7 Steps To A Paperless Boardroom

Paperless Boardroom

We have the technology and the software to finally start delivering on that long-held goal of a paperless boardroom. But technology is useless without people. You can have the best solution out there, but if it’s poorly implemented, if there’s little training and support, and if it’s forced on its end-users, it is unlikely to benefit the business. Digital board portals use modern technology to digitise board materials, making them easy and quick to create, edit and read. Perhaps most importantly, digital board portals are much more secure than their traditional paper-based counterparts.

The point of a paperless boardroom isn’t simply to cut down on clutter, or move with the times. It’s to provide the business with a safe, secure way to conduct work more efficiently. To succeed, a digital board solution must have user experience at its heart, and it must be built with a flexibility that allows organisations to adapt the solution provided to suit its unique set of needs. Paperless boardrooms don’t happen overnight, it’s an evolutionary, rather than a revolutionary process. To get there, organisations need to:

1. Commit

Secure commitment from the chairman, CEO and company secretary. Switching from paper to digital isn’t just a matter of changing the way you deliver information, but changing people’s habits. Senior leadership needs to lead by example.

2. Map The Flow Of Information

You need a clear understanding of how and when board packs are currently compiled, distributed and updated. Once you’ve mapped out each step in the process you can replicate it with your paperless solution. Moving to digital board materials is an evolutionary step, rather than revolutionary. You’re not trying to change everything about your information collation and distribution, at least not at the outset. Give the board time to adapt to the digital board packs, and with time people will start to suggest changes and discover possible improvements to make to the workflow. By mapping the information before hand, you can ensure that you have the right solution for the organisation’s needs.

3. Train

High-quality training is imperative to the success of the transition from paper-based to digital board materials. Training end users (directors and board members) can be straightforward, and can often be conducted over the phone. By ensuring that all board members training is completed prior to the first paperless board meeting, organisers can ensure that the entire board is confident and familiar with the board portal when they need to be. It’s also vital to train, and consult with, the administrators of the system – those who will upload and update the board materials. These are the people who enable the additional capabilities that the portal may have, such as activating the ability to vote on resolutions. They need to understand the system well enough to know what it can, and cannot, do (which is why follow-up training is also vital).

4. Insist On 24/7 Support

Questions will inevitably arise when using a new system, and often at the most pressing time – for example, when a director is having connectivity issues while preparing for a major meeting, or when he or she needs to consult documents before boarding a plane. The new system should be supported 24/7/365 by a team of “always on” live experts.

5. Be Flexible

While the majority of documents in a board pack use standard-sized paper, which are easily replicated on a digital platform, board packs may need to include larger-format documents that can be harder to view on tablets. By providing detailed diagrams or architectural plans on printed sheets, and showcasing them on large screens in the room, companies can continue to embrace the move to digital, while avoiding trying to force a paperless solution at the expense of operational need. As digital board room technology evolves, these issues will become less prominent.

6. Offer A Gradual Introduction

Moving to digital board books is a process, not an instant change. It’s a good idea to distribute hard copy board packs before the first meeting under the new system, or at least have printed copies in the room. Directors will have had access to the digital portal before the meeting, but some may still feel more comfortable if they can refer to the traditional packs as well. After the meeting, conduct a poll, ask the directors if they still want to receive hard copy packs. If the training has gone as well as it should, there will be little demand for the cumbersome packs of old.

7. Part Of The Team

Although it isn’t unusual for a few board members to continue to request printed packs, they soon start to find that those who have fully adopted the digital solution are able to access the content they need more efficiently than they can. Those who are initially more reluctant to make the switch, tend to jump on board as they see more of their colleagues embracing the new way of working.

Charlie Horrel

Charlie Horrell is Managing Director, Europe, Middle East and Africa, at Diligent. Charlie’s career has focused on driving businesses within the digital, technology and media space. He joined Diligent as managing director in January 2012 after 5 years as CEO of advertising services company, Packet Vision. Prior to that he had been COO of a €1 billion division of Thomson SA, the French media company, CEO of IDP SA in Paris, quoted on the French market, and spent 7 years with News Corporation; initially at BSkyB and then at Star TV in Hong Kong. Charlie began his career as an accountant with Arthur Andersen and has a degree in Economics.