If your board is not using digital apps and platforms for board communications, the question is, why?
If you see your answer below, it’s time to think again:
- Mobile apps are not secure enough.
- Paper is just as good.
- I’m too busy to learn to use an app.
- I’m on multiple boards; multiple apps are too time-consuming/confusing to use.
- I am a decision maker, not a tech geek.
- Some board members are uncomfortable with the technology.
- Our technology specialist on the board has advised against it.
- We have other, more urgent priorities.
Do you recognise yourself or fellow board members in these statements? If you do, you are not alone. Many boards have struggled to move into the digital age. That needs to change. Here’s why.
Is your communication already at risk?
Text messaging and emails are not secure technologies. Both are open to hacking and snooping. Ditto when it comes to inviting virtual attendance of some board members. Without the right security services, some platforms for beaming in a virtual board member long distance leave board security in peril. But it is human beings that are the weakest link in any security system. The most common mistakes include leaving unprotected laptops and mobile devices in taxis and planes, or downloading malware from private email accounts.
App developers are well aware of the concerns that boards have with security, and have responded with specialist apps to meet the market need.
They offer faster, more secure ways to share information, such as board papers, and to keep that information up to date. They are neither expensive or complex. Most require little or no training.
‘End-to-end encryption’ is the technology behind most secure apps. It means that a message is ciphered before it’s sent and then deciphered after it’s received. Your messages and attachments are protected when they are most vulnerable – en route between sender and receiver.
Three essential platforms for directors and boards
1. Instant messaging
Instant Messaging apps abound. For Android devices, TextSecure is purpose built for security, while Signal is the iOS equivalent built by the same company, Open Whisper Systems. However, there are many others available. Look for simplicity as well as functionality.
2. Board portals
BoardWorks, by Computershare offers collaboration tools and includes security features and advanced features like voting, surveys and e-signatures. They are not faultless, however, so asking the right questions about how your provider secures and manages your data is important. Wired magazine has a simple recommendation: use an Apple iPod Touch on wifi only. It is worth investigating.
3. Virtual meetings
Meeting management is the final piece in the communication puzzle. The British company, Brainloop BoardRoom, has been in the market since 2000 and is a good place to start.
Issues to consider
How much risk is your company facing?
A thorough discussion of the potential risks that stem from the board adopting digital communications will help to determine what specifications and budget the project needs to succeed. However, any discussion of risk must include the risks of failing to transition, which may include losing time, money, agility, and using manual or paper systems that are less secure than the digital alternative.
While switching to digital communications requires buy-in across the board and the senior leadership team, it also requires leadership. Sticking your head in the sand will not solve the problem. If the transition is not already underway, take the initiative. If it is, stand behind the leader with constructive involvement.