In the 15 or so years since the term “eGovernance” was first coined, its use has broadened to include not only the use of technology to expand citizen participation in government, but also to describe using technology to streamline the management of boards of directors – i.e., board portals. Notwithstanding their differences, in either definition the focus centers squarely on the technology.
Too often, conversations about board eGovernance seem overwhelmingly to focus on the features of specific board portal systems. But focusing solely on board portal bells-and-whistles misses the most important point. Sound eGovernance can add tangible value for the organizations that embrace it, by thinking holistically beyond simply automating traditional board processes online.
At BoardEffect, we believe eGovernance is a big idea, with an underlying set of tenets, concepts and supporting best practices. eGovernance is not exclusively about technology; it’s about freeing boards to do what they are meant to be doing – proactively promoting the mission of the organization. Used properly, the technology helps that shift to occur efficiently, effectively, and with valuable insight to the organization.
The eGovernance lifestyle promises this value-add for board members by giving them greater context and information so they can make better decisions and be more proactive. For example:
- Providing ready access to a broad array of information conveniently packaged for easy reading – bylaws, past minutes, past reports, in current reports – so they can spot trends and navigate around problems looming on the horizon
- Leveraging the expertise of their board colleagues learned by reviewing their detailed Directory profiles in the portal
- Providing appropriate forums for board members to collaborate, respond, communicate, and learn from one another
- Giving board members more time to digest and reflect on the information they’ve been presented with because they receive that information faster and with more lead time
- Helping speed up information delivery so the “current” information board members see isn’t stale
Here’s an analogy – think about how travel has changed over the last 15 years. Back in the day, there were no GoogleMaps, TripAdvisor, Kayak, Travelocity, or TripIt. I vividly (and okay, somewhat fondly) remember folding paper maps in complicated origami forms just to find the exact road I wanted us to take. But those trips were limited by the information I already knew. Now, I jump on my phone or iPad to find the best route, hotel, prices, restaurants, photos and reviews posted by other travelers. It all adds value to my travel experience. I’m a better, more informed traveler, and I can easily share what I learn during my trips back to the broader community – making all of us better travelers.
eGovernance has that same power – to help all board members become better governors. And we believe that will be better for everyone. My aim is to help unlock that potential, by directing the conversation to focus on what eGovernance is really all about.