Bridging technology (not generation) gaps in the boardroom.
Technology gaps can exist in the boardroom when some, but not all, directors who serve on a common board are willing to change their personal practices and adopt new technology. These gaps can be intractable, meaning that a director is unwavering in his or her preference to continue to use printed board materials, or the gaps can be temporary, in that directors often adapt to new technology and new practices at different paces.
One might assume that younger boards, and younger board members, are quicker to adapt to new processes and new technology. In reality, board members locked into traditional ways of operating come in all ages. Older directors are often early adopters of tablets, board portals and new technology: according to the Pew Research Center, of all seniors 65 and older with income above $75,000,39% owned a tablet computer and 51% on the Internet used social networking sites to communicate in 2013. This trend is even more prominent in the higher education and salary bands typical of boards.
In order to bridge technology gaps in the boardroom, it is important to understand what causes these gaps to occur. A company's capacity to make institutional changes to adopt new and more efficient processes in the boardroom hinges on its ability to:
* Review and evaluate current practices to understand what needs to be changed and improved.
* Appreciate the vast benefits that technology offers directors, executives and administrators.
* Take advantage of the flexibility of the system afforded by the use of technology.
* Reassure directors that they can adapt to change through impeccable customer service.
A seamless introduction of technology is only possible after a thorough review and evaluation of current practices. When a company understands the "pain points" that exist within their boardroom --before, during and after meetings--it is able to recognize the various inefficiencies and identify the necessary solutions. This sort of self-reflection and internal judging are made possible through the use of annual board evaluations. These evaluations provide the forum for executives, directors and administrators to reflect on current practices.
Greater productivity ... and security
By using technology such as board portals, directors and executives can operate with greater productivity, and therefore provide greater benefit to the companies that they serve. The time it takes to prepare, compile, distribute and receive printed board books is a tremendous cost and burden to both administrators and directors. By using technology like a board portal, administrators can compile necessary materials in less time and at less cost, providing directors with quicker access to material and updates.
Not only does technology provide a more efficient process, but it can also enable boards to operate with greater security. According to PwC's 2014 Annual Corporate Directors Survey, 65% of directors want to spend more time discussing and preparing for IT risks, including cybersecurity. Managing cyber risks starts from the top down, and boardroom technology can offer heightened security for sensitive materials in an age when companies face staggering security threats. When directors understand the benefits that technology provides at all stages of the meeting process, they are more willing to adopt new technology.
A critical benefit the board portal provides directors, executives and administrators is the flexible system in which materials are complied, distributed and accessed. Companies often find themselves in a position where it is nearly impossible to satisfy the various needs and desires of every board member. But in a digitized boardroom, directors have flexibility both in terms of whether they choose a digital option and in the type of device that is used to access the material.
The introduction of new technology must be deliberate. It is inadvisable to make the switch without frill consideration, given that directors often want whatever process they are accustomed to using.
Consider this example: in a board with 10 directors, four of the directors prefer to access their board materials using their laptops, four of the directors prefer to access the board materials using their tablets, and two still prefer to receive their board materials in print. Of the four directors using tablets, two are using Apple iPads while the other two directors use Microsoft Surface tablets. This scenario is entirely plausible and quite common. The mixed preferences of the directors do not inhibit their ability to access the portal.
In fact, companies that choose to adopt board portals often pursue a slow introduction or a phased rollout of the technology to give directors greater flexibility and comfort with the solutions. By taking advantage of the flexibility of the system, boardrooms are fit to bridge any technology gap that may exist.
It must be painless
Institutional change of this nature occurs when directors who are hesitant to adopt new boardroom processes and technology are provided with white-glove, around-the-clock customer service. This type of service needs to include thorough training and introduction to the technology. Directors will feel more comfortable using these technologies and the various tools that they offer, such as the ability to annotate and communicate with other directors, knowing that they have access to constant, personal customer support. Providing directors, executives and administrators with excellent customer service is critical for hesitant adopters to feel more comfortable with any change in technology.
Introducing technology into the boardroom must be a painless, easy process for the directors, executives and administrators who are making market-moving, time-sensitive decisions. The global installed base of tablets will approach 1 billion devices by 2018, according to the Forrester Research World Table Adoption Forecast. Undoubtedly, companies and boardrooms will be part of this trend as they refresh traditional practices with tablets and board portals. Companies that have the greatest success introducing new boardroom processes will have a full understanding of the benefits of technology and will be able to provide their directors with thorough training and support throughout the transition to digital and mobile technology.
Jeffrey Hilk (at left) and Jeffry Powell are executive vice presidents for Diligent Board Member Services Inc. (www. boardbooks.com). Diligent provides the most widely used board portal, with over 87,000 individual directors, executives and corporate secretaries worldwide relying on the company for speedy and simplified production and servicing of board technology and board materials.
The authors can be contacted email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.
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|Title Annotation:||INFORMATION FOR THE BOARD|
|Author:||Hilk, Jeffrey; Powell, Jeffry|
|Publication:||Directors & Boards|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2015|
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