The traditional way to prepare members of a board of directors for a meeting is to FedEx an inches-thick book of material to them. With tablets, more boards are receptive to getting that information electronically. BoardVantage has offered digital board books via a Web portal since 2003, but not until it provided an iPad app in 2011 did sales take off. The app lets directors read offline and make notes; the downloaded material is in an encrypted file, which is synced to the server with any notes once reconnected. If the company changes or updates the material, those modifications can be made online rather than having to mail out new material. Competing products include Directors Desk from Nasdaq, Boardbooks from Diligent, and BoardLink from Thomson Reuters.
There has been a divide among many boards, where some directors wanted digital and some insisted on paper. The iPad helped bridge that divide, says BoardVantage CEO Joe Ruck. It wasn't a simple transition, though, Ruck says. The iPad's graphics are tremendous, but it also has a small screen that doesn't allow the kind of multitasking on multiple windows that a PC does. So it took a major rewrite to rethink the portal for an iPad. Now, BoardVantage is seeing buyers ranging from Fortune 500 companies to local school boards. Ruck says in hindsight it's obvious that a boardroom app would be popular, but "it was a surprise to us to see [iPad adoption] move so quickly."