Ask the Expert February 2014
Q: Why all of a sudden have board portals become a buzz word in Hong Kong? Our traditional board had not previously been interested in technology. What’s changed?
A: Introduction of the iPad fundamentally opened the boardroom to technology by making it accessible to even the most traditional board members.
A year and a half after its introduction, the iPad has made the paperless boardroom a reality. Not that technology was a stranger in the boardroom – it has been there for years. It’s just that in the ‘pre-iPad’ days, director use was light, mostly from home and for a quick check of material prior to the meeting. In-meeting use was virtually non-existent, primarily from a handful of tech-savvy directors, whereas more traditional directors stuck with paper. This created the undesirable side effect of splitting the boardroom between progressive and traditional directors, less than ideal for a forum of this type. This ‘pre-iPad’, browser-based, world was successful in delivering electronic copies of the boardbook for the convenience of a handful of techie directors, but the long-anticipated paperless boardroom never materialised.
Now suddenly, and without much fanfare, the iPad has changed the game. Almost immediately, boards made up of all kinds of directors are going paperless, and not without reason. First, the app opens up a wider range of access to content. It is no longer just about the current meeting; you also have a bird’s eye view of all previous meetings, all in a way that presents complex information with unprecedented efficiency.
Second, by combining the immediacy of online access with the readability of print, the app delivers an experience that doesn’t just have parity with paper, it delivers an experience that is better than paper. Finally, as a device, the iPad is so straightforward that it can serve as a common platform for the whole board. So, unlike its browser predecessor, it produces an inclusive experience for all directors – progressive and traditional alike. If you are contemplating making the switch to the iPad and going paperless, it is important to understand the new set of uses that come with it. That is because the new ‘post-iPad’ world is materially different from the old ’pre-iPad’ world. For one thing, it is more mobile, and that mobility introduces a set of new uses with their attendant risks.
Laptops may have been the accepted standard of mobile computing inside the enterprise for 10 years or more, but not so in the boardroom. Although laptops were present they were not mobile.
With the advent of the iPad, things could not be more different. Directors now own their iPads. They may have purchased them with their own money or the company may have gifted them. In either case, unlike the old-school laptops, directors now carry their iPads wherever they go, and they rely on them for board materials, whether in-meetings or in-between. Not unreasonably, they expect ready access to those materials even if they’re out of Wi-Fi range. This is a common scenario when board members are prepping for a meeting while in transit, perhaps reviewing material or making annotations in-flight on the way to a meeting.
Erin Ruck, Regional Director
Tel: +852 2293 2698