As part of our future shape program and corporate priorities, our aim was to become more digital and commercially minded. The vision of the One Council Board was to lead the change from the top and adopt paperless processes where at all possible.
We were looking for a digital solution to manage our board meetings and found Convene through a combination of online research and looking at the G-cloud Digital Marketplace to see what was available to us.
Over the last seven years, the council as a whole has been moving towards cloud storage and cloud-based technology. We started moving documents to the cloud at the appropriate time and with the appropriate cost. Convene is a complete cloud solution - that was important to us.
Before Convene, we were storing documents on our shared folders in our internal network in addition to traditional folders and files. It was the consensus that if we were going to move away from the old way of doing things that we would need a proper, managed, secure solution.
We tried ModernGov, which is what our Councillors use for high-level decisions. It allowed us to be a bit more flexible compared to paper-based meetings, but we needed a platform that did more. The fact that Convene has a secure container and we are able to clear that remotely if needed is another positive. We combined it with our membership device policy so Board members have a secure device and container with their board packs. Considering that this is the One Council Board and the high levels of information that go into these documents, this level of security was essential.
Convene also integrates with the Active Directory, which is great from a security point of view. If a member of staff leaves, then their Active Directory account is disabled and deleted, which in turn will remove their access to Convene. This also makes it simpler for our current Board members as they can log in with their normal credentials without having to remember another username or password.
The One Council Board members like the functionality of Convene because they can review the papers on their preferred device then make shared or private notes. Convene enables board packs to become like 'living' documents.
The administrative team finds Convene very useful for organising meetings, from adding participants and inviting guests right through to setting the agenda. One of their favourite features is the flexibility around adding papers after the meeting has been published.
Sarah Ashmead, One Council Board, Member and Director of Strategy & Policy
Before Convene, the executive assistants were spending two hours for each meeting: putting the papers together, printing, binding, and distributing them to our nine members of the One Council Board.
The board meets once a month and the papers are due by a certain time. But inevitably, people will have updates or they send in information a little late. When an update arrived, we had to print all of the re-numbered pages and the process began again. It was a big, laboured task and very expensive. It took an awfully long time and an awful lot of paper!
Fainne Smith, one of our executive assistants to the board, had a training session over the phone about how to set up meetings in Convene. It was very basic and straightforward so she just delved into it. In regards to the One Council Board, again it was a simple case of downloading the software onto their laptops and they launched the pack through the meeting request or through the app directly. Otherwise, it was the usual case of having a new application to learn and how to use it practically.
Having a trial allowed us to test the capabilities of the solution. If it wasn’t what we wanted, we weren’t about to spend a huge amount of time setting it up. However, as Convene is cloud-based there’s nothing much to install except for the software and simply start integrating it into our meetings.
We appreciated the customer and support calls with Convene. Nothing was ever too much for Convene staff, from actually getting the product in, extending the trial period, to the crossover from the file to the live environment. We always had useful, clear, and very productive phone calls with our account manager.
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