From paper to digital: what keeps Boards from transitioning?

Board portals promise to be safer, lighter, faster. But acceptance still relies on a very human element - the corporate secretary. Here is what you can do to boost the use of a digital tool in the boardroom.

The necessity of moving sensitive board books to online board portals is no longer an issue. Both general counsels and corporate secretaries have realised the digital realm is safe. Questions about security and compliance, archiving, access and tech support are assiduously overcome. Yet, some board members still need guidance in crossing the threshold to the digital universe. Here is what you can do to boost the use of a digital tool in the boardroom.


In one word: questions. Who are the Board Members? What is their workflow? How important is mobility?

Track available solutions, narrow down options, prioritise the company's needs. Is it only digital storage and access to documents? Or is it mainly about meetings? Would the company benefit most from a solution focused on the quality of decisions? Involve more skeptical directors in the process. The objective here is to anticipate their concerns.

Only after a full-blown assessment, poll the Board. Involving users from the start is the best way to ensure a hefty investment in technology is actually purposeful.

Run the checklist

There is a good array of board portals to choose from, but it's the corporate secretary's expertise that will determine the best solution for each company. Here are the key insecurities that keep directors from transitioning from paper to digital, and how the tool should address them:

a) Security // Must be bullet-proof. E-banking standards are a minimum.

b) Ease of use // Choose features by quality/impact, not quantity. The ability to readily access archival information is one of the key advantages of using digital board portals.

c) Usability // Ease of use for annotations, intuitive display of information, user-centered design.

d) Collaboration // Separate workspaces for committees for targeting documents to the right Board Members, avoiding information overload.

e) Flexibility // Consider different terms of use, such as platform – desktop, laptop, tablet, etc. - and online/offline access.

f) Support // Round-the-clock service is especially valid when a member deals with different timezones. Seek proven track record of 24-hour support.

Facilitate internal procedures

For assistants, do not underestimate the relevance of service providers' account managers and support teams. Opt for a company that offers a high-quality on-boarding process and a diligent, personalised support, such as Sherpany.

Investing in iPads and wireless accessories can be an extra push towards acceptance. Chances are, most of the director's questions will concern equipment, not the portal itself. Involving the IT department in the purchasing of devices can be a plus.

Corporate secretaries are the decisive element to the successful establishment of secure online environments. It is only due to their expertise that a solution is truly embraced - and members actually do access corporate documents, communicate, make notes and collaborate.

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