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Businessman using digital tablet by the desk (BartÂomiej Szewczyk/Getty Images/iStockphoto)
Businessman using digital tablet by the desk (BartÂomiej Szewczyk/Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Disruptors

Montreal startup drags corporate boards into the digital age Add to ...

When corporate directors need to read up on company affairs in the run up to a board meeting, they can find themselves sitting on telephone books’ worth of paperwork. Never mind reading it – it also needs to be delivered and securely disposed of afterwards. Enter Leading Boards – content management software tailored to help boards of directors and built for the age of the iPad.

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The goal is better governance, says Jean-Marc Félio, the company’s president: A more-informed board will make better decisions, and the sooner new directors can be brought up to speed on a board’s decision-making history, the sooner they’ll step up and offer effective guidance.

“Directors don’t have access to information. You have a new director coming in, it will take three to six months before they’re up to date,” he says. “Giving them access to their archives is already a big change.”

Leading Boards acts as both a security-minded information repository and a decision-making hub. Many of its features, which include access to old minutes and files, the ability to search documents by content and collaborative document-editing, are available through its regular web interface. But Mr. Félio puts his firm’s emphasis on its iPad app, which takes advantage of the touch interface to offer document-management tricks such as highlights and annotations. (In the interests of security, annotations are purged after a meeting has run its course, and documents returned to their original state.)

In addition to offering full access for board members, the software can act as a venue to create a virtual meeting space that puts specific users together with just the documents they need to see; anxious stakeholders, for instance, can be invited to a session with two or three directors, and just the relevant documents from the archives. Alternately, a suitor interested in buying a stake in the company could be given an account on the system allowing access for due diligence.

It also tackles the decision-making process itself, letting boards create structured debates, in which a question is mooted and members can add arguments into ‘pro’ and ‘con’ lists. After the meeting, the decision-making process is expunged, leaving only its result for the record.

The six-person startup’s software is used by about 60 companies in Canada and beyond. Mr. Félio says its touch-based capabilities are important in speeding adoption among board members – not always the youngest members of an organization, nor the most eager to embrace technology. The company experimented with buying small computers for clients, but found that, regardless of the training Leading Boards offers, the iPad was far more intuitive.

“There is one old board member who called and said 'I don’t need your training any more. My five-year old granddaughter taught me.'”

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