More than 70% of the corporate boards that adopt OnBoard, a digital governance software platform, each month come from what the company’s chief executive officer, Paroon Chadha, calls the “P world”: paper and pen.
While companies transition various elements of their work to the digital realm, their boards of directors, more often than not, still live in the analog universe. Boards meet in person. Minutes are taken by hand. Two-hundred-page board books are printed, assembled, and shipped via FedEx to board members. Only during the pandemic did board work shift to Zoom and other digital platforms, but since life has evolved to its new normal, Chadha says, many boards are going back to the 2019 routine of shuffling papers.
“Paper board materials are difficult to produce, difficult to share, and virtually impossible to update without cost,” Chadha says. “When you go digital, you have the ability to do a lot more. You gain agility and security. It’s a no-brainer in this day and age.”
Courtesy of OnBoard
Simply put, Chadha wants boards to stop wasting time curating information into board books that take hours to produce, thumbing through folders for past data analysis, and handwriting meeting minutes. He advises to “leverage digital” and let software do it for you. Then, he says, boards can put their energy into the work they are really there to do. A high-performing board is one with full engagement on the tough questions and challenging situations that face their companies.
Chadha launched OnBoard more than a decade ago, and has been continuously optimizing the platform as he works to solve the ongoing pain points felt by boards of all kinds. Today, OnBoard is an intelligence platform that simplifies due diligence, increases transparency, adds security, and provides organizations with a more efficient workflow for their boards. He works with more than 30,000 boards from 5,000 different organizations, encompassing financial corporations, health care facilities, universities and other educational institutions, nonprofits, and government and community associations. These are both public and private companies, including Fortune 500 companies, headquartered in 32 different countries. Chadha said that they capture information from more than 100,000 meetings a year.
The product itself is straightforward: It keeps all your board-related documents in one place. Users log in like they do with any other productivity tool, and they can access anything and everything the board has discussed. Users can easily search keywords for information captured in past meeting minutes or in previous board books. They can also communicate through the system with other board members, keeping all discussions in a secure, searchable digital home. Before a meeting, administrators can quickly draft and share agendas. The platform integrates with Zoom for meetings, and has e-signature and voting approval features. And it’s full of data and analytics to better understand your organization’s governance.
“Every board can be high performing with the right set of tools and the structure,” Chadha says, noting this optimization leads to more informed decision-making and effectiveness. “We are just the infrastructure that you’re using to discuss important board matters, so it’s intentionally built to be extremely simple.”
Courtesy of OnBoard
Chadha explained that, of course, boards could use other organizational means, such as Google Drive, Dropbox, and DocuSign. They offer the agility that digital provides. While those organization tools are a step in the right direction, his purpose-built platform offers encrypted messaging, certified and accredited data protection, and security protocols that keep private information private. This is helpful for messaging, Chadha says. By housing all messaging among board members in the platform, it guards against email hacking, leaks, or accidental forwarding of emails.
Chadha is also rolling out a new feature where boards can rate their experience just as you would rate an Uber driver on the application or your doctor on ZocDoc. He believes it will help organizers achieve more in their work. Instead of waiting for an annual assessment at the end of the year, boards can continuously be improving certain elements of their roles.
What’s next for board innovation? What Chadha is particularly passionate about now is the modern-day challenge faced by boards of directors everywhere, including his clients: how to address tough and sometimes unexpected social situations, whether they be #MeToo, Black Lives Matter, ESG and sustainability initiatives, affirmative action, gun violence, or other political and social justice conversations that affect executives and companies. As social media channels debate these topics at lightning speed, boards of directors are under increased pressure by stakeholders, employees, and customers to respond to these matters quickly. By accessing past conversations, company data, and other pertinent information easily, boards are equipped to make a speedier, educated decision.
“It’s a tight labor market and the employee base is extremely well-versed and opinionated about a lot of these issues,” Chadha says. “Also, your vendors, your communities, and regulatory bodies—all of these stakeholders require you to be informed and structured.”
“Organizations have to think about people, profit, and the planet,” he continues. “Governance platforms do that well.”