Senior Project Manager Will Thompson. “There’s a lot of different boards – some are comprised of academics and some are more on the business side.”
The institution’s main governing board is the University Council, which meets at least five times a year and oversees the institution’s activities. An Academic Board, which reports to the Council, is responsible for academic oversight of the University’s research, academic programs and courses. Other committees include finance and investment; compliance, audit and risk; infrastructure planning, and leadership and culture.
Maintaining a consistent governance approach across so many levels is difficult yet crucial in a sector where public funding plays a major role.
The answer was to implement board portal software. VU initially chose BoardPad, which it began implementing in early 2017.
In 2018 VU launched a revolutionary block mode of teaching for first year students, where subjects are delivered one at a time allowing for more focus and an easier transition into uni life. The strategy has worked so well that it will be rolled out to second year subjects in 2019, and third and fourth year subjects in 2020.
“Having new board portal software facilitates meetings and governance and enables these types of decisions to be made, monitored and tracked,” Thompson says.
While installing BoardPad had helped VU meet its objectives, the future of BoardPad itself was uncertain. Diligent acquired the software in early 2017 and ultimately made the decision to close the application. VU chose to move to Diligent Boards, which offered more functionality, but required more than 100 VU staff to learn how to use another system.
“We had to ensure a smooth transition because a lot of people who would be using the tool are quite senior stakeholders and they were effectively facing the rollout of a second tool in the space of a year.”
How Diligent helps
Thompson, who had previously overseen software rollouts for other corporations, oversaw the transition. He says strong support and training proved critical to make it work.
“We tried to identify any objections that stakeholders might have and then meet them in advance. One of the keys was obviously training.”
Diligent’s implementation team offered VIP level training and support, which involved personalised one-on-one training for every director, committee member and support staff.
“It massively increased their confidence from the outset and gave them some buy-in to Diligent Boards and the value of the product.”
Diligent also put Thompson in touch with other organisations that had made a similar transition from BoardPad to Diligent Boards.
“I was able to share some calls with the project teams to learn from their experience and go over any concerns that we had. It definitely helped with our smooth transition.”
Thompson says another attraction was Diligent’s decision to launch an Australian data centre in 2018. The centre is operated by Canberra Data Centres, which is used by more than 40 government departments and agencies, including the Department of Defence.
“We prefer to have any data that is hosted in the cloud based on Australia data centres – that’s just an internal additional level of security that we like.”
VU’s Council and all its committees successfully switched to Diligent in a short period of time, Thompson says.
“The feedback was really positive and we’ve now switched off BoardPad completely.”
The ongoing demands on the University’s IT team are also low given directors’ and admin users’ first port of call is Diligent Boards’ 24/7 support.
Now that users have learned how to use Diligent Boards, they have also noticed improved functionality within an intuitive user interface compared to their previous software solution.
“Diligent Boards makes it easy for board members to access reporting using their smart devices and to navigate the packs easily and effectively. Admin users have been impressed by the ‘drag and drop’ functionality, making it easier and quicker to export reports from Windows File Explorer directly to the board pack.”
While users have generally focused on Diligent Boards’ core functionality (such as annotations, resource centre and archiving features), plans are afoot for VU to roll out the voting feature in 2019.
“The implementation of Diligent Boards was used internally as an opportunity to review our governance and decision-making processes from the perspective of facilitating positive and effective board and committee meetings. There is certainly a range of features that we could utilise to further enhance our internal governance and our business-as-usual team are reviewing these regularly.”