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Out of the Rock Ages and into the Digital: Boardrooms Go Paperless

The almighty corporate dinosaurs are ready to Ctrl+Alt+Del that printed out annual report, as BoardPAC CEO says clients are chasing after their software at this point.

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Rock, Paper, Scissors. Whichever way looked at, paper always seemed to come out on top. Paper rocks, paper rules. Paper also rules at work. A slightly sheepish habit the corporate world keeps hidden because environmentalists have already forewarned that for every paper used, some portion of a tree had to die.

But exactly how many trees had to die to print out a 30 page document? A 2014 article quotes Susan Kinsella, consultant to businesses on costs of paper purchasing, zero waste, recycling, and tree free products.

She says, one tree can create 16.67 reams of regular 8 1/2” x 11” copy paper. That’s about 50,000 reams of paper. Translation: One tree can make enough paper to make Noah’s Ark.

On top of that, being hacked is bad for business, just ask Equifax and Target. Going digital and looking environmentally conscious may not even be worth it. A group of the biggest US companies have formed a chartered community called Two Sides. They call ‘going paperless saves trees’ a false narrative. If trees aren’t chopped down for trees they are most likely to be axed to make room for farming or high rise buildings. “The volume of trees on US timberland, is growing by 22,000 tennis courts per day because of sustainable forestry practices,” according to Two Sides.

Azeus, a software company offers a product called Convene, a board management software destined to be used to access digital versions of company reports at board meetings. The company website says, “Directors need to go through a lot of material before they attend a board meeting. Thus, a printed board pack can be anywhere from 40 pages to 500 pages (or more)... The thicker the board pack and the bigger the corporate board, the more paper is used up — and that’s just for one meeting alone.”

Illustrating cost savings the company website also says, “A paper-based meeting that doesn’t use any digital solution is essentially face-to-face meeting, so there are other costs that come into play: transportation (including airfare for overseas board members), lodging, venue, and food. For example, Oregon State University’s first Board of Trustees meeting in 2014 cost $7,600 to fund, with $4,000 going to catering alone. That’s just for one board meeting!”

But that doesn’t mean we must revel in the dark ages and reject innovation. Besides deforestation, there’s more environmental pollution created by paper mills that as responsible citizens we must take into consideration.

Lakmini Wijesundara is cofounder and CEO of BoardPAC operated under IronOne Technologies. It’s a Sri Lankan company making board meeting software for Sri Lankan bluechip companies, many of the largest Telcos of Asia including Axiata group companies, and Maxis Berhad. The deal for Telstra in Australia is just about being tidied up. Telstra is a leading telecommunications and technology company in Australia.

“There’s this fear of digitalization because the audience is older. And we see more than 50 percent of the company is still using paper, even at the largest companies.

We do see more companies that want to go digital, but their leaders will be holding on to paper refusing to go digital. They are the ones who sign off on approvals on those large digital projects but have no clue about cyber,” said Wijesundara.

Being hacked is bad, leaving a paper trail of sensitive information is just as bad. Perhaps that’s why the Central Bank of Sri Lanka recently opted for BoardPAC.

“I’m glad to say we automated the Central Bank a month or two ago. Henceforth, sensitive documents and information will not be leaked, although I can’t guarantee the same for older information recorded on paper,” said Wijesundara tongue in cheek at the ABAF 2017 investor summit in Colombo.

CEOs and high powered executives are used to having their way and changing their paper habits requires special kinds of cajoling. “Our strategy is to design for older people. Our product is simple and we even add extra layers of security. We also ensure that this security doesn’t really bother or hinder older people. They don’t even know there’s extra security barriers guarding the work performed.

The product is user friendly. If I handed this product to you today you can use it without any training. Sometimes our team waits outside the board meeting ready to assist. But we would get messages saying, ‘We are fine, we know how to use this thing’,” said Wijesundara.

The BoardPAC app is available for iPad and Windows. Android support is on its way. “The Android version is really for the bigger, wider market; iPads and Windows are the preferred choices for most board members.”

Corporate Asia goes paperless

“Petronas, to the Bombay Stock Exchange, over a thousand of the largest corporations in Asia use us. In fact the Prime Minister of Malaysia uses us. It’s not as if we are a monopoly, there are competitors, but we compete very well against them.

I also want to mention India. There is a foreboding legend almost that Sri Lankans can’t sell in India. Although our team went in a little late to India, we found this to be to the contrary. India warmly welcomed us. The BSE was the first client and now there are many, especially government agencies [using BoardPAC]. Probably because Modi’s government has said go digital. I would say they are coming after us at this point. India is going to be one of our biggest markets in Asia.”

Businesses must be wanting to go paperless because Ernst and Young (EY) calls BoardPAC a globally scalable company and helps them with high level connections to company leaders who are their target user.

The company was profitable from Year 2.

Scissor only cuts paper - but digital? It obliterates paper.

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