Retiring the Board Pack

Physical board papers or board packs were once the cornerstone of board meetings. At these meetings, a board pack, often as tall as a telephone book, would await the arrival of each board member attending the meeting.

A profligate legacy of felled trees, board packs grew out of the success of the Haloid Xerox Model 914 photocopier. From the time it was introduced in 1959, the 914 sold so well that its second name Xerox, became a verb, synonymous with duplicating documents. Forcing Haloid to change the company's name to the Xerox Corporation.

Sales of the new Xerox machines grew year-on-year for almost 40-years. The machines became faster and smarter allowing company secretaries to produce taller and taller board packs, the  required reading of all board members.

The Beginning of the End for Board Packs

After 40-years of xeroxing dominance a computer whiz by the name of John Warnock, invented a new digital format that finally slowed the blizzard of paper. His new digital document format the PDF (Portable Document Format) slowly but surely became the standard for board packs. The breakthrough for the PDF came when it was adopted by the Unites States revenue services for its tax documents.

Company secretaries liberated by the PDF from the constraints of their green guilt, spared no effort in growing their packs exponentially. This new invention surely saved some trees, but it spared no directors; leaving these hapless board members to plough through biblical piles of supporting documents and addendums.

PDF Board Packs are a Security Risk

From a security point of view, there are many problems with PDF board packs.

From the moment an agenda is transformed into a PDF board pack and cleared for take-off by the company chairman, security and governance go by the wayside. Each final board pack contains vital company intelligence, including but not limited to: minutes of the previous board meeting, board resolutions sub-committee approvals and recommendations, policies, takeovers, resignations, making the list of interesting and potentially damaging information endless.

How this trove of secret company information, so conveniently packaged in digital format, conveyed to its trusted keepers? By some secure, monitored service that is tracked and monitored by corporate IT security? No. It is simply dropped into an email and cc’ed to all the directors.

This simple process opens a pandoras box of mayhem opportunities.
For example (and there are so many), a director downloads a copy to his local PC which is shared by members of his family; the company secretary leaves a copy on her PC’s desktop for anyone to read or copy; a director forwards his copy to someone outside of the organisation; another director hates reading on his iPad and prints a copy, which lies open on his desk for months. I am sure you can think of a few examples yourself.

The Issues with PDF Security

Oh! But what if the PDF document, has been cleverly password protected, wouldn’t that be a good security measure? Suffice it to say, this kind of protection is all but useless. You can see for yourself by googling this phrase "pdf remove password". You will find no less than 12-thousand results, most of which will point you to cleaver ways to defeat the password security of ‘secure’ PDFs. Also, many company secretaries end up removing these passwords because of the sheer inability of company directors to remember them.

Replacing the Board Pack

The modern board portal provides a secure environment to create and publish company agendas, complete with supporting docs in just about any digital format. These new systems remove the need for the traditional distribution of board packs by completely removing the PDF from the board meeting equation.

Active Meeting Surfaces

A number of board portal providers have rolled out virtual meeting systems that disintermediate (remove!) the PDF and the board pack. Leaving the PDF to deal with occasional peripheral duties, such as printing a copy or storing the minutes, which may be required in certain legal systems.

Technically, this kind of functionality leaves some board cloud providers at a disadvantage. This is because many of the currently popular board portals are written on old technology stacks that are unable to support real-time screen updates, with a full screen refresh or having users click a refresh button.

Some board portal vendors like Azeus Convene have recently produced fully digital meeting platforms. Azeus call their system, eAGM and it is likely that this system is a rewrite of their previous system on a new tech stack.

BoardCloud also produces an eAGM tech competitor with its Active Meeting system, which is delivered with all versions of their board portal solution. Active Meeting is a fully collaborative meeting surface, linking all meeting participants on an active surface that updates in real-time.

Besides, these occasional uses, the modern virtual meeting platform, provides a full range of instant, collaborative interactivity for any kind of board meeting, from virtual to hybrid to old-style in-board room meetings.

The kind of functionality available includes:

Pre-Meeting Functions:

  • Collaborative agenda construction and approval
  • Additive agenda building, by adding and pruning agenda items and documents as part of agenda preparation

In-Meeting Functions:

  • Live attendance register
  • Live voting on motions with instant results as vote closes
  • Live agenda surface moves and change update in real-time
  • Live commenting and notes per agenda item
  • Live chat for in-meeting communications
  • Live document signing

 Surely, it’s time to ditch the board pack?

BoardCloud ZA Editor

BoardCloud ZA Editor