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Boards Should Employ Modern Governance Solutions To Better Secure Communications And Materials

Modern Governance: Secure Communications and Materials

Modern governance is a relatively new term that was introduced by Diligent Corporation to update the view of governance by today’s standards. This contemporary term reflects shifts in expectations around accountability and transparency, as well as changes in technology, that impact boards of organizations at all stages and sizes, across sectors and industries. It refers to the tools and processes that today’s boards need to reduce governance gaps and address current challenges successfully. Such tools as secure file-sharing applications, secure communication tools, and board management software solutions are now key to efficiency and cost-effectiveness in the pursuit of good governance.

What Is Modern Governance?

Modern governance is the practice of empowering leaders with the technology, insights, and processes that are required to fuel good governance. And those tools are evolving with the times.

The first-ever Modern Governance Summit for BoardEffect users, hosted by Diligent Corporation in September, 2019, demonstrated a shift in the governance mindset. According to Mary Lou Leeder, Director of Customer Success at BoardEffect, governance professionals bring “heightened awareness about the threats — and opportunities — they face in facilitating board effectiveness. They seek increased understanding of the security concerns that continue to evolve in today’s work environment and strategies for staying ahead of the curve.”

According to Felicia Fett, Board of Directors Liaison at the National Association of Secondary School Principals, changes in our thinking about governance must keep pace with technology. “Effective board work does not revolve around paper (or meeting times), so board members need the tools to engage swiftly and responsibly in their functions.” In our digital world, we need a modern approach to good governance.

To address that need, modern governance solutions bring together what have been disparate tools in the past into one secure product suite. Changes in board culture and in the lives of busy board members require today’s boards to have accurate, timely, and reliable board materials as well as tools for voting and resolution, evaluation, collaboration, secure document sharing, recruiting, and more to enable seamless board management, communication, and reporting.

Since better data leads to better questions at the board and committee levels, modern governance solutions pave the way for boards to expand their focus beyond basic fiduciary functions. They can monitor their organizations’ reputations, participate in meaningful succession planning, and assess board, executive, and organizational performance while keeping their data and communications secure.


Too often, board directors opt to use non-secure communication methods such as personal email accounts due to convenience, cost, or lack of appropriate alternatives. An accidental “reply all” almost cost a nonprofit organization its chief executive when a well-meaning committee chair inadvertently shared raw notes from board interviews. In another case, a new board chair lost the “evidence” needed to support the removal of a renegade board member when his personal computer crashed.

Similarly, some boards confuse transparency with indiscriminate communications. While board members certainly need to know outcomes and understand the processes that led to them, they do not need to read every message related to every subject. As Forbes notes, sending all messages to all board members leads some to treat communications from their organizations as spam. Directing personalized messages to the appropriate board members fosters effective communication along with greater board engagement.

Modern governance solutions set the board up with secure messaging, file-sharing apps, and other tools that allow for secure and targeted collaboration around board business. The apps are designed to work the way that modern board members work—24/7 and on the go with access to various mobile devices.

Many organizations have learned hard lessons after using apps that were designed for public use for business purposes. WhatsApp, Skype, WeChat and other traditional public messaging systems create risks for boardroom communication, as they allow messages to stand and be transmitted in an unsecure environment. Minimal cost or free apps can’t possibly have the necessary state-of-the-art security features that board communications require.

By moving confidential board communication tools out of personal systems and into secure systems that were designed for business, boards can be assured that board business is secure with the right people at the right time.

Governance Gaps and Deficits

Depriving leaders of the right information at the right time to make important decisions creates a governance deficit. This term covers the risks of boards not using secure communications and secure materials. Governance deficits unfold when boards lack clear views from multiple vantage points, including within the organization, across the industry, and into the future. Modern leaders need the proper digital tools to communicate, collaborate, and share sensitive data securely.

Information Sharing

Board directors have numerous occasions to send large files electronically. Sharepoint, Google, and other random file-sharing apps are simply not secure enough to handle the exchange of needed information securely. Standard apps are subject to hacking and malware, and even can spread viruses between devices.

According to this survey by Elastica, in which 100 million shared files on the leading public cloud applications were analyzed, the results of sharing sensitive and personal data are eye-opening. The survey showed that individuals are sharing high rates of sensitive and personal data across file-sharing applications intentionally and unintentionally. According to the survey, the average employee stores over 2,000 files in the cloud. Approximately 20% of those files contain some type of regulated data, such as personally identifiable information or personal health information. Leakage of this type of information can easily get into the hands of cybercriminals and cause a violation of HIPAA and/or other data breach laws.

Among the main sets of materials that board members use regularly are their board meeting books, which can consist of hundreds or thousands of pages. The days of copying hundreds of paper documents for board books are disappearing and increased efficiency is only part of the motivation. As Felicia Fett explains, “the total time spent compiling pages and pages of information certainly is a component of what’s motivating progress, but there’s more to it. Board books got bigger and bigger as boards grew more attentive and accountable.”  As a result, boards need to be able to assemble, distribute, and review their board books with the utmost security.

Modern governance provides the means to create board books and attach large files and still transmit them securely and electronically to board directors, managers, and other authorized users. Since apps for business use are intuitive and user-friendly, modern governance solutions are designed to facilitate – not just accommodate — the process of governance. Such solutions allow board administrators to set granular user permissions for those authorized to access and share various files and other materials. It’s vitally important for board directors to use only apps that were designed with business use in mind and those that have the strongest possible security features built right into the products.

Modern governance applications include having a means for secure document management and storage. Electronic document storage systems need to be secure, accessible, controlled, and have unlimited capacity for storage.

What Is the Right Technology for Modern Governance Processes?

The right technology is a board management platform that gives board directors and executives the right information at the right time so that they can ask better questions which lead to better decision-making. BoardEffect offers the right board management platform for boards to work smarter, not harder.

BoardEffect answers the direct board management needs of organizations regardless of how different their structures, missions, and goals area. This platform enables boards to be better communicators and collaborators while allowing them to be efficient and save costs. Supporting a modern approach to governance, BoardEffect helps board leaders make informed decisions to power better outcomes.

Sonia J. Stamm

Sonia J. Stamm is Founder and Principal of Stamm Consultancy Inc., a boutique consulting firm established in 2008 to guide nonprofits through critical junctures in their development. With over 25 years of experience in organizational development, Sonia partners with nonprofit boards and executive leadership to facilitate best practices in board development and governance, strategic planning, leadership transition and succession, and organizational effectiveness. Since almost its inception, she has been affiliated with BoardEffect to share perspective on how boards can best implement board management software in the effort to advance their organizations’ mission.

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