The original King Edward’s School in Birmingham was founded in 1552 and to this day enjoys a reputation as one of the finest schools in the area and indeed the country. Fast forward to 2018 and the parent organisation, The Schools of King Edward VI in Birmingham (the ‘Foundation’) oversees ten schools: King Edward’s School and King Edward VI High School for Girls are extremely successful Independent Schools, with The King Edward VI Academy Trust Birmingham managing six free grammar schools and two non-selective academies.
As you would expect of an organisation with ten schools, overseen by a charity and academy trust, there are a lot of meetings that take place amongst the boards of each organisation and the various committees and sub-committees. When Company Secretary Laura Ganderton joined the organisation in 2017, she was astonished to see the level of time and resource that went into preparing for each meeting. At that time, the Foundation was in the middle of forming the King Edward VI Academy Trust Birmingham which would add to the meeting number and administration challenges:
“As with many organisations that have been around for a long time, the Foundation had been used to approaching meetings in a certain way. This included physical board packs, which were time-consuming and costly, and the threat of last minute changes hung over us constantly, with all the subsequent re-printing issues that came with that.”
“When you also consider the postage costs in delivering board packs to each board member, it was obvious to me that the whole process needed an overhaul. I couldn’t do my whole role effectively whilst spending so much time preparing for board meetings. I was aware of online board portals from a previous job and wanted to try and get one in place at the Foundation, especially with the formation of the Academy Trust on the horizon.”
Laura spent some time considering the four main providers of electronic board packs solutions, evaluating each one against the Foundation’s specific requirements. Whichever solution was selected would have to be approved by the board, so a cost evaluation was also undertaken. This revealed that the previous approach was costing approximately £16,600 every year in printing, postage and man-hours costs which would increase with the Academy Trust.
“There was certainly a renewed appetite for change once it became clear how much money and time we were spending just on board meeting preparation,” continued Laura Ganderton. “When eShare first gave us a demonstration of BoardPacks it showed that it was the most cost-effective and time-effective solution and also the one who’s functionality and features best suited what we wanted to achieve.”
Although the Foundation had some board members who were less keen on technological change than others, Laura adopted a gentle approach to roll-out to help ensure board buy-in:
“There was a lot of change going on elsewhere in the organisation, so I felt the best approach was to introduce BoardPacks slowly to allow people to adjust. Fortunately, one of its strengths as a product is that it is so user-friendly, so most of our 167 users were able to master the software straight away.”
Now it has been in situ for more than six months, Laura has got every single one of the 167 users fully signed up and operational with BoardPacks. It has had a significant impact on the people using BoardPacks in meetings, but also on how Laura manages her time as Company Secretary.
“The previous approach was becoming untenable for me, so using BoardPacks has freed up a good deal of mine and my governance department’s time that can now be spent elsewhere. We’ve also had great support from eShare, both during implementation and now we are up and running. Any issues are resolved as soon as possible, and we are always made to feel like a highly regarded and valued customer.”
The mobile app functionality with BoardPacks has proved to be one of the most impactful, allowing as it does board members to review and annotate documents on the move. One user who uses different coloured notes to distinguish her pre-meeting and during-meeting amendments and thoughts on a document, declared BoardPacks to be ‘the best thing we have ever done’, according to Laura Ganderton:
“We’ve had such good feedback from nearly all our users, and BoardPacks has been universally popular, even with board members that had initially been resistant to the change. I am delighted that eShare is always looking to enhance and improve the product too. A raft of new features were added to BoardPacks early in 2018 and the minutes feature in particular is already proving beneficial.”
“Overall BoardPacks has had a positive impact on how The Schools of King Edward VI in Birmingham approaches meetings, saving significant costs on printing and postage, freeing up some of my time and making meetings much more streamlined and efficient for our users.”