New tool streamlines communication, simplifies meeting prep and strengthens director engagement.
With a nine-member board and directors based in different locations across North America, CUES sought out board portal technology to ensure its board operated with optimal efficiency, engagement and security.
As CUES President/CEO John Pembroke explains, “CUES chose Aprio to take advantage of industry-leading technology to streamline communication, simplify meeting preparation, and strengthen the engagement with our directors.”
Recently our team interviewed Ruth Shirley, CUES executive administrator and board liaison to ask her about the impact of using Aprio board portal software to manage the organization’s directors. Here are some insights from that interview.
Q: Tell us about your board. What are its main needs?
Ruth Shirley: CUES board meets four times a year—twice alongside our major conferences and two independent meetings. We strive to meet in person at least a portion of the time, and other times members join by conference call. Like many boards, our goals in adopting better board technology were to provide directors with convenient and secure access to board information, achieve efficient board book and meeting preparation, and to offer access to the best possible tools to support engagement and strong governance.
Q: Before using Aprio, how did you manage board meetings and communication?
Ruth Shirley: Historically we used SharePoint to store and access board information. It worked, but there was a considerable amount of rework if we had last minute updates. With updates there was always confusion with directors getting different versions of information. Also, we were doing the basics of providing data security, and access wasn’t really convenient for board members, which meant extra administration work.
Q: What was one of the first things you noticed was different using Aprio with the CUES board?
Ruth Shirley: It’s so much easier to make changes, slide in updates, and complete the board book process. Having our information in Aprio makes changes easy, and an email quickly updates board members. Simpler meeting preparation and directors having easy access to accurate, current information has changed my life dramatically.
Q: Can you give a day-in-the life example of what’s different with Aprio?
Ruth Shirley: I can share two stories. At a recent board meeting, a VP realized he needed to make a change in the slides that were one component of the meeting’s board book. He made the update, uploaded the new version and we had assurance everyone was instantly looking at the current, up-to-date version.
Leading up to the board meeting, I also noticed less confusion as directors prepared for the meeting. I used to get board members contacting me, frustrated because logging in was difficult. They may have lost their password and there was no easy way to reset it. Or, they could log in but how to find things wasn’t always clear. With Aprio, it’s simpler. Information is organized exactly like a board runs, and if you forget your password there’s a secure way to instantly request a reset directly from Aprio.
Q: When the CUES board made the decision to adopt Aprio, what were some of the outcomes you were seeking and what has been the impact?
Ruth Shirley: Here’s a run-down of our goals and what we’ve achieved:
- Convenient, secure board information access: This has been a major win. Aprio functions in a way that aligns exactly to how a board works. Directors can search and access information rapidly and get to the point of what answer they need or what materials they are required to review. It gives all of us what we need, when we need it, with simpler access. Moving forward, I’m uploading board policies, CEO summaries, financials, board manuals, orientation documents and historical documents—really building out our library so our directors have a one-stop shop.
- More efficient board book preparation: The master board book creation days are behind us. In the past we had to consolidate all board materials into one file, and at 300-plus pages, this was crazy. With Aprio, we upload what we have, drop in one section at a time, and leave in placeholders for late arriving materials. The process is much more productive, smoother to coordinate, and it is easy to finalize things.
- Calendar of future commitments: We have overcome email confusion around dates. With all future meeting dates—including committee meetings—in Aprio, directors can see their commitments. It also helps with attendance.
- Well-run board meetings: Before people came with paper copies, now everyone looks at materials on an iPad. With Aprio, we prepare an agenda with digital links to key documents so the board can easily follow topics during our meeting. Our directors haven’t yet started using annotations to pose questions or do pre-emptive discussions but that will likely come soon.
- Efficient board updates: When board minutes are approved or there’s a policy update, it is lightning fast and easy to distribute the update to all board members at the same moment for transparency. Different from email, these updates trigger an email alert but are kept logically stored within Aprio so when directors log in, they have access to what they know is the latest information. Improved communication means our directors’ time is respected. We hear from other Aprio customers that this can help with recruitment and keep high contributing board members engaged.
- Private access to documents for select groups: Aprio makes it simple to provide select committees—like governance, finance, and audit committees—with the ability to prepare agendas or documents private to those groups. It’s easy for me to set up access and move directors in and out of the groups with very little administration.
- Technology that would scale and be affordable: With SharePoint we were coming to a storage limit so we started to clear out our archive. We realized the technology was running us, not the other way around. For governance reporting and an audit trail, it is valuable to have a deep, searchable archive of board history. Aprio is built to scale and keeps a deep repository practical.
Q: What was the experience like moving over to Aprio?
Ruth Shirley: We’ve been impressed with how quickly the Aprio team got us up and running, and how simple it is to use the portal, which mirrors how we already manage our board. Live training helped us quickly gain some pro skills in meeting set up and board package prep. One director familiar with another portal didn’t even take Aprio training—they just dove right in, it’s that easy.cues icon
A board portal company headquartered in Vancouver, British Columbia, Aprio, is a strategic partner of CUES that helps credit unions big and small to achieve transparent communication, efficient decisions and well-run board meetings. Request a demo of the Aprio board portal.