Equity Housing Group Adopt Diligent Boards™
Equity Housing Group is committed to making every house a home for customers across the 4,600 properties that it builds and manages in the North West, South Yorkshire and Staffordshire regions. The group’s dynamic portfolio includes shared ownership and affordable rented properties, and the company aims to make a positive difference in the communities in which it works, creating inspiring places to live in and enjoy.
Tara Kelly is Governance Manager at Equity Housing Group. She is responsible for governance, regulatory and legal compliance and supports the company’s Board of ten Non-Executive directors. With support from her team, she builds and distributes Board meeting materials and ensures that directors have access to the information they need for effective decision-making and strong leadership.
Equity Housing Groups Challenge
When Tara joined Equity Housing Group in spring 2017, she quickly saw an opportunity to improve the efficiency of Board activities and administration by looking for a digital alternative: “Board meetings were heavily reliant on paper,” she recalls. “Board packs of up to 400 pages were printed, collated and posted out to directors in advance of meetings. This meant members of the team spending hours printing and binding packs, monopolising the printers every time a meeting took place.”
There were other concerns, too. With increasing awareness of data protection as the deadline for GDPR compliance loomed, Tara felt that security needed to be improved: “Sending out hard copy Board packs by post is not a secure way to share the company’s most sensitive information. We needed better control over access to confidential documents.”
Environmental considerations also played a part. Equity Housing Group has a strong ethos of corporate social responsibility and wasteful processes didn’t fit with their principles, as Tara explains: “It’s important that the Board leads by example when it comes to environmental responsibility. By reducing paper and printer use, we cut our carbon footprint and save money at the same time.”
The Approach to Choosing Board Portal Software
Tara set about building a business case for investing in a Board portal. She carried out a full audit of the process and identified how much time and resources were devoted to building hard copy Board packs, creating a strong case for adopting a digital solution. Once the case was made, Tara embarked on a rigorous evaluation process to find a Board portal for the Group. “We wanted a proven, tried and tested solution that offered high-quality functionality and value for money,” she explains. As part of her research, Tara consulted with colleagues in the Governance Officers Network: “I got some excellent insight from professionals who were already using Board portals about what to look for.”
Tara also sought a technical product demonstration that allowed the company’s IT department to ask potential suppliers questions about security and accessibility. The IT department was particularly supportive of the move to a Board portal, as Tara explains: “Our IT Director is driving a strategic initiative for digital transformation throughout the Group, so this ticked a lot of boxes in his bid to improve efficiency, flexibility and security. He has also worked with Diligent in a previous company and has a positive experience of the proposition.”
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The Board Portal of Choice
Following the evaluation process, Equity Housing Group selected Diligent to provide a Board portal for its directors and administrators. “Diligent stood out as a market-leading board portal provider that offered the value for money, board security and functionality that we were looking for,” says Tara. The board management software implementation was smooth and Equity’s Board directors received one-to-one, telephone-based training from Diligent’s customer success team. “There was an element of trepidation among directors at first,” recalls Tara. “Although they were very supportive of the change and the reasons behind it, they still needed to learn a new system, which is always a bit of a challenge. Fortunately, they found the training very helpful and the Board portal intuitive. Once they started using it regularly, they were soon confident.”
The Benefits of Implementing Board Portal Software
Equity Housing Group’s Main Board, Subsidiary Board and Executive Team are now all using Diligent Boards and, as a result, the company has cut its expenditure on printing, paper and postage, while reducing its carbon footprint at the same time. Another key benefit has been better organisation of board meeting materials. Essential documents are included in the main Board pack, while links are provided to reference documents in the secure reading room. Tara explains: “Previously, we had to put all the supporting material into the Board pack, so it was difficult for directors to identify the really important documents.
Now board members can focus on the issues that matter for decisionmaking, without getting side tracked by supplementary materials, although these can be accessed via links if they are needed.”
Governing Beyond the Boardroom
Now that directors have grown accustomed to using Diligent Boards, Tara plans to introduce additional features, such as secure messaging tool and the board meeting minutes software, to make Board activities even more secure and efficient. “We’ve had a very positive experience with Diligent Boards,” Tara concludes. “This gives us the confidence to continue our digital transformation journey by adding new features and functionality. We’re looking forward to the next phase.”
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