Reporting to Your Board: Putting Together a Board Pack

by Reenan Hornilla on February 25, 2013 and last updated on August 13, 2018

Preparing a Board Pack

A board pack is a collection of reports in a presentable and convenient format that informs board members of the company’s financial position, progress of plans, and other important developments since the last board meeting. The board pack is sent regularly by the company to its board members prior to a board meeting, as its contents will serve as main focus of discussion during the board meeting.

The following article provides pointers on putting together a board pack for your company’s board meetings.

Know What Information the Board Needs

A common notion is that a board pack is a compilation of corporate decisions and a history of developments. Thus, they don’t remove previous reports or board packs and just add more and more information on top of them. This is wrong, and you should not commit the same mistake. What should only be included from a previous board meeting are those items that have relevance in the upcoming meeting. For example, pending action items, or open issues for continuing discussion—not the previous meeting’s entire board pack.

Although the board usually points out what information it will need in an upcoming board meeting, most of the time, they are not specific on this matter. So, it is up to you to determine the scope or coverage of the information to report. First, consider the time frame, since the last board meeting, what developments came about, what new things happened? How has the company performed since then? Or, what were the pending items in the last board meeting? These should give you an idea of where to start off and then enable you to develop an outline that could be consistently used in producing future board packs.

Reliable Information Comes from Reliable Sources

As mentioned in the introduction, it is vital that the board has complete trust in the accuracy of information contained in a board pack. Otherwise, the board pack’s only place should be in the shredding machine. Never make assumptions or estimations, even if you’re an expert on the matter. Don’t take casual words from anyone, even if he or she is an authority, no matter how reassuring they are.

Information must always be in black-and-white, or well documented and sourced. Information about internal corporate matters can simply be found in your company’s respective departments. When you set your sights on a certain department, go directly to the person in charge, or seek the authority on the matter you need information about. Only get information from people who are willing or in the position to back up or attest to the information they will furnish.

For external matters, government agencies and bureaus are a mine of information. For legal matters like litigations, the courts can be looked up. For business and market forces, there are many consultancy firms that specialize on financial information. The reliability of other sources of information like websites is a bit more difficult to determine. In this case, you should gather several internet sources and see if the information they are presenting is aligned or if they are saying the same thing about a topic of interest or inquiry.

When you have the information you need, always review them. Take time to analyze and be critical of information you’re going to present, focus on how data or figures were derived and see if the methods are valid. Be cautious of rounded off amounts or sugar-coated summaries.

Make Information Meaningful

How do you make information meaningful for the boardroom? First, trim unnecessary details. Note that the board prefers to consider the big picture of things most of the time. For example, it will be useful to present the cost of the monthly or quarterly phone bill of the company. But presenting the breakdown in the number of calls made by each department and the cost of each of those calls might be out of place, so we can omit these details. It would be very relevant to inform the board that the phone bill this quarter increased by 200% as compared with that of the previous quarter, this would surely be a matter of discussion by the board.

As in the previous example, making comparisons is a good way of making information or data relevant or meaningful. However, not all comparisons are as simple as seeing which figures are larger. We have to establish standards or metrics to understand and know what’s going on with of more complex business operations and processes. Key metrics is a method or model that will allow you and your board to compare, say, the progress of work compared against a plan or set of objectives at the moment, and then make reliable projections for going forward (or if a project should be abandoned). Thus, you should choose your metrics well.

Have experts in your company or third party consultants formulate metrics for your operations, financials, and other areas that your board will regularly want to know about. Metrics should be as simple and as practical as possible, allowing for easy data collection, checking of validity, flexibility in a changing business environment, etc. It will be helpful to enlighten the board about the metrics you have chosen and how these metrics work. Make sure that the metrics you are applying are valid by checking if the factors involved are constant. Otherwise, make adjustments to your metrics as necessary.

Format and Delivery of the Board Pack

The board should decide what format they want the board pack to be delivered and presented to them. But if you are to decide for them, make sure that the format you choose is the most convenient and practical for the board members to use. Today, a growing number of companies are now adopting electronic delivery and presentation of their board packs in the form of board portals, as well as board pack and board meeting apps. Examples of such software are Boardworks, BoardVantage, BoardPad, and Azeus Convene.

No longer are board members and their staff burdened with bulky board packs. Instead, digital board packs can be effortlessly be circulated and distributed via internal networks, WiFi, or 3G, while they can be downloaded and stored in sleek tablets or iPads. Thus, if you are going to choose an electronic format for your board pack, make sure that all board members have the capability and the right devices to receive the board pack, manage it and keep it secure, review and study it at a place and time convenient to them, and then bring and refer to it in the actual board meeting. If all these considerations are met, then you can transition from your paper-bound board pack to an electronic format.

Even if you have adopted an electronic board pack, and everything will fit snugly in an iPad, don’t make the mistake of overloading your board pack with useless and old information (like old board packs and meetings of previous meetings), such that it will be bloated with so many pages. Developing a good agenda is key to preparing a good pack, electronic or otherwise.

In presenting data in tables and graphs, be certain that such formats can be clearly viewed on the devices that board members have. Entire spreadsheets and images should not overlap the screen of devices too much, such that board members will have to exert much effort just to scroll or navigate to parts of the report. Lastly, take into account the file size of your report or presentation, a large file size will most likely be difficult to download, view and manage.

Conclusion

A board pack provides the board members of a company or organization with a clear and truthful perspective of the business’s recent history and foreseeable future. In this light, the board pack is more than just a pile of paper with figures, comparisons, and fancy graphs. It is a vehicle for educating board members, executives, decision-makers and key stakeholders, on how the company or organization is performing at present, and more importantly, guide them on how they should steer the business in the months, quarters and years to come. Thus, the board pack should be a reliable report of gains and losses, progress and slow down, problems and solutions. The board pack must gain and hold the confidence of board members, that what they read in this report is reliable and accurate information, worthy of their time, thoughts, arguments, decisions and actions.

About Azeus Convene

Azeus Convene is a board meeting application for iPad, Android, Windows, and web that streamlines the entire board meeting process. It also provides a centralised platform for managing meetings and documents and makes it extremely easy to put together a board pack and agenda for your board, invite participants, and archive meeting minutes.

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About Reenan Hornilla

Reenan Hornilla is a writer for Convene.

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