From: Charlie Horrell, Managing director for EMEA, Diligent Boardbooks
Sir – I am writing in reply to the news item in the November issue regarding Accent Group’s use of iPads in the boardroom. In the spirit of transparency, I should point out that I work for Diligent Boardbooks, provider of an electronic board portal used by thousands of boards around the world and many FTSE-100 companies in the UK.
Accent Group is using a £2.99 GoodReader app to download its board papers to iPads and seems happy with it. In my opinion, a company’s board papers are the most important documents they have and these deserve full respect. However, with a £2.99 app, you get what you pay for. Will it give you the service, security and simplicity that you get from a proprietary electronic board portal?
Accent Group’s app is essentially a domestic solution to a professional question regarding the distribution of board materials and therefore has certain limitations.
First, it provides what GoodReader describes as a “fairly strong level of data security”, which in addition the user must separately turn on. If an iPad is lost or stolen, most companies will consider it essential that board papers are protected by security that meets the highest standards. A cheap PDF reader simply can’t provide this. I think the idea of a competitor reading a company’s innermost secrets is enough to keep any chairman awake at night. Security lies at the heart of any professional board portal so while losing an iPad may be inconvenient, you can be confident the information contained within it is protected.
Second, the difference between happy and unhappy customers normally lies in the after-sales support and service. A cheap app offers extremely limited support. In the case of GoodReader, it is via online FAQs or an email form through which users can request help. By contrast, the better professional portals will provide this via a dedicated support team 24 hours a day, every day of the year; almost inevitably, it will be at a critical time that someone’s iPad is not working.
The last element is simplicity. This needs to be inherent in the solution and enhanced by the quality of training and support. There are plenty of technologies that initially appear simple but leave many people struggling to grasp them, leading to rejection of the technology. Professional portals spend a great deal of time making sure that their solutions are simple and expressly meet the needs of boards and their directors.
If a company considers that a board helps management and provides valuable oversights, they should feel comfortable giving them the correct tools to do the job. In the 21st century, electronic board portals are part of the toolkit of boards. The best question to ask is not whether board portals cost money, but whether they provide value for money and help the board and executives do their job by providing a secure, simple, well-serviced solution.
If the gentlemen of Accent would like to trial our service, I would be delighted to provide it to them free of charge. I am confident that they will appreciate the difference.