Sharing information securely for Boards and Committeeson 14 September 2016Posted by Jacqui Hogan
One of the challenges of working on a Board or Committee these days is that they no longer rely on exchanging paper information. Although some people do still print the relevant documents, most now share and store Information like board papers, committee minutes and other information electronically. This is fine, if you all work for the same organisation, but can present some additional challenges when you do not.
These days, many Boards are made up of members belonging to different organisations. Most organisations store information internally in some form of electronic format. However, members may well be discussing sensitive topics that need to be kept confidential. They will not want information stored on another organisation’s corporate network where unknown people, e.g. IT departments, could have access to it. Other organisations may also use different technologies and have different security rules or protocols.
Here are some good practice suggestions to make this work securely and safely for you, without making it onerous.
1. Choose carefully where you store your information
In the past, Boards have been able to maintain the security of their data by containing it within their organisational boundaries. With this information crossing back and forth organisational boundaries, it becomes increasingly difficult to do this without duplicating data or incurring the risk of information becoming available prematurely or to the wrong person. Depending on what the purpose of your Board is, it is likely that you will want to keep it safe from discovery by competitors or even overseas governments.
• Choose a file sharing solution that stores data in the UK e.g. Glasscubes
• Choose a file sharing solution that encrypts your data securely
• Don’t store local copies of documents
2. Manage who has access
To ensure that your information is only viewed by those who need to know, think about what you need to share and who needs to have access to your documents. Consider whether you might need to offer levels of permissions to access content and decide whether you need users to edit or only view content.
• Keep it simple (then people will remember it)
• Make a plan available that everyone can refer back to
• Don’t allow lots of offline copies of documents – all official documents should be in the shared folders, and non-official documents should be promptly deleted
3. Keep track of your versions
We’ve all had the experience of spending hours working on a document only to find that it wasn’t the latest version. Or, at a time when you need to make decisions quickly, finding you don’t actually know which copy of a document is the latest. It is frustrating and time wasting. It makes approving documents more difficult. It also affects compliance if you have no clear audit trail.
Keeping your documents and other Board information in one place will also allow you to utilize functions such as version control. This is very difficult to do when documents are being held on a variety of different systems, each of which may be governed by their own local version control mechanisms and rules. Trying to do this manually as an alternative, usually results in version mismatches etc. Having the wrong version of a document can take time to resolve at best. At worst, it could result in the wrong decision being made.
• Utilize the system to manage your document versions
• Be consistent and don’t allow exceptions
• Use collaboration options like document read, notification, approvals and comments, which keeps everyone associated with the document for referral and auditing
• ‘Follow’ files so you always know when they are updated
4. Document retention
Keeping documents longer than needed is a common problem on online systems. Documents are retained for a longer period of time, mostly because it is painful to purge the documents or simply because most people don’t know how long they are required for. Purging electronic files has become a problem since hard drives have become more affordable, and they don’t take up the space that paper documents do.
When you need to refer back to those documents, you will find this much easier and quicker if they are well organised too.
• Each industry has rules and regulations on how long your organisation must maintain a copy of your documents.
• Keep documents with common compliance or retention rules together – then they are easier to archive or delete as a group
• Don’t allow retention of any offline copies of documents – all official documents should be in the shared folders
5. Keep it simple
Members of Boards are often time poor. To ensure that they maintain adherence to your security approach – keep it simple! Not every situation needs a complex tool that requires hours of set-up time. Often, all you need is an easy to use tool with the basics delivered with just the options you need - a tool that enables you hit the ground running.
• Don’t use complex files structures
• Find out what level of familiarity and skills your Board members have
• Don’t implement tool options unless everyone knows how to use them properly
Glasscubes is a cost effective, easy to use and secure collaboration tool for any organisation. Find out more about how it could help you take control of your knowledge +44 (0)20 3274 2310.
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