BOARDROOM BEST PRACTICES

Five Benefits of Board Director Software

Digitisation is driving innovation, boosting productivity and increasing efficiency across all levels in the workplace. Today employees expect to have the most advanced, collaborative software readily to hand so they can work where they want, when they want and with whom they want, all while staying safe from external cyberthreats and making sure confidential information stays that way.

When it comes to the general workforce, CIOs and CISOs have many options in terms of tools and safeguards that they can deploy to help employees work and collaborate more efficiently while meeting the security standards needed to comply with regulations and prevent cyberattacks. But what about at the highest levels of the organisation?

Board business is conducted between the C-suite, board directors, and non-executive directors from outside the organisation, supported by the corporate secretariat and board administrators. These individuals are invariably busy, the data they deal with is highly confidential, and they need to prioritise transparency, accountability and good governance in all their work. Standard tools are not sufficient to support the combined level of accessibility, confidentiality and functionality needed by boards. Instead, bespoke board director software that is designed with the board in mind delivers key benefits that help directors, company secretaries and board administrators work productively and safely. Here are five ways that board director software benefits boards:

1. Board management software boosts flexibility and productivity

The nine-to-five working day is a thing of the past. Board directors, just like any other senior executives, want to work to their own schedule. If they decide they want to review the board pack late at night or over the weekend, they need to know that they’re working on the latest version. If those documents are hard copy, or have been emailed as PDFs several days before, any changes taking place in the interim will not be included. Board director software means directors can access the latest board pack online 24/7/365, on the device of their choice, and be confident that any updates made by administrators will be instantly available.

Directors can make notes, raise queries and navigate easily around the board packs and any supporting materials, without shuffling reams of paper or having to scroll back and forth through lengthy PDFs. The same benefits apply in the board meeting itself, which is typically more productive when paper-wrangling is eliminated.

The majority of directors today expect board business to be digitally enabled. For others, who may have remained wedded to paper board packs until recently, the abrupt changes brought about by COVID-19 have encouraged them to embrace digital working and realise the benefits. As a respondent to a recent survey of Company Secretaries by Leathwaites put it: “Directors who refused to have anything but paper before… have suddenly become totally proficient with electronic board papers.”

2. Secure director collaboration

Board directors are encouraged to build close working relationships and inevitably this means liaising with fellow directors and sharing information outside of board and executive committee meetings. The risk arises when this communication is conducted over unsecure communication channels.

As one Diligent client recently put it: “We have got to get director communications out of email.” This is because email – especially the personal email accounts of non-executive directors that are outside the protection of the business – is a notoriously unsafe medium. Cyber criminals deliberately target email accounts of high-profile directors because of the privileged information they receive. No business wants its confidential plans compromised because either someone’s Gmail account was hacked; because a director responded to a request for information from a person they genuinely thought was a fellow director; or because an email was accidentally misdirected due to an address autocomplete error.

The solution is to provide directors with a dedicated, secure board communication channel that is specifically reserved for board business. Secure messaging uses authentication to verify the identity of everyone using the channel, meaning directors can confidently send messages and information to one another without the risk of infiltration by cybercriminals or genuine mistakes.

3. Sensitive data stays secure

Managing board materials in board director software adds an extra layer of security and control to documents, ensuring that only authorised directors and administrators can access them. Documents can be restricted so they can’t be printed, downloaded or shared by unauthorised personnel, adding a layer of control and granular management that is hard to achieve when other channels are used to create and share them.

The software also provides audit capabilities, so it is clear who is accessing the information and what they are doing with it. This is an important aspect of governance and also provides a means to measure of director engagement with the materials provided.

There is no concern over what will happen to the board pack after the meeting, as there is with paper packs or emailed documents. The board pack is simply added to the secure archive where it can remain as a reference tool for directors – with their notes retained or deleted according to preference. Or the pack can be securely deleted, if necessary.

4. Board processes are effectively digitised and can add greater value and insight

Board director software facilitates the digitisation of board processes from completing director and officer (D&O) questionnaires and undertaking board evaluations to voting on resolutions, authorising decisions with e-signatures, and taking meeting minutes.

Once digitised, the data from processes such as D&O questionnaires and board evaluation surveys is instantly available for detailed analysis, meaning it immediately starts adding value and providing insight.

In terms of voting on resolutions and authorising documents or decisions, having a digital solution is essential when meetings are taking place virtually and wet signatures are hard to achieve. Secure e-signatures and digital voting records help maintain strong governance in difficult circumstances.

5. Board director software drives modern governance

The overriding benefit of board director software is the accumulation of all the aspects discussed above. By enabling all this, it helps to advance a modern governance agenda that prioritises efficiency, accountability, and transparency. It helps the board set the tone from the top, which says that using the best tools and technology to act effectively in the interests of the organisation should be a priority for all.

As the world becomes increasingly virtual and in-person meetings are rarer than they once were, boards need to evolve board governance processes so that they are fit-for-purpose to serve today’s organisations. That entails enabling directors to collaborate easily, but securely, and be productive by accessing all the data they need, whenever they need to, so that they can better support the organisations they serve.

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