Expert Insights

5 ways to improve your board pack and focus on the issues that matter

Board packs are essential for engaging senior stakeholders, bringing them up to speed on performance and guiding discussions that shape future strategy. They’re an indispensable component of every board meeting, but they can also be time-consuming and difficult to create. Is there a better way to build them? Management consultant and experienced interim manager Ashif Manjothi shares his tips.  

“One of the biggest problems I see with board packs is that they’re often too heavily focused on recent performance and not centred enough on looking forward,” says Ashif, who specialises in helping companies improve their processes – and their board packs. 

“Everyone’s time is precious and in a difficult economic period, when businesses face multiple challenges, stakeholders want to know how you’re addressing them. That’s when you need more dynamic, engaging, forward-focused board packs that can drive strategic discussion and are a powerful catalyst for change.”

So what can leaders do to ensure their board packs are a more valuable tool? Ashif offers these five recommendations: 

1. Make it relevant 

“While it’s handy to have templated sections, I see a lot of companies try and keep everything the same every time – often because they’re pressed for time. Take a step back, think about the big issues this month and make sure you’re getting to those messages and discussions quickly. It’s vital that every month you have the right balance between backward-looking and forward-looking information.” 

2. Have the right level of detail

“Don’t take two pages to explain something that could be covered in a couple of bullet points – and think visually, using charts and dashboards that convey information at a glance. Remember the old adage, ‘a  picture speaks a thousand words’. Think carefully about whether your audience needs you to go into detail on what is actually a minor point. What are the big changes and issues you need to focus on?”

3. Focus on the 80/20 rule

“When building a board pack, you should spend 20% of your time putting the majority of it together and 80% of your time focused on the real core messages, adding insight to a strategic discussion. For most companies that I work with however, it’s often the other way around. The key is automation and understanding how you can use the likes of Excel, your ERP or CRM system and other APIs to quickly pull together key metrics in the format you need. This will also enable you to get data that’s as current and relevant as possible, ideally even real-time, which is vital if you need to make strategic decisions based on the data.”

4. Explore AI and other digital advances

“Technology can not only make your job easier, it can also vastly improve the way you understand data and present it. AI, for example, will analyse historic performance and create more accurate, granular forecast scenarios based on a wide range of factors, including macroeconomic changes such as currency exchange rates or inflation, or even customer and competitor trends. 

“You can also look beyond standard presentation tools and introduce digital board packs that allow for greater interactivity, provide customised dashboards for different stakeholders, and enable contributors to comment on information before the board meeting even takes place. This will save you time at the meeting and allow the board to focus on what matters.

“Whatever improvements you make, remember it’s an evolving, iterative process – you don’t have to get your board packs perfect right away, and as you look to keep them current and relevant, it’s right that they change over time.”

5. Consider outsourcing 

“It’s typically the responsibility of the CFO to complete the board pack, but they – or the people they delegate to – can spend a long time working on it, particularly if many of the processes are manual. Outsourcing to reporting specialists can be highly cost-effective and non-invasive. For example, on a recent board pack project I only attended the client’s office a handful of times over several months. With open access to their systems and productivity tools, I was able to pull together the information needed with minimum disruption to the company’s busy teams.”

As businesses continue to juggle the complex challenges caused by political and economic instability, rethinking the way you build and present your board pack can free up valuable time, make you more responsive to market changes and help you focus fully on the issues that matter to you and your stakeholders.   

Ashif Manjothi MBA has been a management consultant and interim manager for over two decades. A qualified accountant with experience in investment banking, Ashif specialised in improving financial planning for growing organisations, before broadening into private equity work and in particular M&As, restructuring and technology enabled transformation.    

Williams Bain is a specialist supplier of executive interim managers, independent consultants and executive-level permanent hires. Our discreet professional service supports the leaders of large PLCs, privately owned businesses, large family-owned businesses, equity partnerships, private equity-backed businesses, entrepreneurs, investors and lenders.