Company Directors Meetings: iPads in the Boardroom

Traditionally the use of electronic devices such as mobile phones and iPads has not been considered best practice in the boardroom. This is because these devices are seen as a distraction rather than a useful tool. In addition, they are seen as a potentially unsecure means by which other people may access very confidential company information either accidentally or intentionally. They may be lost, stolen or the information viewed in public when it is being read and reviewed by the relevant board member.

Many company directors prefer to conduct business in a more traditional manner and are not open to computer or electronic devices in company meetings. However, like many other forms of technology, the iPad can change the way in which board meetings and other meetings will be run in the future. Board meetings must comply with Australian legislative requirements including having detailed minutes kept and available on demand. Therefore there are considerations that need to be made for minutes that are contained in electronic soft copy format. These detailed minute requirements need to include the discussions and decisions that all directors have exchanged during the meeting. Therefore, if these minutes were ever obtained or viewed by outside persons, this could be a strategic issue and a large issue of confidentiality for the company. You would need to ensure you have very strong security measures in place to control any electronic board information and ensure that all directors were well schooled on issues such as use in public or on public transport as well as security measures and protection. A further important issue to consider is that any notes or comments that were made on board papers by directors prior to the board meeting must form part of the board meeting so care must be taken by directors when reviewing board papers.

One aspect of business that has significantly changed in past few years is the use of email technology. Millions of documents are now sent and stored through email and are also recognised by courts as having evidentiary value. This has not only been convenient but has also saved considerable amounts of time and money the way transactions are managed. This change and its effect on how business and meetings are conducted in the sharing and transmission of documentation is similar to the impact the iPad may have on company director meetings in the future.

With the invention and widespread use of the iPad, the perception of the best practice of the boardroom has and will continue to change and adapt with technology. Like in many other types of technology iPads and computers have many proven advantages. In particular with boards, the use of iPads may be perceived as a convenient way to access and share board documentation and permit quick and easy comments and amendments to, for example, board meeting minutes. There is the additional improvement on record keeping including tracking meeting comments and subsequent changes. The exchange and finalisation of documentation is considerably easier and saves on costs for both printing documentation and sending it. It also makes it easier to obtain director comments electronically for many directors who travel frequently and are otherwise difficult to contact.

The main hurdle that any board would face in using iPad technology or other similar devices is having all of the members trained in both security and use. This can be overcome with good training sessions and education and will likely far outweigh the benefits the new technology will bring.