It may be the digital age, but the information distribution systems many firms use to reach their boards of directors are still pretty traditional. Instead, these outdated practices often involve staffers compiling reams of documents and shipping them around the world or assistants struggling to collate board materials.
The solution? Board portals can help streamline communication, saving time (and money) on staff hours by reducing mailing costs, the time it takes to collate information, and the need to check on delivery, to cite a few examples. Portals also save time (and money) for board members, who don’t have to shuffle reams of papers, chase down answers across printed reports or via staff members, or weigh in on business matters without the latest information. Here are a few ways portals benefit board members and administrators:
Easing Staff Burdens
Rob Bellhouse, a former company secretary at Lonmin, a mining firm listed in the FTSE 250, says he used to have a team working all hours in order to handle the paperwork and logistics of getting board information packets to the directors in time for meetings.
“We had half a dozen people working against the clock, and there were still unavoidable problems and missed connections that resulted in directors showing up to board meetings without the latest materials,” he tells Diligent.
In the management textbook, Managing the Challenges in Human Service Organisations: A Casebook, an executive director admitted that he and his staff used to email every board member and call them just to ensure they received the packets that had been mailed out to them. Despite all their extra effort, there were still times where crucial information was missed by board members..
Portal solutions: A portal has the power to address many of these issues. Information is stored in one place with instant access, and staffers don’t need to plan weeks in advance just to get information into the right hands. There’s no struggle to create detailed organisational filing systems, or devote a great deal of time following up with board members. Hours, if not days, of staff time are saved by an easy-to-use system.
Easing Board Burdens
Bellhouse tells Diligent that he’s shipped paperwork as far away as 8,000 miles for executives. Imagine the board member who is lugging hundreds of pages of reports and financials in their bag, on a plane, en route to vacation. The paper adds up to a lot of waste, and also presents a security risk, as someone could grab the packet or rifle through it. Needless to say, it’s not the best system.
Additionally, when that many pages are manually recorded, it’s challenging to track where and when the notes were written. In an article in the Harvard Business Review, Maggie Wilderotter speaks about her time on the boards of P&G and Xerox, and says that while meetings are crucial, it’s also important to touch base in-between meetings to stay current on financial and other information. After all, how can directors make quality recommendations if the information they are reviewing is not the latest version or requires updates?
Time wasted on logistics is time not spent on the big-picture thought leadership that serves as the reason corporations employ board members to begin with.
Portal solutions: These challenges can be mitigated by the immediate access to information that a portal provides, especially when that portal is available on a variety of electronic devises. Portals ensure that board members have access to the most-up-to-date information and aren’t wasting time juggling paperwork. Staff can update documents via the portal, and board members can take notes there as well.
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