It’s no exaggeration to say that the past year has been one of many higher education challenges. New cases of COVID-19 have continued to emerge on college campuses. A New York Times survey reported more than 397,000 cases at 1,900 colleges and universities since the pandemic began. The health and safety of students, faculty, and staff has rightfully become a top priority.
Many college boards and staff have also had to deal with fundamental institutional challenges, including misplaced focus and prioritization and a lack of clarity around distinct roles and responsibilities.
Amid all this upheaval and change, higher education leaders have embraced virtual collaboration technologies (board portals, web conferencing apps, etc.) to bring together people who are working remotely. But technology answers only part of the problem. The real opportunity is not merely to go virtual, but to leverage technology to increase your board’s effectiveness and foster a governance model that is nimbler and more effective than ever.
Technology provides a solution during a pandemic
Let’s be clear: technology has played a vital role in higher education from the very start of the pandemic. When the first quarantine orders went into effect, technology helped usher in an overnight shift to virtual board and committee meetings. Leaders quickly discovered that web conferencing apps like Zoom were great tools for gathering a group of people together quickly. However, they did not help seamlessly and securely maintain continuity of governance.
Enter the board portal.
A board portal is a secure digital platform that enables boards to collaborate, securely access meeting materials, and execute their governance responsibilities.
Even before the pandemic, the ability to collaborate and more efficiently use time and resources made the difference between a good board and a great board. The onset of COVID-19 has only brought out the essential value of a board portal. Some capabilities of the board portal include:
● Collaboration – With so many workforces having gone remote, a board portal enables the Board of Trustees to work together even though they can’t meet in-person. A board portal transforms messaging, taking attendance, and even taking minutes into shared, collaborative activities.
● Efficiency – Virtual technologies have increased expectations around efficiency and productivity. With virtual meetings now expected to handle twice as much activity in half the time, a board portal’s ability to turn time-consuming chores into items that can be checked off the board’s to-do list quickly is necessary.
● Future-ready decision-making – The speed of events moving so fast has created a unique productivity formula: as strategic decisions grow larger in importance and impact, the time to reach those decisions grows smaller. A minute of pandemic board meeting time is now more than a hundred times more valuable (and expensive) than pre-pandemic meetings. A board portal has the tools to increase decision-making speed, so boards don’t have to wait for future meetings to make decisions.
● Intelligence/analytics – It’s stunning to think about, but it’s true: the fruits of digital transformation have yet to reach the boardroom. Most board meetings operate under Robert’s Rules of Order, which was first published in 1876! Indeed, Robert’s Rules may have created order out of chaos, but a board portal creates intelligence out of order. Aggregated data and machine learning are the vanguard of a new kind of board that provides smarter insights, connects more disparate dots, and coaches a board to greater effectiveness.
● Frictionless governance – The most complex – and most impactful – decisions of any higher education institution happen in the boardroom. And yet, most organizations meet a handful of times each year. This makes no sense. A board portal enables organizations to implement smaller, nimbler governance structures. Committees and ad-hoc working groups can now meet frequently, are empowered to bring outside expertise, and resolve deeper, knottier problems faster.
Board and trustee meetings should be informed, effective, and uncomplicated. It is clear in today’s environment that outdated processes, divided communication, and fragmented technology can make it hard for boards and leadership teams to be their best.
By unifying and standardizing on technology that uncovers insights, boards and leadership teams in higher education are freed to pursue more effective governance–even during highly uncertain times.
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