What (Not) To Include In Board Pack: A Practical Guide - iBabs

What (Not) To Include In Board Pack: A Practical Guide

A board pack is a collection of documents and reports which is presented to board members before their next meeting. You should ensure that it is both clear and easy to read, making it a handy reference tool for directors. But what is the purpose of the pack and what should you include in it? This article explains everything you need to know about creating effective board packs. 

The Purpose of Board Packs

The purpose of a board pack is to provide every board member with the latest data and information they need before heading into a board meeting. It condenses the relevant information into a handy and digestible format to give members a clear overview of the current state of the business. 

Also known as a meeting pack, it allows members of the board of directors to stay focused and debate the topics in a relevant and productive manner. It also provides detail on the outstanding action items previously agreed upon, as well as the agenda for the forthcoming meeting. 

What Should Go into a Board Pack? 

Here is a handy guide as to what should go into a board pack:

ItemPurpose
AgendaTells members what the meeting will focus on and the areas of the business they will discuss. Gives members the opportunity to suggest additional items or question the relevance of others.
Minutes From the Last MeetingAllows members the chance to read through and ensure that the meeting minutes are correct. If there are any errors, they can flag them before the meeting so the secretary can adjust them. This saves time making amendments in the following meetings. 
CEO ReportThis executive summary gives the context for where the company is right now, as well as the factors that have affected the business since the last meeting.
Financial ReportTells the members how the business is doing financially, indicates how the company is performing in relation to its KPIs and gives a forecast for future performance. 
Board Committee ReportsLets directors know the work that each committee is doing between board meetings. This could comprise an important progress report or summarise the results of the committee’s research and their recommendations. 
Board Correspondence This could include enquiries and questions from shareholders about important business issues. 
Background InformationThis should relate to the topics up for discussion at the meeting, allowing all members access to the details they need to inform the conversation.

This is the basic document list for a board meeting pack. At times, you may need to add in extra material. This should be done on a case-by-case basis and depends on the circumstances of the business at any given time. 

Format and Delivery of the Board Pack

There is no single correct way to format a board pack for the members. Often, the board will decide its own favoured way of digesting the information it needs for a meeting. However you format it, it should be as clear and easy-to-read as possible. Board members should easily be able to access the passages they want to refer to and not have to trawl through walls of text in order to discover what they want to talk about. 

As for delivery, you have three main options:

  • Post
  • Email
  • Board meeting software

The easiest and clearest way to deliver a board pack is to use board meeting software, such as iBabs. This compiles all the relevant information in one place in the cloud and means that anyone can access it at any time.

Rather than weighing down members with reams of paper that can easily fall out of order, they can simply log on to their tablet, computer or even phones to see the board pack. If there are amendments, you can update them in the app in real-time for all of the members to see. This means everyone is working from the same information and no one is accidentally using an out-of-date version or missing any vital data. 

Cost and time are also a consideration when distributing a board pack. The costs of printing full board packs and mailing them, then reprinting updated versions and mailing them again, can stack up over time. Similarly, emailing board packs requires each member to print out the pack. Board portals offer user-friendly ways of dipping in and out of documents, as well as allowing the user to add their own notes and collaborate with others. 

Board Pack Template and Example

Here are some examples of a board pack template: 

You can use these as the basis for your board pack ahead of the next meeting. 

What is the Role of the Chair?

Although much of the work in compiling the pack lies with the board secretary, the chair has a role to play, too. They make decisions over two major areas of the meeting pack: 

1. The choice of specific papers

Many of the papers you include in the board pack are in there for a specific reason, such as the agenda, regular performance reviews and so on. However, the chair will often consult with the CEO to identify any other documents that should feature ahead of the next meeting. They might relate to something the chair or CEO decides is vitally important for the board to be aware of and discuss, or they could be included at the request of a director. 

2. The agenda

In a similar way, the chair must take the steer over the contents of the board meeting agenda. They are best placed to guide the meeting in the direction that will best serve the strategic needs of the business. The company secretary and CEO should both have input into the meeting agenda, but the chair makes the final decision over this part of the board pack. 

3. Sanctioning late paper submissions

Should anyone request to submit a paper for consideration, the chair can accept or reject the submission. However, if the board feels it came in too late for them to properly digest it, form an opinion and ask any questions of the CEO or management team they may deem necessary, they can reject the paper. 

Best Practices: What Makes a Good Board Pack? 

There are a number of factors that make up a good board pack. They include: 

  • Clear structure
    There can be a lot of information in a board pack and you want the board members to be able to digest as much as possible and find what they need easily. These are busy people who need access to important information quickly. If you order the pack in clear sections, it makes it easier to reference specific information quickly. 
  • Clear analysis of the issues
    The board pack does not need to contain every small detail of the business’s operations. A board deals with strategic planning, rather than day-to-day machinations. If you try to add in too much, the board papers become cluttered and time-consuming. This is where the collaboration between the board secretary, the chair and the CEO shows its value. Together, you can work out exactly what content members require in order to make informed decisions. Make sure everything in the pack is up-to-date, trustworthy and covers critical issues.
  • Balance of tables, graphs and commentary
    Breaking up the text with visual representations of data is a great idea, but you must ensure you explain how to use the data on display. Furthermore, pages that are filled solely with tables and graphs can become confusing, so use them in context and don’t overload members with information. 
  • Answers to key questions
    Your board pack should inform as much as it can. If it leaves members with too many further questions, you haven’t included enough relevant detail. This can result in a waste of both your time and the chair’s time. 
  • KPIs
    The board should monitor the company’s KPIs in the board pack to check progression. They should identify the KPIs that are most relevant and you should include updates on these in the pack. 
  • Timely delivery
    The board needs the information early enough to read it, digest it and form their own opinions on the issues. Effective Governance says “The provision of timely and accurate information can be critical to the board’s ability to appropriately challenge and scrutinise management”. It also allows the secretary to take on feedback from members and adjust the pack accordingly. 

FAQs

Why is the board pack required?

The board pack ensures that the board makes decisions on solid, trustworthy information. If everyone has access to the same details, they can be much more productive during the board meeting and make better decisions. 

  • How often should boards review the packs they receive?

The board should review the packs on at least an annual basis to ensure their ongoing high quality. They should consider whether they relay correct and relevant information that addresses the critical issues of the business. They should also ensure the pack details future risks for the business and that it is easy to read and digest. If it doesn’t meet these needs, you should look to change the way you create board packs. 

Conclusion

The board pack is an essential tool for the board in helping them make decisions over the future of the company, which is why it is so important to get it right. Board meeting software like iBabs can also make this process so much easier and more streamlined, saving the business money in the long run and increasing profit margins going forwards.

References and Further Reading