How Can Boards Improve Board Document Management?

Nicholas J Price
Nearly everyone has dealt with the frustration of searching frantically for an important document that they needed within a certain time frame and not being able to find it. You can just imagine going through file after file, rifling through stacks of papers. You wonder if it's in the wrong stack on someone's desk. It has to be there somewhere. You'd never throw away something so important. Or would you? Maybe someone else misfiled it. Or maybe they threw it out. Is there a backup somewhere? You start to wonder if you might have shared it with someone in an email and can retrieve it that way. In the best-case scenario, you might find the document, but not after much wasted time spent worrying and searching. Good board document management is a necessity for today's boards.

There are plenty of consequences to poorly managing documents. Any number of legal reasons might send you searching for a document. If the reason has to do with a compliance matter, it could cause the loss of revenue, lead to legal problems or impose liability on the board directors.

Boards that fail to organize their documents well place their documents at risk of digital security breaches and other hazards. Technology is our biggest asset for safe, organized board document management.

Risks in Failing to Manage Board Documents Well

Failing to manage board documents effectively can cost companies in various ways.

It's crucial that companies remain in legal compliance with all laws and regulations. Two laws that boards should be especially concerned with are SOX and HIPAA. SOX is a law that offers protection for shareholders and HIPAA protects people's personal and health information. Companies have a responsibility to ensure that documents are accessible to the right people when they need them and that they are secure and inaccessible to those who aren't authorized to have them. Companies can have legal or other problems in improperly sharing or leaking documents even if there isn't a breach related to cybercrime.

Loss of credibility is another big problem for companies that don't manage their documents well. Shareholders, stakeholders and managers rightly expect companies to be responsible, organized and compliant. Even a minor loss of respect and confidence can cause consequences for companies, such as reputational loss, which can be difficult to regain.

Certain documents will go through many revisions. Sending the wrong version or an outdated version of a document can cause a host of problems. Nothing but the most recent revision should be shared so that everyone is on the same page. Imagine the embarrassment that could be caused by distributing an old version of an important document. For example, it's highly important that board meeting agendas are accurate and up to date.

Not only does poor document management waste precious hours, it delays other processes and can hold entire projects up unnecessarily.

Electronic Document Storage Is the Modern Solution for Managing Board Documents

We live and work in the days of modern governance, where everything is plugged in and switched on. The safest place for board documents rests in cloud-based technology.

Diligent Boards will improve board document management, and thus, improve workflow. Authorized users can safely access documents whenever they need them. Board directors, staff and executives can rest assured that they're getting the most updated board agendas in real time. Boards can also create a central file for the final versions of documents as well as archived folders for the final versions. Without the electronic storage capability, boards can easily lose track of various versions of documents.

Physical risks are a non-issue when boards use a secure electronic document management filing system. Paper files are subject to a number of natural hazards like floods, fires, tornados and hurricanes. Rodents or other animals can chew through files and humans can stain or otherwise damage paper files and documents. Cloud storage alleviates all worry about physical risks to documents.

Board directors and executives work in a fast-paced world in which getting the right documents at the right time means gaining or losing money. An electronic document storage system means that board directors no longer must wait until the office opens and request a person working in a central location to locate, scan and transfer a document to them. With Diligent Boards, board directors can access documents from any mobile device, even in the evenings and on holidays.

Board directors need a modern solution for document management that doesn't limit them on working so diligently on debating and making decisions on complex risk management and governance issues.

One of the most time-consuming and paper-heavy tasks that boards have is preparing for board meetings. Board meeting packets can run in the hundreds of pages alone. They're unwieldly, difficult to navigate, and often don't have the most current and relevant updates.

With Diligent Boards, board directors get their updates in real time. That's exactly what today's board directors need ' the right information at the right time. Board directors need to have proper time before the board meeting to read and digest all the materials and reports. They need to have it in the right format that makes it easy to read and that doesn't sacrifice any important details. Board directors will appreciate the convenience of being able to use an online search that takes them directly to the section in the board book that they need.

An ideal board management document system means that board directors can pull up board books or other documents using any electronic device they choose. In fact, it's common now for board directors to use only electronic tablets in the boardroom.

Diligent Boards is highly secure. It uses encryption and other secure protocols that reflect the best practices in cybersecurity. Directors can get hundreds or thousands of documents in their hands much faster than by paging through a large binder. With ease of use and strong security, Diligent Boards makes the time-intensive process of managing meeting documents simple, efficient and effective, which is just what board directors need.

Electronic document management by Diligent Boards gives board directors decision-making data at their fingertips so that the board can get on with the business of debating and decision-making the second the board meeting starts.
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Nicholas J. Price
Nicholas J. Price is a former Manager at Diligent. He has worked extensively in the governance space, particularly on the key governance technologies that can support leadership with the visibility, data and operating capabilities for more effective decision-making.