Engaging the Board – Making the Most of New Technologies

Technology and boardsReviewing new technology tools enables boards to be more committed to using their time and talent to the greatest extent. In the past boards were not very comfortable with technology. Some of us remember when note cards and baskets were used for collecting polls & handwritten notes for creating spreadsheets for proposals. This was time consuming and sometimes confusing. A solution for this was turning point from turning technologies. Technology enabled management to easily manage the process and significantly reduced time spent collecting the data and compiling. Attendees were able to respond in real time using mobile phone keypads that were able to tally participants information and tally the outcome onscreen. It was an ideal solution enabling boards to consolidate and streamline proposals and processes.

Exploring new ways to produce profitable outcome can be significant in the nonprofit sector where there is no substitute for money saved while minimising human time and talent. Here are some suggestions:

Part 1 – Some 21st century Tools

Social media is a great way of boards connecting with the community. Sometimes simply sharing an image on Facebook with a quote can reach tens of thousands of people. A picture may be worth more than words.  This is easy to do with phenomenal outcomes – letting nonprofits reach underserved regions by integrating and operationalizing technology.

Facebook can be used for recruiting volunteers as well as sharing about upcoming events, planning with colleagues in other nonprofits and networking. It can be very beneficial in the long run. Postings and having members post pictures, holding contests, generating interesting content and engage with the community are all pluses. Developing online relationships with your community through sharing of relevant content can be beneficial to non-profits.

Blog on specific topics – invite members of the non-profit who are experts in specific areas  to blog about it and have them post weekly , biweekly or monthly. Make the blog interactive – with a comments section. Everyone has an opinion so ask a question to get people involved and talking. You’d be amazed what comments you will get. Having blogs where members can share either observations, innovations and more can be imperative in the growth to organizations. Get to understand your audience and give them  – from the information gathered from their  comments – what they want.

Using  eBooks  as a means of getting the community involved can be an additional resource while an  ecommerce membership website; where people can login, buy things  and interact with each other  may be yet another way to get the community involved.

Look out for Part 2 of this series on Engaging the Boards  through Technology  – coming soon.

Technology Matters for Success!

I have just attended the Institute of Chartered Secretaries (ICSA) Technologies Summit 2013.  I did not know quite what to expect, but it turned out to be a good investment of time and money.  The five sessions at the Summit covered the following areas:

Reshaping the board:
looking at some of the technologies shaping the boardrooms of the future.
The dog that’s had its day? There has been a shift in emphasis with companies moving away from the traditional Annual General Meeting (AGM), experiencing falling stakeholder attendance and facing increased attention from the media and pressure groups.   This discussion looked at if technology holds the key to renaissance. The Virtual AGM offers a space that can assist member engagement, but it needs to be properly designed in order to achieve what we want.
The global village: This interesting exploration looking at companies operating branches and subsidiaries spread across the world.  Key to their success is to be run efficiently and in a compliant manner.  Participants  focused on  the benefits that technology can bring to streamlining  companies’ global operations.  Entity Management Systems can support integration and enhance accessibility, consistency and coherence.  Web filing and annual audit returns can efficiently be done online at lower cost.  Board packs can now be accessed electronically (BoardPad for meeting organisers and participants is a great tool).    And even better Companies House now has its own Mobile App.
Protecting your information: Even modest companies retain huge amounts of date and risks posed by data loss has very been higher.  We looked at data security and the board and asked what can boards do in a crisis. A practical agenda would look at risks involved, guidance to address these risks and practical steps we all can take individually and collectively.  Specific examples include how we dispose of portable devices, how we observe our behaviour and act carefully in public places, how we secure our websites and other security measures in relation to people issues and data predecessors.  Regular back ups are a must as are encryption, putting in place firewalls,  virus check and undertaking automatic updates.   The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has useful guidance on the use of emails.  What are the authorities in places, have access issues been addressed?   Are people prepared for their changing roles?

The Summit ended with a session on technology and the board.  Board level responsibility is often handed to  a dedicated Chief Information/digital officer.  With technology pervading so many aspects of modern business, what exactly should that person take responsibility for and what board needs such a function?
I am glad I took time out to reflect on these matters.
The key messages for me are that the Board must have a good understanding of digital business and the role technology can play.
Successful Chief Information Officers are passionate about technology and what it can do for business. They need to spend time outside the IT function building relationships, influencing and collaborating in order to secure engagement.
The Board must be brought together by investing in tablet technology video/telephone conferencing, if affordable investing in telepresence (or halo technology) and last but not the least investing in ourselves as we get to know and be confident with technology. With confidence we can be innovative and creative thereby achieving those breakthrough advances we need in today’s uncertain environment.
Culture and behaviours matter. Any security and development is just as good as the people behind it. Surprise, surprise, some fatal flaws have been down to human error. So there a vital component in any IT strategy is the support we give to the people who will use it – training, appropriate policies and procedures and step to step engagement on how guidance can be implemented.
I did say it was worthwhile!