Looking to improve your community college board’s efficiency? Technology will help

Jennifer Rose Hale

Board meetings are at the heart of every community college board’s effectiveness — but in reality, most boards struggle with some inefficiencies around the meeting agenda process.  

From keeping all trustees abreast of updates to managing meetings that run over time (sometimes very over time), each board faces challenges and areas in which it can improve in order to be a better steward for its campus or college system. 

One active step your board can take? Evaluating the use of technology in supporting your entire meeting process cycle — from preparation to wrap-up and next steps.  

How technology supports board efficiency 

Community college boards can benefit from one of the great advancements we’ve seen in workplace technologies: work and workflow management systems. Today’s high-performing organizations depend on workflow and other digital management systems to organize projects, collateral and personnel; reduce redundancies; prioritize; and keep less-urgent work from falling through the cracks.  

These same workplace needs that drive enterprises to adopt digital tools are relevant to appointed or elected community college boards, whose oversight over priorities, senior leadership, complex projects and committees require structure. The difference? Board work centers around the all-important meeting agenda process, whose efficient management bolsters success for the board.  

Understanding how technology can help with agenda management to benefit your board and your institution is critical, as is selecting the right solution.  

Benefits of using technology for your meeting agenda management 

Community college boards are feeling a lot of pressure today, with unpredictable enrollment figures, funding uncertainties and more. Consider our checklist for community college board success, which covers these issues and how boards can approach them.  

Looking to technology for help makes sense. A robust board management solution does more than produce and house an agenda; it offers a secure, error-proof, efficient way for the board to work within the agenda, plan and participate in the board meeting, and conduct board business effectively both during and after meetings. Specialized features support the board agenda — and the people producing it.  

Consider these ways technology can support your board’s agenda management and help drive success. 

Automate your meeting agenda process

You likely have members of your team or college staff who spend hours sending messages, searching for status updates and distributing documents (and then updates to documents). Those hours, and that complexity, not only affect your board at an individual level — they siphon precious time and attention the board needs to address issues around the college.  

Have a go-to location

Board software creates a single, go-to location with a standardized interface to allow all contributors to design the meeting, add materials, set up scheduling and keep participants informed. By implementing automation around the agenda process, these key tasks for a board — collecting items and supporting documents, getting agenda item approvals, publishing and sharing meeting information — become more efficient with a reduced need for human intervention.  

In other words, everyone saves time.  

Simplify standardization

College trustee work is never uniform from one month to the next (or even within the same meeting). The requirement of board members to oversee different individuals, departments, committees and more means trustees must sift through differing styles of communication, levels of urgency, types of data and more.  

By using built-in templates for agendas and minutes, supporting documents and communications, board members can more quickly parse through the different materials to assess priorities and next actions.   

Streamline communication

Standardization also benefits board communication. Navigating a flood of emails and texts is time-consuming at best, irritating and confusing at worst, especially when board members have to search for the most recent meeting updates or copies of documents that were sent weeks or even years earlier.

Keeping agenda-related communications within the software helps fully realize the solution's reliability and efficiency. Similarly, using document storage and versioning features makes current and historical documents accessible and reliable, which is especially important when discussions center around historical data and previous decision-making. 

Additionally, one-click publishing, combined with automated communication, ensures every board member has access to the final, approved agenda at the same time.  

Realize a “single source of truth”

Board members and staff often find themselves comparing version numbers or document dates to ensure everyone is literally on the same page. By keeping shared documents within your board solution, every participant can be assured that the latest version of a particular item is quickly findable, and that any changes made are immediately visible to all viewers. This is particularly important when agenda-item discussion crosses several meeting cycles. 

Use your board management software for committee management

Overseeing the many facets of parallel committees and projects becomes easier when next steps and relevant materials related to that effort are clearly organized, categorized and consistent. Reports from committees can be uploaded for review to your board software prior to board meetings. 

Manage permissions to simplify and alleviate the demands on team members

You likely have a large team who contributes to the agenda, with some contributing frequently in large amounts while others participate only occasionally. Board management software allows granular assignment of permissions depending on contributor roles. Limiting permissions to a contributor’s specific tasks not only saves time but ensures every user is confident about their work — and that board information is secure. 

Implement downloading and printing capabilities for full agenda packets

We’re not in the long-promised paperless working world yet, but many stakeholders (including students) forgo owning personal printers due to costs and reduced need. Others may only need part of the materials printed, not all. Board software can offer easy, customized, full or partial printing or downloading of the entire agenda packet, depending on what a particular user needs.   

Next steps 

One, if not more, of these potential benefits will likely resonate with your team. The role of the college board is complex and the work demanding, but technology can simplify board member responsibilities and strengthen their service to their schools.  

The right board meeting management tool supports boards in working more efficiently, securely and confidently.  

We at Diligent are here to support you as you use technology to become an even more effective board. Learn how Diligent Community can help your college board.