23/04/2015

By Alister Esam, CEO, BoardPacks


Over the past few years, growing numbers of UK boards of directors have started to move away from the inefficiency of paper board packs to embrace an online model that utilises tablet technology to help drive down cost and improve collaboration. But why is this approach limited to the top brass? Agenda led meetings occur at every level of the organisation – and the need for immediate decision making and action can be equally as pressing at operational level than for strategic directors.

With many organisations choosing to adopt cloud-based applications and tablet technology, extending an electronic meeting portal beyond the board not only makes sense to achieve organisation-wide efficiency but also transforms collaboration and decision-making at every level. Critically, it also creates that essential audit trail required to easily review and reinforce the consistency and quality of decision making across the organisation.

Outdated Meeting Model

Love them or hate them, meetings underpin every aspect of private and public sector operations. From departmental meetings to financial assessments, committee meetings to emergency reviews, individuals at every level of every organisation attend a variety of agenda led meetings – many of which, in theory, generate a huge number of immediate actions. And yet, how many individuals can truly say the meeting culture within their organisation is the most efficient way of operating?

Many organisations still use paper despite the increasing use of tablets and cloud technology within business - which can help to make online meetings a reality. The cloud is facilitating the use of applications that can be simply integrated with existing software such as Office 365. Despite the growing awareness in many markets of the value of replacing paper based meeting papers and agendas with online information and meeting management, the vast majority of these decision making bodies are still struggling with paper documents.

These documents – which in cases can comprise hundreds of pages - are not only collated over several days and printed at great expense, but are frequently still posted. In today’s technology led environment, the idea of any senior executive having to trot down to the sorting office to collect a meeting pack that is too big to fit through the letter box is clearly ridiculous. Yet it still happens.

Cost, Efficiency & Governance

The cost and inefficiency associated with preparing every meeting agenda and associated documentation has always been a drain on administrative resources – not to mention the basic costs of paper, printing and couriers to provide documents to those working remotely.

This continued reliance on paper means that governance too can suffer as it becomes more difficult to digest all of the information – resulting in the majority of valuable meeting time being spent on digesting and debating the facts, rather than actually reaching an essential decision.

Replacing paper based meeting papers and agendas with online information and meeting management at every level of the business can deliver clear cost savings. Whether the information is being prepared by admin staff or attendees, removing the need to print and collate hundreds of pages of meeting documents is an immediate benefit – and enables an organisation to move closer to realising the vision of paperless operation.

Using a tablet meeting app with an interactive agenda that has the ability to link documents and other useful links and tools to particular agenda items and present information for all your meetings in one place in a searchable, structured format, can make meeting attendees jobs significantly easier. Helping users to find current and historic information, enabling past decisions and actions to be reviewed and assessed quickly and effectively.

Cloud Model

At the heart of this effective decision making model is the ability to review up to date information and feel confident in the immediacy and relevance of documentation. Building on tools such as the cloud based Microsoft Office 365, individuals have anytime, anywhere access not only to the meeting agenda and associated documentation but also links to the latest regulations or strategy documents. There is no need to be office-based to have access to information – which is great for those non-executive board members located off site – but it also makes sense for all attendees, allowing far more flexible and time efficient information review.

From a speed and ease of deployment perspective, cloud-based technology also provides organisations with the resources they need, but without the requirements of expertise and hardware associated with traditional, on-premise infrastructure. It is also essential to ensure that access to this highly sensitive information is both easy and secure – and this can be achieved using a low-cost solution. In addition to building on standard, well-established products like Office 365 - which allow information to be available to a large number of users - it is important to ensure that any hosted solution complies with standards such as ISO 27001.

Conclusion

In an era of uncertainty, ensuring consistent and well-informed decision making and facilitating the right communications throughout an organisation is becoming essential.

As such, a lack of transparency and understanding throughout the management structure is simply no longer acceptable – especially at a time where ubiquitous access to up to date information should be a given. An online meeting forum, that can be easily accessed on a tablet, enables board members and leadership to prepare and collaborate with colleagues far more effectively; less time is wasted on fact finding and far more is spent on taking those critical decisions that have a real impact on the day to day operation of the organisation.