By Emmanuel Moore ABOLO, PhD
My experience sitting on the boards of companies teaches me that it can be a herculean task documenting board activities associated with Board oversight functions and GRC-related matters. It can be very stressful and frustrating as a board member when you receive board papers only a few days before a board meeting. Not to also forget that board decisions are quite often circulated several days after meetings, and sometimes as hard copies.
Add to these challenges the fact that board members create, oversee and maintain ever-evolving organization policies. This area of a board’s responsibilities is an ongoing activity. The organization, archival, and security of the documents associated with corporate policies are vital. This isn’t a one-and-done activity.
Policy management requires organizing and archiving documents so that boards can review them in relation to mandates, business objectives, risks and controls. Policies also need to be available to employees and business allies as necessary. This is where board portal becomes an imperative.
A board portal is a digital tool that facilitates secure communication between directors and senior executives on their chosen device anytime and anywhere. Designed to elevate pellucidity and practice good governance, it provides features that are meant to streamline the entire meeting process – from pre-meeting preparation all the way to minutes distribution.
Typically, board portals also come with a matching set of tools including agenda builder, meeting presentation tools, search capabilities, voting, and other features. Moreover, board portals positively contribute to a company’s bottom line by saving time and resources, cutting down logistical expenses, and helping organizations achieve sustainability targets.
Automation is quickly becoming a necessity in today’s corporate sphere. In the past, manual processes could be allowed because the option for automation wasn’t there or was just too expensive.
With the speed at which the corporate world is moving, automation is the only way to keep up with demand. Manual processes are just too cumbrous and have too high a risk of error for large, complex organizations to continue to employ.
Taking your board documents and GRC processes digital can eliminate the waste and failure of many aspects of these manual processes.
Automation removes much of the human error that’s inherent with manual applications and processes. Board portal tools are the logical answer for all GRC-related activities, such as:
• Organizing and storing board materials;
• Securing communications;
• Conducting board evaluations;
• Submitting compliance documents;
• Recording board agendas and minutes;
• Strategic planning and analysis; and
• Assigning and tracking tasks.
Board directors can manage documents and reports from a central dashboard and manage risk and compliance responsibilities while making governance transparent and actionable.
Board directors accept the responsibility to navigate their companies through the uncertain, rolling waves of legislation, regulations, and risks. A lackluster commitment to GRC carries challenging consequences for corporations.
The resulting penalty may cost them financially, create instability and damage their reputations. To fulfill their fiduciary and other responsibilities to the best of their abilities, boards will need to rely on accurate, real-time information.
The volatility of the marketplace demands a high level of commitment to GRC. Boards are facing strong scrutiny by regulatory bodies, shareholders and other stakeholders.
These issues require board directors to demonstrate leadership in developing a strong culture of GRC throughout their corporations. They can only accomplish this by abiding by governance principles, commanding strong oversight over compliance matters and developing acceptable risk profiles.
It’s a tall order that boards face — one that requires a board portal that provides them with access to information and supporting documents on all aspects of GRC in real time.
For any board, there are many added benefits from switching to a digital solution and no longer using paper board books. The same could be said for switching from a board portal that does not meet directors’ growing needs to one that serves the greater encompassing needs of an enterprise governance management solution.
Many boards that I know have made the switch to improve security, increase efficiency, streamline communication, get more support, and save money and time. There are also those boards that realize that they can’t function any longer without a board portal. That is the reality.
On the other hand, some boards realize that the board portal that they are currently using does not live up to expectations. For whatever reason they are evaluating a board portal, it is important that they can properly think through the process and understand the ins and outs of board portals and how not all board portals are created equal. Making the wrong board management software choice can have some serious consequences. My experience in working with companies in assessing Board portals convinces me that all relevant stakeholders be engaged fully in arriving at a right decision.
Boards should always be looking for the most advanced technology for their needs. Instead of an attitude of reactivity, board members should be proactive and apply this as a best practice.
The attitude of complacency can be something that gets boards in hot water and instead of waiting for something bad to happen, boards should be looking to improve upon what they have and what they are using – such as avoiding using personal email accounts for communication. The lessons are there for all to see in the US.
If an issue does happen, like a data breach with the vendor they are working with, it isn’t an overnight process to make the switch to a new vendor; that is why directors should be very diligent when evaluating the differences between solutions and make sure that they are asking the right questions.
It is worth emphasizing that to be efficient, boards of all sizes should be able to communicate between meetings in a secure environment, on a variety of devices, and be supported with live IT help that is only a phone call away without any wait times. Making board decisions isn’t always easy; using the right streamlined GRC technology should be.
Given the increasing dependence of directors on board portals, it is important that the chosen solution will be able to satisfy the vast requirements of any given organization.
As such, executives must be on the lookout out for the right technology for their organisation. Otherwise, it might suffer from irreversible consequences that may harm internal processes, or worse the company’s reputation. Making the right choice really matters.
Frontpage October 18, 2018