Housemark, Chan Kataria, OBE

Convene Customer Success


We spoke to Julia Wiles, Assistant to the Chief Executive & Governance and Performance Manager at HouseMark about how Convene has saved them time while supporting good governance.

Image: Chan Kataria, OBE - Group Chief Executive

HouseMark is one of the UK housing sector’s largest membership organisations, and has 380 housing organisations on board on a subscription basis.  They provide services to housing organisations to help them improve.  This includes benchmarking and data analysis which enables them to assess cost against other housing organisations, and to see how they stand against others in the sector.
Convene supports our Board meet remotely

There are eight members of the Board plus four Executive teams and the Chairman is independent. We hold six board meetings per year, plus one or two remuneration committees.  All of these are done through Convene.  Under normal circumstances everyone meets in person, however, with the current situation, everything is done via Webex. Convene has shaped our meeting model and it is working well.  We've had two successful Board meetings by Webex on Convene so far.  I also use Convene for my Senior Leadership Team meetings and my Executive Management Team meetings.

Time-consuming processes pre-Convene

Before Convene it was very time consuming and labour intensive to prepare meeting packs.  There were lots of Board papers that had to be collated into one single PDF document.  We did produce high-quality spiral-bound Board packs which took a full day to prepare, and approximately two hours to produce the PDF document.  If there was one change halfway through, it wasn’t easy to remove or add papers into the physical copy.

There was a data protection issue too.  There was always the question of what would happen to documents after the meeting. There was a lot of highly confidential information and it was critical for this to be managed safely and securely.

Why Convene? Everything all in one place

The meeting schedule before Convene was a very time-consuming process. So we were looking at ways of cutting down the administrative workload and keep everything in one place. We had an external Sharepoint but it was quite fiddly for the Board members to log in as they had to locate the link to access the system.  It wasn’t readily accessible so it ended up not being used.  Prior to Convene, Board members would have the documents made available on a particular day, and then Board packs would then be confidentially discarded after the meeting.  But if they couldn’t access documents from prior meetings it blocked the information flow.  With Convene’s Document Management tool I upload the business plans and monthly Management Accounts so they can always refer back to the important information that may not have arisen from a specific Board meeting itself but is still highly relevant, for example, governance documents, Declarations of Interest, Articles of Association and year-end accounts.  If any documents are sent out between meetings, or if anyone leaves the organisation, then documents are safely stored in Convene’s Document Library and are easily accessible. From a security perspective, we like that that document access can be changed to only allow the intended audience.  This also works really well if we hold a confidential board meeting.

Easier coordination with Convene

Prior to Convene, the process was lengthy.  Convene is used for our Board meetings and a range of other management meetings. It’s now so much easier to coordinate everything! One of the best features is the Actions tool where I log all actions, but then everyone is responsible for following them up. There is no longer a need to do any actual chasing.  We send out reminders ten days before on Convene and this gives staff time to complete actions before the next meeting.

Convene provides the best value

I went through due diligence and we looked at BoardPack, BoardEffect, and Simplify. One of our shareholders had used Simplify, however, it fell short of our expectations.

Cost was a key factor in the selection process.  Our Financial Director is very stringent, and as with all other organisations in the sector, everything comes down to cost. We were looking for ease of access, and when it came to moving over to a new system, a high standard of support was vital so we went with Convene. 

Friendly and approachable customer support

When it came to the selection process, we had demos from all the solutions we considered.  Gemma the Account Manager at Convene was nice to deal with and provided a high standard of support.  Nothing was too much trouble; she was patient and flexible and also offered Housemark extra licenses. We liked the simple setup and user interface, and there was a lot of support available to Board members if they needed it including remote support for any member wishing to log on remotely.  Some of our members are more traditional in their approach and the move from paper to digital was a significant shift for many of them, so the solution had to be user friendly. In addition, the fact that Convene could be used on many different platforms and offline devices was a valuable factor in itself.

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