How Virtual Boardrooms Empower Modern Company Executives
Date: 14 November 2019 Share on Twitter Share on Facebook
An effective board of directors is a diverse one. It relies on the expertise of individuals of different backgrounds, skill sets and demographics. In an increasingly global workplace, that also includes geographic diversity, which requires collaboration across local, national or even international borders.
In order to build these talented teams, today’s modern leaders must fully embrace technology. “In a world where video conferencing, file sharing and cloud storage are becoming increasingly accessible, remote work is on the rise,” says Ian Taylor, writer at UC Today.
More and more, board activities are happening online, with organizations relying on virtual boardrooms to stay connected. Virtual boardrooms are specifically designed to accommodate the challenges that most directors face — think issues such as security, visibility and efficient collaboration.
So, how do modern corporate leaders collaborate, and how do virtual boardrooms make it efficient? Let’s take a look.
They Collaborate Remotely
As we’ve already mentioned, it’s imperative that corporate leaders are able to communicate outside of actual meetings. It’s often said that some of the most effective problem-solving on a board is actually done outside the boardroom.
Maggie Wilderotter is the former chairman and CEO of Frontier Communications, and she’s served on the boards at P&G and Xerox. She tells the Harvard Business Review that “it’s not just about the meetings. It’s about being able to touch base in between meetings and staying current.”
While this communication is necessary, it often leads to a major problem: there’s no formal record of the board’s discussions. What’s more, these conversations tend to turn into emails, where the messages aren’t always secure.
A virtual boardroom ensures that there’s an electronic trail — one that is visible and encrypted. Board members can easily share insights, questions and concerns in a protected area, without having to take it to email.
These capabilities can make a huge difference in fast-paced environments. “Using collaborative frameworks, leaders are able to up-source their knowledge networks, iterate faster, and even expand their use cases for their products,” says Amy Blankson, cofounder of Digital Wellness Collective.
Many leaders even use virtual boardrooms to vote electronically. Which, by the way, isn’t limited to big decisions. Some boards even use this feature to vote on things like agendas or discussion topics for their next meetings.
They Bridge the Knowledge Gap
A common challenge boards face is that their teams have varying levels of company knowledge. There are internal and external directors. Some might only spend a month on the business while others have full-time responsibilities. However, both are still accountable for decision-making and their knowledge on certain issues.
“The essential point is that the flow of paperwork to the board, and the chance to interrogate and question in a constructive manner, is the opportunity for the outside director to rebalance the information deficit,” explain the consultants at SpencerStuart.
Modern corporate leaders know that collaboration is a group effort. They willingly share important information to give their fellow board members the insights they need. “Most people don’t think of a board as a team. That’s a mistake. Framing it that way will prompt members to put more energy into trying to help the board function better,” says Scott Maxwell, senior managing director of OpenView Venture Partners.
And rather than dump a bunch of files into a team member’s figurative lap, data rooms help boards stay organized. They make it simple to use folders and to customise settings, which stops file sharing from becoming overwhelming.
They Communicate Securely
Cybersecurity is a hot topic for most corporate leaders. They’re grappling with the issues of data breaches and how they can mitigate risk for shareholders. It’s also important that these meetings and conversations about security are, well, kept secure. Virtual boardrooms are the answer for many organizations.
“The information security challenges businesses face are evolving. It’s important that the file-sharing system you use at the office combat the prevailing security challenges,” says Toby Nwazor, CEO of the Millionaire Writers Agency.
The reality is there are many tools available for communication and file sharing. However, email and personal file sharing services do not meet enterprise data security requirements. It’s important that there is consistency and oversight to how information is shared. “Without this, employees may use a plethora of free vendors, have numerous accounts, and none are being audited or monitored,” adds Paul Kubler, cybersecurity consultant.
In short, if cybersecurity isn’t already a priority, it should be. “Given the centrality to modern business of electronic data storage and transmission, it is critical that Boards provide careful oversight of cybersecurity risk,” warn Cornell C.V. Wright and James C. Tory, lawyers at Torys LLP.
They Turn Issues Into Agendas
Great modern leaders are adept at identifying problems and tuning them into action items. They turn discussions into results, and efficient collaboration plays a big part in that.
Virtual boardrooms allow leaders to focus on actually solving issues rather than those related to collaboration. Members of the board can transform issues into matters and create agendas through the use of a board portal.
Most corporate leaders will stress the importance of agendas. “Always include an agenda along with supporting materials. Use the agenda to clarify meeting priorities and which issues the board will spend the bulk of the meeting discussing and/or that require a vote,” say the experts at BoardSouce, a non-profit providing support and resources to boards.
As mentioned, leading data rooms even let you vote on the agendas themselves. Some call this a “consent agenda,” where a variety of items can be voted for the next meeting. Generally, consent agendas include things like meeting minutes, reports and other topics.
“The consent agenda is one of the best tools to help board meetings move along quickly and remain focused on the things that matter,” says Rob Meiksins, writer at Nonprofit Quarterly.
They Assign Roles
When you collaborate, one step to ensuring results is deciding on who does what. “Boards often fail because responsibilities aren’t explicitly delineated at the onset of members’ terms,” says Karima Mariama-Arthur, founder and CEO of the consultancy WordSmithRapport. Virtual boardrooms allow members to assign roles so everyone knows what to expect.
Nonprofit consultant Joan Garry notes that in board meetings, almost every discussion results in a follow-up item. “It could be a stumper question from a board member that requires staff follow up or a commitment a board member makes that will require additional work or a new approach the staff has agreed to explore,” she says. Regardless, keeping track of these tasks is crucial to making sure that discussions are turned into actions.
Virtual boardrooms can also provide flexibility in role assignments, a feature that many organizations value. “If you want to get better engagement, identify different people to assume different roles on a rotating basis,” says nonprofit consultant Beth Kanter.
They Always Monitor Progress
After a board meeting ends, effective teams don’t go radio silent until the next meeting. Instead, there are frequent communications and status updates. Virtual boardrooms help keep everyone abreast of this progress.
“The salient challenge is in keeping everyone informed and ready for action while receiving real-time visibility of everyone’s progress, which may not be easy with existing systems and processes,” says Natalie Harris-Briggs, writer at GCN.
With data rooms, once tasks are created members of the board can monitor the progress and access all records. You can even set up dashboards to standardize how staff members collect data and present it to members.
In his book The Handbook of Board Governance, Richard Leblanc stresses how crucial it is to monitor and report on certain criteria. “Work with management to develop a reporting format and information-flow system that provides frequent, timely, and accurate information to the full board regarding progress toward the plan’s milestones, and so on,” he advises.
What’s Next for Virtual Boardrooms?
Collaboration in the workplace is nothing new. However, as we become more and more connected, the issue of collaboration is even more important. Effective communication and the sharing of information is key in ensuring that teams are educated and empowered to make decisions.
The use of virtual boardrooms will likely continue to rise as it becomes easier to work remotely. Boards will become even more geographically diverse as they continue to prioritise talent over location. As Lesley Vos, writer at CoSchedule says, “You don’t choose from 10 or 100 people in your local market, but thousands across the world.”
Moreover, remote teams and the need for online collaboration are increasingly the result of sourcing the best talent. “People on distributed teams got there by design,” says Inc. columnist Robin Camarote. “Someone believed they could create a stronger team by hiring the best people — regardless of location.”
Virtual boardrooms will continue to make it easier for stakeholders to collaborate both inside and outside of the boardroom. The features of data rooms make communication and file sharing easier, regardless of whether the team is working remotely. Tools that save time and add value to organizational procedures are a big win for business, no matter where that business actually takes place.