This article was first published in the Summer 2015 issue of OnWindows
For the many organisations already using SharePoint, the idea of further software for managing documents might seem a little crazy. Yet, when we initially spoke with Exeter College, a UK higher education establishment with their own SharePoint server, they were struggling with sharing information for their board meetings.
“At a recent annual appraisal, several of our board members, from both the private and public sectors, advised that while papers were reaching them in a timely fashion, it could be difficult to access them when working nationally or internationally,” explains Barbara Sweeney, clerk to the corporation, Exeter College. “This meant they were often unable to review documents until they returned to Exeter.”
However, it’s not just at establishments like Exeter College where managing board papers is proving problematic. Meeting packs are often more than 300 pages long, contain sensitive information and need to be accessed securely off-site. Items on the agenda might have to be redacted for certain meeting participants and votes might need to be recorded during the meeting. Furthermore, many organisations still print papers for meetings and use either a courier service to deliver them or e-mail PDFs.
Steve Jones, chief executive at Tai Ceredigion, a Welsh housing association, describes the administrative challenge they faced: “Tai Ceredigion’s board meet on a quarterly basis and it would take a member of staff approximately two days to prepare, photocopy and distribute all the information to the board members in preparation of the meetings.”
This is common to many organisations. But why do meeting papers still present such a big problem?
In a recent BoardPacks survey, SharePoint experts suggested their biggest concern with SharePoint was its usability, and for the busy board member, any accessibility barrier can prove frustrating.
However, with increasing cybersecurity threats, boards really can’t afford to rely on e-mailing PDFs and insecure third party annotation tools. Engaging the board with SharePoint and persuading them to keep their documents secure is a challenge for both IT departments and SharePoint consultancies alike.
SharePoint specialists such as ETTU in the Netherlands help organisations use SharePoint effectively from the top down. The company’s Bart Scheffer describes how incorporating a purpose built app benefits their clients: “ETTU offers standard SharePoint portals both for the cloud and on-premise installations. These portals make it possible to store, find and search information online. However, there was an unfulfilled need for meeting participants to read this information from wherever they were working. Our clients were missing a tool that on the one hand works with SharePoint to store all information, but on the other hand is able to cater for the specific needs of board members. With BoardPacks, we can now offer our customers a powerful and user-friendly interface to make digital meetings possible across a range of tablet devices.”
Steve Jones at Tai Ceredigion is pleased with his board’s transition to BoardPacks.
“By comparing the reproduction costs, postage charge and administration time with the purchase of the system and tablets for the board, Tai Ceredigion has already seen a substantial saving,” Jones says. Tai Ceredigion was shortlisted for the ‘Most Innovative IT system’ at the 2015 Housing Innovation Awards for their use of the BoardPacks board portal solution.
At Exeter College, the problem of accessing meeting papers has also been resolved.
“We were recommended BoardPacks by another college and quickly identified that it addressed this issue head on,” says Barbara Sweeney. “The application allows users to access all meeting information, documents and agendas securely. Documents and board packs become interactive, allowing board members to make notes while on the move. This flexibility allows staff and governors to focus on meaningful activities such as the provision of excellent teaching.”
As BoardPacks is installed directly into Exeter College’s SharePoint system, the information remains secure, while the board have the accessibility they craved through the purpose built interface.
BoardPacks is also available for those who have switched to SharePoint Online and store their data in the Azure cloud with Office 365. Our recent survey suggested the primary reasons for choosing Office 365 were the anytime, anywhere access and the scalability of the system. With the BoardPacks 365 app, the board has the same ease of access and meeting orientated document interface as on-premise users, and in the cloud it’s even easier to scale and introduce paperless meetings throughout the organisation.
Alister Esam is CEO and founder of BoardPacks
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