Sherpany: How can a board portal help you become more efficient in planning your annual agenda?
Tobias Häckermann: Professional corporate annual Board agendas are very similar within an industry cluster. A board portal should simplify translating the annual agenda into the customer’s specific Board of Directors’ meeting cycle.
Sherpany: What does it mean for a Corporate Secretary to make the transition from a paper-based annual agenda to a digital annual agenda?
Tobias Häckermann: Board portals can free up to 50% of the time a Company Secretary spends setting up the agenda with the help of industry specific agenda templates, adapted to the regular quarterly meetings. The increase in efficiency can be brought up to 80% by duplicating the quarterly meetings which are, within a corporation, very similar compared to the quarterly meetings from the previous year.
Sherpany: What does this transition mean for Board Members?
Tobias Häckermann: For Board Members, a digitally managed meeting agenda is threefold beneficial:
Sherpany: What are the biggest advantages?
Tobias Häckermann: Apart from being useful for Directors and helpful with increasing efficiency among Corporate Secretaries, digital agendas build the ground to link connected information across meetings.
As a Director, every year you talk about the budget. If you want to know what has been discussed on the topic of "budget" in the last 3 years, you have to jump from Q4 2016 meeting to Q4 2015 meeting, to Q4 2014 meeting. You have to open them in the right place, check the documents and search in the minutes the part where the discussion about the budget was recorded. Sophisticated board portals allow you to connect similar agenda items across meetings and facilitate Directors to have a retrospective view.
Sherpany: Do you see any disadvantages? If so, what can the Corporate Secretary do to prevent them?
Tobias Häckermann: There are no disadvantages, but there is a resistance to change. Digitally transforming your Board is not realistic if you wish to revolutionise all your Board of Directors’ processes from one day to another. This means while you are in a transformation period, you might have to work some time with parallel systems: digital and physical. In this phase, the board portal should enable you to build agendas digitally, but then have them printed with one click.
Sherpany: How much time does it take for a Corporate Secretary to set up a digital annual agenda compared to a paper-based agenda?
Tobias Häckermann: While still in the phase of familiarising with the tool, it might take a tick longer to manage your agenda digitally, especially in the first year, when every agenda needs to be set up for the first time. Once an entire Board of Directors’ cycle has been regulated with a board portal, handling the agenda should consume maximum a third of the time spent before working with a board portal.
Sherpany: What are the benefits of having a digital annual agenda in terms of corporate governance?
Tobias Häckermann: In terms of corporate governance, a digital board agenda allows Corporate Secretaries to manage conflicts of interest much more precisely. The Corporate Secretary can manage access/permission rights on single agenda items and related documents. This is especially important when it comes to compensation and nomination topics.
Sherpany: What are the benefits of having a digital annual agenda in terms of money and other resources?
Tobias Häckermann: I would say there are 3 main benefits when it comes to digital agendas:
Sherpany: Can anything go wrong with the process of setting up a digital annual agenda? And what are your recommendations to avoid this from happening?
Tobias Häckermann: The challenge with digital agendas lies in the nature of digital transformation. When opting for digital agendas, companies should invest time to understand the exact problem they are trying to solve by adopting digital annual agenda. Then, they should be open and curious to rethink the process from a ‘digital’ perspective. What I mean by this is that trying to mirror physical processes in the digital world never pay off.
However, by translating them to digital, this will unleash all the benefits, and ultimately bring the desired results. Better, faster, easier. We know this from translating languages. If we translate word by word, we often lose the sense of a text. Only when translating by knowing and understanding both languages, we are able to convey the same message.
Sherpany: What other aspects does a Corporate Secretary need to take into consideration regarding the process of digitising the annual agenda?
Tobias Häckermann: One important aspect Corporate Secretary can take into consideration is that becoming ‘digital’ is a learning process in itself. They need to understand that there is a learning curve and, as mentioned above, this requires time, a period of trial and error before reaching the ultimate benefits.
But practice makes perfect.