Putting the “e” into NED

Putting the “e” into NED

A couple of years ago, I went with my wife to Dublin for a very enjoyable weekend. Bewley’s on Grafton St became a second home. It remains one of the best coffee shops I have ever visited. (My youngest daughter thinks Starbucks is cool – such misguided youth!).

On Saturday mornings you can take a tour of the Taoiseach’s office for free – which we did. There were two features that struck us. The first was the art. We were told that public sector organisations in Ireland are required to spend a tiny percentage (less than 1%) of their budget on Irish art. As a consequence walking along the corridors of the administration building is like walking through Tate Modern. Damn civilized country, Ireland!

The second feature was evident in the Cabinet Room: a highly polished elliptical table and, at every seat, a docking station. In the display cabinet in the corner was an award the Irish Cabinet had won for e-governance. The Cabinet papers were only available in e-form. Fantastic!

Now, I hold four non-exec director (NED) roles, one of which is with a Registered Provider (RP). When the RP’s Board pack arrives in the post and thunders on to the doormat, before I read it, I weigh it. And it’s gaining pounds every time.

I have a standing arrangement with a physio to restore the continuous strain and dislocation of my upper body joints, inflicted by transporting RP board papers around. I try to read mine on tube and train journeys leading up to the board meeting. They are getting heavier and I suffer.

However, over the last few months, fuelled by my complaints and her growing attachment to a Kindle, our CEO has introduced iPads and e-papers for Board members. Heaven. Ok, there is an upfront cost for iPads. The cheapest version is £400 and they probably have a life of three years before an irresistible next version appears. But it is heaven, and my physio is looking for business.

And, for all you luddites, it is more than just e-papers. The latest board paper software packages allow you to annotate, search, highlight and enable the officers to issue real-time updates. No more tabled updates.

I suspect most of you are driving your PA or company secretary to distraction as s/he has the regular cycle of printing, collation and distribution. It is costly and it is cumbersome.

If this sounds like an innovation to you, then you are seriously behind the times. Get real. Get modern. Go Irish. Go green. You know it makes sense.

Chris Wood is an Altair partner and can be contacted on tel: 07932 693292 or chris.wood@altairltd.co.uk