Issues to consider when introducing electronic board packs
When discussing the possible introduction of electronic board packs a number of issues are often raised:
• What about security?
Electronic board packs are very secure. However always ask for full details from your potential providers, including what penetration testing has been undertaken. Compare the security features to the risks of paper delivery. Has a courier ever failed to deliver a board pack correctly? Have confidential papers ever been left in trains, planes or hotels? Has a courier delivered documents to a hotel after your director has checked out?
As opposed to paper based board packs, when laptops or iPads with electronic board packs are misplaced, you are offered some protection. The actual device would be password protected, uploaded documents should be automatically encrypted and devices which are lost can be wiped remotely.
• My board might find electronic board packs difficult to get to grips with
Electronic board packs are designed to be as intuitive and user-friendly as possible. Directors generally get to grips with them very quickly. It’s important they are properly guided in their use by the provider and that on-going support is available. Often after training from the provider the Company Secretarial team will also be able to offer support for routine issues.
• My directors are not very IT-literate
Some directors may initially be reluctant to use electronic board packs and forego hard copy. Once they have tried them though, most prefer the new way of working, as electronic board packs offer a number of advantages. This is also something to bear in mind when investigating your solution to select one that makes the most of today’s technology such as the iPad, to provide an intuitive and user-friendly experience for directors who are not very IT-literate.
• What if the system crashes?
Many electronic board pack providers will have processes in place to prevent systems from crashing or to limit the impact should an issue occur. For example if a server does experience an issue then connection should automatically be transferred to an alternative server. Backups of your data should also automatically occur every day with providers offering you continuous data protection.
• Some of my directors are likely to insist on hard copy
Once they’re used to the convenience of electronic board packs you may find this is no longer the case. But if a director does want a hard copy of a document it is easy to print one from the system being used to distribute electronic board packs.
• My directors like to make notes on their papers
This is easy to do, with those electronic board pack solutions which have built-in annotation, allowing directors to make comments, add notes, underline key points or free draw in much the same way as if they were using paper board packs. There is also the additional functionality of being able to share comments, generate lists of comments and navigate easily from one comment to the next.
• As a company secretary I’m keen to introduce electronic board packs but I’m struggling to get my board to consider this
Often a company will introduce electronic board packs after one of its NEDs has used them in another company and liked it, so check whether this applies to any of your NEDs. Similarly, a positive recommendation from another company your board respects can be useful in persuading the board to consider this. Providers will also offer demonstrations of their products to show case the benefits to both company secretaries and directors.
Make sure your directors appreciate that having electronic board packs would mean they have all their documents in one place, accessible at any time, and would no longer need to carry bulky documents.
Track instances of courier problems, lost papers and inaccurate hard copy packs. Calculate courier costs and estimate paper savings that would be made if electronic board packs were used. Consider both the cost and environmental benefits. Make your directors aware that using electronic board packs would eliminate these problems.