It seemed like a good idea at the time.
Looking to reduce the cost of preparing the massive, paper-filled binders used by its board members at their meetings, Walsh College (Mich.) officials tried a laptop-based package. That cut down on paper, but the hardware was problematic.
“When you put up the screen in front of you, there is a bit of a barrier to discussion because you have this wall between you and everybody else,” says Helen Kieba-Tolksdorf, vice president, chief financial officer, and treasurer. “A room full of people with screens in front of them just doesn’t lend itself to communication.”
Returning to the drawing board led the team to BoardVantage, which had already made inroads into corporate boardrooms. “When we were looking around at the various alternatives, this one seemed the most intuitive to use,” Kieba-Tolksdorf says. “We’re always looking to make our board members’ lives and our lives easier.”
BoardVantage has certainly done that. The new system made Walsh’s board books completely paperless and accessible via a web browser and an iPad app. The sleek tablets are perfect for portable access and are much less obtrusive at board meetings, Kieba-Tolksdorf says. “You can have it up, or you can lay it down on the desk. It’s a lot more functional and there’s a lot more opportunity for participation and communication.”
BoardVantage allows Walsh’s staff to make last-minute changes quickly and easily. Board members are emailed when their books are ready, and, just as with paper versions, they can mark up their electronic documents with highlighting and notes. And the new system gives board members far easier access to historical documents.
“It’s right at the board’s fingertips,” says Kieba-Tolksdorf. “Financial statements, college bylaws, committee charters—the things they might need access to while they’re formulating questions and making decisions.”
While a paper-stuffed binder has zero security if it’s left behind somewhere, BoardVantage materials are secured with two-factor authentication. And thanks to the app, members can review materials offline—while traveling, for example.
Having to print, copy, compile, bind, and ship board books was costing around $35,000 a year in materials, services, and salaries. That expense is now gone. Just as important, getting up and running has been a breeze.
“We had a fairly smooth startup and smooth implementation,” says Kieba-Tolksdorf. “This is board members with varying amounts of technical skills. That speaks to the intuitiveness of the package. The board is happy. It’s always good to give them the tools they need to effectively do their duties.”
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