Crown agencies play a unique role in the Canadian corporate landscape, but they also face a whole different set of challenges. Because they are publicly owned, they have a responsibility to the Canadian people that transcends that of the typical private company. Not only do they need to deliver consistent and effective service to their customers, they must do so in a way that is consistent with the highest standards of public service. As companies run at arms-length, they are also completely responsible for managing their own internal affairs and crafting policies and procedures to shape governance.
But Crown agencies also face practical challenges that private companies and regular non-profits may not have to deal with. Crown agencies operate in a unique legal realm, but they may also have to straddle a wide range of jurisdictions within the country itself. Issues like board composition may reflect the need to balance representatives from a number of different communities, regions, and linguistic groups, which can present hurdles to effective board governance that require creative solutions. This is one of the reasons many Crown agencies are attempting to leverage the gains made in electronic communications to improve connectivity and foster better board governance practices.
One of the most significant ways they are doing so at the governance level is through board portal software. The latest software options make it possible to create a board of directors portal that provides members with a secure digital repository they can use to share and access board documents as well as annotate, discuss, and edit documents that others have shared. This allows board members to receive the board book immediately, and also makes it possible for directors who are frequently on the road to bring board business everywhere they go using a mobile app.
Portal software is becoming popular across the corporate and non-profit world, but it is particularly attractive to Crown agencies because it makes it easy for board members to conduct their business remotely. When board members are scattered across the country and face prohibitive transportation costs if they try to meet in one central location, having tools that allow them to achieve a similar level of engagement remotely can save huge amounts of time and money. And because sophisticated versions of board portal software like the one produced by Vancouver-based Aprio are available in multiple languages, it is also possible to work bilingually — an important feature in a country like Canada.
Every day, millions of Canadians rely on Crown agencies for everything from transportation and communication to safety and security, and Crown agencies with a federal mandate need to be able to provide service to some of the most far-flung regions of the country. This poses a major communications challenge, and finding workable solutions means thinking beyond the usual channels. Board portal software is just one example of how Crown agencies are turning to cutting edge technology to guarantee efficient and effective communications that allow them to fulfill their national mandate to serve the Canadian people.