New specialized portals will help those striving to practice good governance optimize, centralize, and expand their use of digital tools, while still pleasing the traditionalists. After examining the need for digital governance platforms, we look at a new partnership between Mesquite ISD in Texas and NXTBoard, part of the surge towards digital board governance.

 

The Need for a Better Toolkit

Next time you take part in a formal group endeavor, notice how much of the group’s effort goes into deciding on your tools, deciding on your process, and even deciding how you’ll communicate your decisions to each other.

This is a struggle familiar to members of most governing boards. While it’s a given that functional collaboration and efficient processes lead to better results, it’s often the act of building those processes and establishing the necessary collaboration that triggers the worst headaches in board governance.

Empty chairs around an empty table before the commencement of a board meeting.

To some this represents an opportunity to collaborate, to others it's a promise of frustration.

Many digital tools exist to aid in collaboration, but each is only designed to solve part of the problem. A bundle of them is often necessary to answer the myriad challenges boards face. Hopping between different applications, you risk slowdown and lost information, along with a range of other hiccups and detours that derail board meetings. Workflows become further complicated when appeasing the personalities of stakeholders and conforming to the idiosyncratic standards of a given field or industry.

Whether you've served on a board or not, you can grasp the organizational issues boards encounter by considering these questions from the perspective of a member: Where do you find the minutes from your last board meeting? Do you also have easy access to your policies from there? How do you measure performance against your goals, and record goal status? Is that all easy to find when you need or want to look at it? How often does everyone at the meeting have all the materials they need, reviewed?

By centralizing and simplifying the digital tools organizations use, limiting the need to shift between interfaces, you bring clarity to the collaborative process. When all resources are housed together it becomes simpler to keep your whole team on the same page.

Three board members listen to a fourth speak about recent performance. A smartphone on the table is the only visible device.
While we bring devices with us wherever we go, board meetings are fundamentally about
face-to-face understanding. More and more, however, we're finding we can catalyze human
interaction, and speed collaboration with digital tools.
 

This does rely on boards being willing to fully digitize. The way we organize, consume, and deliver information in our personal lives is already almost entirely digital, and in the best cases limited to a few versatile platforms. Typically, this is mirrored in our daily work. But when it comes to board governance—largely for lack of a clear comprehensive tool—organizations have been more gradual in digitizing and centralizing materials and administration.

In order for this to change, they’re in need of a specialized platform with purpose-built features that can help governing boards run the way they’re used to running, but with the collaborative efficiency and transparency of online docs, calendars, sharing, and data-visualization.

Boards big and small stand to benefit from tailormade digital platforms that facilitate collaboration and drive accountability. The salient questions are: are these board management platforms effective enough, and will they continue to gain the trust of venerated institutions in academia as well as corporate and nonprofit enclaves?

 

Significance of the NXTBoard and Mesquite ISD Partnership

Mesquite Independent School District (ISD) is partnering with a company called NXTBoard, joining a steady and growing movement towards digital board governance. As of January 2019, the Texas school district will be relying on the NXTBoard platform to ensure effective roll-out of their new Accreditation Evaluation System.

NXTBoard is an Austin-based company with the stated mission to help boards transform the way they work. In addition to consulting, the company offers an eponymous board portal that combines board management tools with strategic planning features. As discussed in the section above, it’s a solution for centralizing and digitizing board information in order to improve effective collaboration and clear the way for action.

But how does it work? In plain terms, NXTBoard is an all-in-one toolkit for ensuring good governance, including administration, documents, calendars, goals, tasks, accountability, and more, all tethered to one portal. Users have accounts, roles, and permissions based on their given positions on the board, enabling them to easily act and manage within the powers assigned those positions, in or out of board meetings.

The NXTBoard portal open to an agenda page. An on-screen menu with line items like Tasks, Goals, Reports, Users, etc.
The NXTBoard platform provides a crisp and comprehensive set of features for viewing
and managing board resources, building strategies, and monitoring execution.

 

While that all sounds perfectly cumbersome, NXTBoard’s designers have created a comfortable digital environment using familiar terminology that longtime veterans of board governance will immediately grasp. Perhaps more importantly, the architecture is logical and simple enough for governance newcomers or the digitally disinclined to pick up.

It makes sense that the NXTBoard portal feels so intuitive: the finest instruments tend to be crafted by those who use them. According to their website and a quick glance at those involved, their product iteration is guided by current and former board members. This is also part of the reason boards and board strategists are so comfortable working with NXTBoard.

Serving over 41,000 students on 47 campuses, Mesquite ISD has put its faith in NXTBoard due to the company’s proven expertise in the education sector, and because of the ability of the NXTBoard platform to support the objective evaluation of personalized implementations. 

The platform will help Mesquite ISD's governing board monitor progress and measure the outcomes of the Accreditation Evaluation System. The Accreditation Evaluation System is intended to be an engine for excellence across Mesquite public schools, providing a process by which the community can determine the benefits, value, and usefulness of an education to students, and act upon the findings. The NXTBoard platform is there to streamline collaboration among those involved and help them focus on effectively driving action.

Dr. David Vroonland, Mesquite ISD Superintendent, summarizes it this way: “The mission of Mesquite ISD has always been to develop an inspiring and innovative learning community that educates and empowers our students to pursue excellence. By leveraging the NXTBoard platform, we have the ability to more effectively implement, evaluate, evolve, and report on the success of our Accreditation Evaluation System, continuing our commitment to the students.”

 

Time to Act

 “Today, so many boards are looking for an end-to-end solution that will help them go beyond board management and support them in better planning and evaluating progress of their goals and outcomes,” says Jeff Allyn, NXTBoard CEO. “We are thrilled to welcome Mesquite ISD to the NXTBoard family, and to assist them in being more efficient, strategic, and in delivering good governance through the Accreditation Evaluation System.”

A well-lit board room where board members actively converse. Laptops on the table are running a board governance application.
Better board meetings mean increased time devoted to meaningful action. Digital board governance
tools make collaboration easier and faster for boards of all sizes, allowing them to focus less on
process and more on results.

 

Leadership teams of all forms and functions are always seeking ways to save time and improve outcomes. Digital board tools contribute by reducing administrative burden and clearing the way for goal-focused action. Board governance can be orchestrated better, and these board portals will help raise performance for academic entities, private enterprises, nonprofit groups, and anyone dealing with fractured or foggy workflows and opaque accountability structures.

If you’re a member of a collaborative body not using a digital platform, this might be a good time to make the change. We all want a more consistent process with less wasted time, easy access to digital materials, and clarity when it comes to goals and progress. Board meetings can be simpler, less painful, and more impactful, and it starts at the platform level with products like NXTBoard.

 

More on NXTBoard: the NXTBoard platform is securely hosted in the Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud and can be accessed anytime, anywhere, on any device through any web browser. We encourage you to check it out. For more information or to request a demo, visit www.nxtboard.com.