The current COVID-19 restrictions imposed on all of us are an opportunity for board members to focus on professional development. This includes company secretaries, who often sit on the board and are now extremely busy organising ALL meetings and interactions online. Which is not necessarily a bad thing.
Governance in smaller organisations often has room for improvement. The introduction of regular video and teleconference calls is one way that this is improving during our current lockdown. It also gives us the opportunity to focus on the matters at hand, rather than being busy booking tickets and accommodation for board meetings.
Introducing cloud-based board software is a potential area for your board to improve its efficiency. Board software products typically track action items and have an annoying habit of reminding board members when they committed to doing something.
With board software packages being in a sweet spot right now, in this article I review three readily available board software packages 1) BoardPro (which has been provided free of charge to Women on Boards for assessment purposes) 2) Diligent and 3) Boardtrac.
HOW MY INTEREST WAS PIQUED IN BOARD SOFTWARE?
I met Brett Herkt, founder of BoardPro, via an out-of-the blue telephone call. Brett was looking to understand entry strategies into the Australian market and selected some people to call for a short survey. As always, I was willing to assist. I answer a lot of surveys as they tell a lot about what is going on with organisations in the marketplace. My answers must have been ok and we organised a longer call.
This led to a glass of fine wine and an invitation to join the Australian Advisory Board of BoardPro. Having done some due diligence, I agreed to join on the conditions of two face to face meetings annually and that I would provide commentary on their entry strategy and some introductions. A modest fee was offered which I accepted.
Having had experience with Xero (also NZ based) and board software packages in the past, I was naturally interested in the topic and the state of the market for board software. My prior experiences were not entirely positive.
BOARD SOFTWARE REVIEWS
Capterra provides a number of reviews for board software providers. Many are US based but there are a number relevant directly for Australia and New Zealand. Advice suggests that the offerings fall into five broad categories:
This article focuses on those offerings which could be regarded as ‘the more modern implementation’ and are known to the writer:
Developed in New Zealand, BoardPro allows boards to manage their meetings, responsibilities and documents easily and effectively in the cloud. Here are a few points about what they say about their differences from competing board portals:
As an early stage business, BoardPro plans its next fund-raising round (of course dependant on the economic environment) to raise approximately $3million. They currently have 11 staff with plans for 15 staff in the next 12 months.
Having used BoardPro for 2020 I now view it as the ‘Xero of company secretarial software’ - cost effective and intuitive to use.
Diligent was also developed in NZ but now offers services in 70 countries, according to their website: “Diligent Boards, used by 50% of the Fortune 1000, provides boards and executives with modern governance tools that allows the board to expand their reach outside the boardroom as well as meeting requirements such as distribution of board meeting materials in a secure environment". A fully priced offering.
Boardtrac was developed in Australia in consultation with experienced directors and legal governance experts from leading Australian law firm Minter Ellison to provide a paperless meeting solution suitable for use both inside and outside the boardroom. It's marketed as being intuitive and simple to use, enabling meeting documents to be collected, organised and shared quickly and easily, whether you are a director, board administrator or facilitating an event.
Boardtrac offers an entry price for NFPs and Women on Boards Non-Executive-Director, Mary Sue Rogers, uses Boardtrac at one of her Not-for-profit boards and finds it helpful
I'm not claiming to be expert or unbiased in my appreciation of board software packages. However, I do know that more recent implementations should be easy to use (aka Xero) and less expensive. All software packages offer a demonstration upon request. My estimated time investment in getting up to speed with BoardPro was modest, with learning on the job.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ruth Medd is the Chair WOB Pty Ltd (Women on Boards), Chair Australian Chocolate Pty Ltd, chair of the Australian Health and Science Institute Pty Ltd and a director of the National Foundation for Australian Women and WOB UK Limited and the NSW Historic Houses Trust. She is the former chair of Australian Ethical Superannuation Ltd and a former director of The Infants Home Ashfield and the NSW Casino Control Authority. She is an enthusiastic shareholder in a number of early stage companies; most recently Charley's Chocolate Factory at Mission Beach.
Her NED experiences to date have enabled her to contribute her finance and business management expertise as well as her in depth understanding of the public policy, regulatory and business interface.
Prior executive roles include the Executive Director of the Australian Association of National Advertisers and senior positions with Telstra, the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal and the Federal government.