Assess Your Board Pack

How Effective Are Your Board Papers?

Using this Assessment

This short self assessment will help you identify the strengths and weaknesses of your board packs. Answer the questions below then click on the button at the bottom to see your score and analysis. Use in conjunction with the Board Reporting Calculator to see if you’re getting the value from your board papers that you’re putting in.

This assessment is made up of 3 key areas:

1. STYLE

The quantity & accessibilityof your reports

2. SCOPE & CONTENT

The quality & effectivenessof your reports

3. PROCESS

The efficiency & timelinessof your reporting cycle

Already filled in the Assessment?
If you have filled in this assessment before (either this online version or the print version) and have your 11 digit sequence ready, click the button below and input your sequence. You will then be taken directly to your results.
For a printable version of the Assessment click here.

For a printable version of the Assessment click here.

Style

Q1. The size of our board pack is almost always…
Fewer than 100 pages
Between 100 - 200 pages
Over 200 pages
Q2. The data in our board pack is intelligently presented…
Disagree
Agree
Q3. The key messages in our board pack…
Stand out clearly
Are like a needle in a haystack

Scope & Content

Q4. Our board pack is… (Select all that apply)
Too backward looking
Not always upfront about the bad news
Light on risk reporting
Too operational at the expense of strategy
Too internally focused, with little insight into the wider market
Too financially focused, with little insight into the non-financials
Light on the implications of the information presented
Not a good reflection of our priorities and the things that really matter
Q5. I am not confident that the data in our board pack… (Select all that apply)
Is accurate
Is up to date and timely
Covers the data points that I think matter
Q6. Our board papers…
Help our board to have more focused and productive conversations
Don’t impact the quality of discussions in the boardroom
Are an obstacle to the board conversation

Process

Q7. As far as I am aware, the time taken by management for board reporting is…
A burden
About right
Not sufficient
I don't know
Q8. Our report writers don’t receive… (Select all that apply)
A clear brief, beyond the paper title and deadline
Formal training in how to write effective board papers
Templates to steer them to what matters to the board
Thorough feedback to help them improve
Q9. Our board don’t… (Select all that apply)
Formally set out clear priorities for the year ahead
Provide formal feedback on board agendas
Provide formal feedback on board papers
Q10. To distribute the papers to the board we… (Select all that apply)
Use a secure board portal
Use email but all files are encrypted
Use email but I don’t think our files are encrypted
Print the materials
Q11. The board receive all their board papers at least 5 working days before the meeting…
Always
Sometimes
Never/rarely
Firstname
Lastname
Email
Organisation
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Your Score

You have successfully filled out the Board Reporting Assessment and your scores and analysis are below. If you’d like to access this results page again, you’ll find a link and your 11 digit code in the email that was sent to the address you provided.

Style

XXXX
Penalties scored XX/XX

Scope & Content

XXXX
Penalties scored XX/XX

Process

XXXX
Penalties scored XX/XX

Overall you had XX/XX penalties scored (XXXX)

The lower your score the better. Excellent = 0, Good = 1-10, Weak = 11-20, Poor = 21-30
You fall into the same bracket as most organisations. It is clear more needs to be done to ensure your board is getting value from your board papers.

What Can You Do To Improve?

Below you will find top tips tailored to your answers to help get you started on the road to best-in-class reporting. For in-depth next steps, you’ll need the ‘Effective Board Reporting’ guidance which you can download here.
1. Is your board pack too big?
Your board pack is a good, readable length.

Research by Board Intelligence found that most directors allocate half a day to reading their board papers, regardless of the length of the pack. At a reasonably fast reading speed, this gives them capacity for up to 100 pages. So by staying below this threshold, your papers have a decent chance of being read thoroughly ahead of your board meetings.
Your board pack is likely to be too long to read.

Try paring it back. Research by Board Intelligence found that most directors allocate half a day to reading their board papers, regardless of the length of the pack. At a reasonably fast reading speed, this gives them capacity for up to 100 pages.

Try reviewing your board agenda to see if there are any papers better suited to another forum. Next, consider training and templates to steer report writers onto the right path, keeping their papers short, sharp and focused on what matters to the board.
Your board pack is too long to read.

To put this in context, research by Board Intelligence found that most directors allocate half a day to reading their board papers, regardless of the length of the pack. At a reasonably fast reading speed, this gives them capacity for up to 100 pages. If you want your board pack to be read, you need to cut it down or you run the risk that the board will miss something important.

Try reviewing your board agenda to see if there are any papers better suited to another forum. Next, consider training and templates to help report writers keep their papers short, sharp and focused on what matters to the board.
2. Is your data presented well?
There is work to be done.

One tip is for the authors to ask themselves: what is the question they are trying to answer in the mind of their reader? This will often guide them to the most sensible way of displaying the data. Also, consider offering training to your report writers in effective data visualisation.
Well-presented data is powerful and important.

It helps to substantiate the key messages in a board pack and to show that management’s conclusions are based on more than anecdote or assumption. Keep up the good work.
3. Do your key messages stand out?
Helping your board to see what matters is what board reporting is all about

— and your board pack succeeds in this. Well done!
If your board can’t see what matters it’s unlikely they will have the conversations that matter.

Fixing this so that key messages stand out clearly in your board pack should be a priority. Try introducing Executive Summaries at the start of each paper to systematically draw out the key messages. To guarantee success, you’ll need to make it clear what a good Executive Summary looks like, so consider training for your regular report writers and providing them with worked examples or templates to help them get it right every time.
4. Does your pack cover the right scope of content?
Your board pack is well-crafted in terms of its scope of contents.

By avoiding the most common blind spots, your board is in a far stronger position from which to judge the health of the business and take well-informed decisions, securing its success for the future.
Your board pack does well to cover many of the important themes, but there is still room for improvement.

Information blindness is one of the biggest risks faced by any board and with a few simple interventions, this is a risk that you can mitigate further.

As a starting point, consider introducing templates that prompt report writers to cover each of the bases, helping you to achieve a consistently high standard of reporting throughout your pack.
Plugging the blind spots in your board pack is vital.

Information blindness is one of the biggest risks faced by any board and given your answer to this question, your board is vulnerable.

As a starting point, consider introducing templates that prompt report writers to cover each of the bases, helping you to achieve a consistently high standard of reporting throughout your pack.
5. Do you have confidence in the data in your board pack?
Accurate, timely and relevant data is fundamental both to the board and to management.

Your organisation stands a much better chance of making smart decisions at every level, thanks to these solid foundations.
Unless you address the quality of the data in your pack, your board is at risk of taking flawed decisions.

Spend some time with the board and senior team selecting the data points that matter the most. By prioritising and rationalising, you should reduce the scale of the data challenge and speed up the pace with which you get results.
6. How does your pack impact your board meetings?
Your board pack succeeds in its ultimate aim of stimulating focused and productive board conversations.

The more you can do to strengthen your board pack, the better. But you are on the right path.
You have an opportunity to drive more value from board meetings.

Make sure that the time management spends preparing board papers is not time wasted.

We hope that this Assessment tool will help you and your colleagues to prioritise where to start on this journey, transforming your board pack into an asset for your board.
When the board pack is a hindrance to the board meeting, something needs to be done, and fast.

We hope that this Assessment tool will help you and your colleagues to prioritise where to start on this journey, transforming your board pack into an asset for your board.
7. Is your management team using their time efficiently?
Reducing the reporting burden on management will enable them to get on with the job of running the organisation.

There are plenty of ways to reduce this burden without reducing their essential role of advising and informing the board. Examples include refining the briefing process or providing templates and training, all of which can speed up report writing and reduce the number of drafts and redrafts.
Congratulations on an efficient reporting culture.

Board reporting should not take up more than its fair share of management’s time and your organisation seems to have struck the right balance.
No one wants reporting to take up more than its fair share of time.

At the same time, management are the guardians of much of the vital information that the board depends on, so should invest the time that is needed to report to a high standard. A good place to start would be to collate the views of the board in response to this Assessment, as the basis of a conversation with the management team.
If you’re unsure how to answer this question, it is well worth asking your senior team.

Board reporting should not take up more than its fair share of management’s time. Equally, given the duties of the board, they have a right to expect management to invest a reasonable amount of time in reporting. Asking the question should quickly uncover the state of play.
8. How well do you support your team, to help them write effective papers?
It sounds like your report writers are well supported.

You should congratulate yourself on the commitment that you and your organisation are making to effective reporting and good governance.
Your organisation clearly takes support and enablement seriously, but there is more that you can do.

Giving authors greater clarity about what information the board requires and how to present it, and supporting them through training and feedback, will deliver benefits that outweigh any additional costs involved — and may produce savings by reducing the time spent on redrafting and reviewing papers, as well as leading to a better board discussion.
There is plenty of scope for improvement in your support of management.

Giving authors greater clarity about what information the board requires and how to present it, and supporting them through training and feedback, will deliver benefits that outweigh any additional costs involved — and may produce savings by reducing the time spent on redrafting and reviewing papers, as well as leading to a better board discussion.
9. Is your board giving you what you need, to shape an effective board pack?
Your board is playing an important and constructive role.

By putting the time in to set out their priorities and offer feedback on board agendas and papers, your board is creating a context conducive to effective reporting and good governance.
Your directors are clearly willing to invest time in setting the board up to succeed, but if they are willing to give just a little more they will get a lot back.

Sharing this Assessment tool with your board to canvass their opinions may be a constructive way of initiating this conversation.
Without the help of your board in articulating their needs, you are likely to hit a ceiling to the improvements you can make.

The same is true for any customer-supplier relationship. Sharing this Assessment tool with your board to canvass their opinions may be a constructive way of initiating this conversation.
10. How secure is your board information?
A board portal is likely to give you the best possible chance of safeguarding your most sensitive information.

Of course, not all board portals subscribe to the same security protocols — conduct regular due diligence to make sure your provider is keeping up with the fast-paced world of cyber security to deliver the best possible protection.
Your board pack is delivered via a more secure mechanism than either traditional email or mail, but may still be at risk.

Depending on the sensitivity of the information in your board papers, encrypted files may suffice. But for most organisations it is important to go further. When files, encrypted or not, are distributed by email it is hard to control where they will end up especially if they are printed. And passwords delivered by email can be intercepted — problems that many board portals can overcome.
Information security is a threat to all organisations and given your answer to this question your board information may be at risk.

Printed documents can be mislaid and emails and files stored on desktop computers can be hacked with increasing ease. Encryption should be a minimum requirement while a board portal is likely to offer the best protection, giving your organisation life-time control of your most sensitive data.
Information security is a threat to all organisations and given your answer to this question your board information may be at risk.

Printed documents can be mislaid and emails and files stored on desktop computers can be hacked with increasing ease. Encryption should be a minimum requirement while a board portal is likely to offer the best protection, giving your organisation life-time control of your most sensitive data.
Your board pack is delivered via a more secure mechanism than either traditional email or mail.

Depending on the sensitivity of the information in your board papers, encrypted files may suffice. But for most organisations it is important to go further. When files, encrypted or not, are distributed by email it is hard to control where they will end up especially if they are printed. And passwords delivered by email can be intercepted — problems that many board portals can overcome.
Information security is a threat to all organisations and given your answer to this question your board information may be at risk.

Printed documents can be mislaid and emails and files stored on desktop computers can be hacked with increasing ease. Encryption should be a minimum requirement while a board portal, if you do not already use one, is likely to offer the best protection, giving your organisation life-time control of your most sensitive data.
11. Does your board receive packs in good time?
Your board is fortunate to have a well-functioning reporting process.

Hopefully, the timely distribution of your papers is rewarded by a board that are well prepared when they arrive at your boardroom.
Getting board papers out a little sooner isn’t always easy, but it is worth the effort.

The more time your board has to read their papers, the greater the chance that they will arrive at the meeting well prepared, enabling you to work more quickly and spend longer on the strategic forward-looking items that have the potential to add material value. Sometimes the availability of data is the cause of the delay. But often a month of ‘zero tolerance’, with late papers excluded from the pack, is enough for a dramatic change in behaviour to take hold.
Getting board papers out a little sooner isn’t always easy, but it is worth the effort.

The more time your board has to read their papers, the greater the chance that they will arrive at the meeting well prepared, enabling you to work more quickly and spend longer on the strategic forward-looking items that have the potential to add material value. Sometimes the availability of data is the cause of the delay. But often a month of ‘zero tolerance’, with late papers excluded from the pack, is enough for a dramatic change in behaviour to take hold.

Next Steps

The analysis above is intended to help you pinpoint where improvements to your board pack and processes are needed the most and to get you started along that journey. If you haven’t already, it may be worth asking your board to fill in this Assessment to see if your answers align.

For more in-depth guidance and practical next steps please access the ‘Effective Board Reporting’ guidance, which can be downloaded for free from icsa.org.uk/boardreporting.