Have your digital transformation initiatives left your board management processes behind?
Of course, paper still has roles to play even with 21st-century boards. For example, local newspapers are still a valuable way to promote board vacancy opportunities, as well as ensuring that citizens without ongoing access to technology can be aware of upcoming open meetings. But for board management itself, it’s time to get away from paper in favor of an automated, online solution.
Despite the increasing dominance of digital technology in today’s world, many public sector organizations are still managing their boards and councils manually with spreadsheets, paper-filled binders and emailed vacancy applications. Municipalities, school districts and other public sector entities that have gone paperless for meeting-related materials such as agendas are often still shuffling an inordinate amount of paper to manage their board rosters and fill vacancies. And even those who are already mostly in the digital domain may have simply replaced paper with disjoint spreadsheets and PDFs, still processing all of the information manually.
Motivating the Move
The advantages of moving board management to an electronic, online system are similar to those of almost any digital transformation initiative, with time and cost savings being front and center. The benefits, however, go much deeper. Some of the most compelling reasons to adopt board management software include:
- Efficiency. Manually managing member lists and term expiries on paper or in Excel spreadsheets is cumbersome, time-consuming and potentially error-prone. Details of individual members who serve on more than one board may appear on multiple sheets, making it challenging to keep the information up to date and consistent. A unified, online system can streamline these processes, saving time and effort. And with many municipalities having literally dozens of boards, councils and committees, those savings can be very significant.
- Centralization and Searchability. Having member and board data scattered across disjoint spreadsheets, binders or files makes it all but impossible to quickly find what you’re looking for. Imagine remembering that you had a previous application from a candidate with relevant qualifications for a new vacancy, but needing to flip through dozens or hundreds of PDFs or papers to find it. An electronic, online system can keep all of this information in one centralized location that you can quickly and easily search by keyword.
- Data protection. With binders and paper-based files, there are typically no backups. (And if there are “backups”, in the form of redundant hardcopies, that’s yet another inefficiency in terms of duplication time, cost, and physical storage space). If the paper-based records are damaged or destroyed — such as by fire or flood — they are not easily replaced. But even more commonly, paper files are often simply misplaced. An electronic board management system can automatically protect your data against any type of loss.
- Transparency. Making the public aware of the responsibilities and membership rosters of a municipality’s boards is a key step in fostering citizen engagement. Organizations also want the public to actively participate by becoming members of their boards and councils, which starts with making vacancies more visible. But without an integrated board management solution, the publishing of member, meeting and vacancy data on their website may require manual edits to multiple HTML or CMS pages and assistance from their IT or communications department.
- Self-serve vacancy applications. Manual collection and processing of applications for board vacancies is not only inefficient for staff, but projects a poor image of the organization to a public that is used to self-serve convenience on commercial websites. Meanwhile, slinging PDF resumes around by email for internal review wastes time and effort while risking applications being overlooked. Electronic board management can streamline the application collection and review process without the expense and overhead of a full-blown HR system.
What to Look For
Some board management solutions focus mostly on simplifying the vacancy application process, while others emphasize data management efficiency and publishing. For most public sector organizations, the ideal solution is one that blends the best of all of these worlds. Some of the features and attributes that you should look for in board management software include:
- Unified dashboard. You shouldn’t need to flip through multiple interfaces to find what you need to know. The most efficient solutions give users at-a-glance visibility of important items and let them administer board and member data, identify upcoming term expiries and handle applications for vacancies in one convenient place.
- Responsive, browser-based interface. An online, browser-based solution frees your users from any particular physical computer system, letting them work securely from anywhere, while a fully-responsive interface lets them easily manage your boards through devices ranging from laptops and tablets to mobile phones.
- Customization template fields. While template-based forms help ensure that data is collected and presented consistently, it is crucial that the solution lets you tailor them to both jurisdictional requirements and your organization’s unique needs. For example, while ‘affirmative action’ initiatives in the U.S. allow organizations to capture information such as race and religion, in Canada it is illegal to even ask those questions on an application — a significant problem with software that forces the use of all pre-defined template fields.
- Easy online publishing. The solution should make it simple for you to publish board and member information on your public website, automatically creating or linking subpages for each member whenever you create a new board. The online presentation should be visually consistent with the rest of your website, to allow a seamless visitor experience.
- Efficient online vacancy applications. The solution should allow the public to apply for vacancies through your website, and automatically notify internal stakeholders of new applications. Authorized users should be able to search, review, approve, reject and share applications directly within the board management software.
- Seamless meeting management integration. While board management software can bring significant benefits on its own, even greater efficiency and transparency can be achieved when it is tightly integrated with a robust meeting management solution. Meeting schedules can be presented on your website alongside the associated board information, and changes in board membership can be automatically reflected in the tools used to conduct meetings.
eSCRIBE Board Manager
eSCRIBE’s Board Manager software is designed to deliver all of these benefits, letting users easily manage boards, member appointments and applications online in one convenient location. One-click publishing lets you effortl