Taking board meeting minutes is an important task. Clear and accurate documentation of what happens in board meetings is both a legal requirement and an essential component of the corporate record. This means that minute-taking is not just an administrative activity, it is a core governance process that should be managed accordingly.
Historically, the process for taking, sharing, approving and storing board meeting minutes has tended to reflect the preferences and work styles of the company secretary or board administrator. Additionally, It has typically been a manual activity that uses multiple tools such as word processing applications and email. However, as technology advances, growing pressure on corporate secretariat resources and an increasing focus on governance means many organisations now recognise that the minute-taking process needs to be revised to reduce risk and streamline operations.
Digitising the board meeting minutes process from end-to-end through the adoption of minute-taking software allows organisations to improve accuracy, security, collaboration and productivity. Good meeting minutes software should solve all the challenges associated with legacy minutes processes.
Here are seven key features to look out for when choosing meeting minutes software.
1. Automatic template generation and population
Even experienced minute-takers admit that the process of taking, refining and sharing meeting minutes often far outstrips the time spent in the meeting itself. Minutes software aims to speed up the process without compromising on quality or accuracy.
Look for the ability to automatically create and populate a meeting minutes template in just a few clicks in advance of the board meeting. Minutes software that integrates with your board portal platform should be able to extract key information such as meeting date, location, attendees and discussion items from the agenda directly into a template, eliminating the need to create a structure for the minutes from scratch every time.
This also promotes consistency, something often lacking in legacy minute-taking processes. A template means that the person taking the minutes follows a consistent structure and format, making it easier for future readers to analyse.
2. Action management tools to enhance accountability
You can expand the functionality of your meeting minutes with integrated action management tools. These allow you to assign actions agreed in the meeting to the directors responsible for undertaking them. These actions can be tracked and marked complete when they have been accomplished, boosting director accountability and transparency. Also, directors can be sent automated reminders advising them that they have outstanding actions to complete, helping them stay on top of their board commitments.
3. Collaboration tools and version control
A key advantage of using a single central solution to create, review and approve board meeting minutes is that it facilitates collaboration while keeping strict control over the master version. When multiple stakeholders need to review minutes, downloading them from email as word processing files soon results in a host of competing versions, all with different suggested amendments. Collating all those edits into a final version is complicated, time-consuming and can easily result in errors, even for the most conscientious co-ordinator.
Good meeting minutes software will maintain a single master version on which all authorised reviewers can collaborate, instilling confidence that they are working on the latest iteration. This prevents the creation of duplicate versions and avoids minutes being edited in parallel, while also capturing input from multiple sources.
Meeting minutes created and reviewed in this way should also carry an audit trail, meaning all changes made to the document and by whom they were made, are recorded for transparency.
4. A safe sharing channel
Sharing board meeting minutes by email is a significant security risk in today’s cyber threat environment. Business email compromise is on the rise and directors’ email accounts are a target as cybercriminals seek precisely the kind of sensitive, privileged data found in meeting minutes.
When meeting minutes software is incorporated into a secure board portal minutes are ready for review, and directors are simply sent a notification inviting them to access the draft file in a secure location. This eliminates the use of insecure email channels and protects the organisation’s most vulnerable information.
5. Digital approval system
Traditionally, after the review process, minutes are approved at the following board meeting. However, with the rise of virtual board meetings and increasing pressure on director time, this can be easily accomplished with a digital approval tool that allows directors to approve minutes with a single click once they are notified that the final version is ready.
6. Ultra-secure storage
Board meeting minutes must be kept for a minimum period of ten years. Many are retained for far longer than that, so it is crucial that they are kept in a stable, accessible, but highly secure location. Dusty filing cabinets are no longer fit for purpose, nor should the approved meeting minutes be stored on personal devices. Similarly, storing board meeting minutes on the corporate network presents challenges around access control and cybersecurity.
Robust meeting minutes software should provide a highly secure storage location to which access is fully controlled. On top of this, the file itself should be encrypted so that, if stolen, it is inaccessible. It should be possible to manage access to meeting minutes documents at a granular level, so only authorised personnel have permission to view or edit them.
7. Meeting minutes software that is easy to use for all parties
Introducing a new process can be difficult. If the software is not intuitive for all stakeholders, organisations will struggle to implement it as directors and administrators revert to tried and tested, albeit insecure and error-prone, methods used in the past. The whole process, from drafting and editing to reviewing, approval and storage, should be straightforward and deliver measurable time-savings and productivity benefits.
Digitising the board meeting minutes process is a significant opportunity to enhance governance, improve productivity, and ensure security for some of the most sensitive information the organisation possesses. By considering the seven key features above, you can make sure that your investment achieves all these goals.
For more on what makes effective board meeting minutes software, check out our buyer’s guide.
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