Every organization needs to hold an annual general meeting or AGM for short. Especially with the COVID-19 pandemic still occurring in the world and with many countries still not being able to hold physical meetings, organizations must still find a way to hold their annual general meetings with their shareholders.
You may not realize it, but your usual choice of how to conduct your AGMs says a lot about your organization, particularly about its attitude toward technology and its priorities. Does your organization send the message you want it to send? Read on to find out.
Organizations that still choose to be paper-based and physical with their annual general meetings are seen as traditional. In certain situations, sticking to tradition is a positive thing, but not in this case. When it comes to technology, failure to adapt with the changing times can be perceived as closed-mindedness toward innovation. Think about it: How can organizations come up with their own innovative ideas if they refuse to try out new advancements? A little bit of risk is needed for disruptive thinking, after all. Otherwise, they may end up lagging behind their more technology-oriented competitors.
Also, organizations that still use paper show a gaping vulnerability in their approach to security. Paper documents especially involving hundreds of meeting participants are prone to being misplaced or stolen, putting confidential information at far more risk than is necessary. To shareholders, this isn’t reassuring news. They want an organization that they can trust to take care of their private data, and a reliance on paper is not good way to build that trust.
To environmentalists, this isn’t a good thing, either. Organizations are expected to switch to sustainable processes as part of their responsibility to the communities they belong in, but using paper goes against the very idea of sustainability.
Distracted: Homegrown system
On the opposite side of the spectrum are organizations that have not only gotten rid of paper in favor of going digital, but have even built their own software from scratch. There are some organizations then that choose to hold their AGMs using a homegrown software or in-house system.
At first glance, a homegrown system seems to be the most ideal option — and in some ways, it is. As an AGM software designed specifically for an organization, a homegrown AGM system is customized to address exact needs, allowing users (which are usually the company’s shareholders) more freedom and flexibility. But the tradeoff here is that a homegrown system requires investment on equipment, people, and other resources. Aside from the initial expenses it incurs, it also needs regular maintenance: Servers should always be up and running, and IT staff should always be available to provide support.
Not all organizations also can afford to invest in a homegrown system, so to go for this option is not a possibility for everybody. Organizations pushing for a homegrown system on a limited budget will find it challenging to keep up with the demands of maintaining one. From an outsider’s point of view, this is not an encouraging thing to see. Stakeholders would rather have organizations focus on their core business and not distracted by auxiliary activities; to do otherwise is deemed to be a sign of lack of focus or direction.
Disorganized: Individual Video tools
For organizations that don’t want to use paper but don’t have the patience or capacity to start a homegrown system, another option is to pick individual tools independent of each other and make them work together as one integrated system. This is particularly true with organizations simply just using Zoom or MS Teams with the Microsoft PowerPoint app to conduct their virtual AGMs with their shareholders.
In theory, this works well, but in reality, compatibility issues can be a major challenge. The IT department doesn’t have to create its own virtual AGM software from scratch, but they still have to combine different digital video tools, each one with its own set of specifications and limitations. Making all components fit together won’t be an easy feat.
And again, how will this come across to stakeholders? It gives an impression of disorganization. It doesn’t look good to hold a meeting and make participants download different tools and set up accounts for each one. It will leave people feeling frustrated and wishing for a simple, seamless board book software to improve the process.
Developed: Dedicated Virtual AGM Software
The last option would be choosing and using the best online AGM platform. And just like with the other options, there are downsides for choosing this particular one. Perhaps, the biggest question is that of price: How much are integrated solutions created by third-party vendors? Next comes security: Can organizations trust third-party vendors with their private data?
These are legitimate concerns — and organizations have every right to voice them out — but they’re also based on misconceptions. The first misconception is that third-party vendors all offer pricey products and services. In reality, the market showcases a variety of online AGM software for different budget ranges, including comprehensive solutions tagged with competitive prices.
The second misconception is that third-party vendors automatically get rights to their clients’ database information. The terms and conditions of third-party vendors differ, but most state that clients retain all rights to their data, and that the vendors don’t have access to it.
Now that the budget question and security issue have been cleared up, it’s easier to see why adopting a secure virtual AGM system is the most practical option out of all four. Compared to paper, it’s more secure; compared to homegrown systems, it’s more affordable and practical; and compared to individual tools, it’s more organized and streamlined.
To shareholders, organizations opting for a virtual AGM software are sending the right message about risk: They’re open-minded enough to try out new technology, but they’re doing so in a way that it doesn’t affect their core business or eat up their budget.
How so? Organizations will not have to spend on multitudes of physical equipment because they’ll be spending on a yearly subscription instead, IT teams will not have to provide product support and maintenance because the vendor takes care of that aspect, and users will not have to learn more than one tool because the software itself is suite of solutions integrated into one system. It’s just the right kind of balance, which is the ideal attitude toward new technology.
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