The main driver for switching to Convene was the amount of time and money we were spending on printing. The average board pack was 104 pages, with 14 participants and 11 meetings a year. That’s 16,000 pages. Then for the Trust Executive Group, which has 12 meetings a year, we were printing another 42,500 pages. It was just crazy. You could be at the printer for an entire day. And the printer would break and jam because it was overheating. It’s actually funny to think back to the days we couldn’t use the printer for anything else for a couple of days because we were printing committee and board papers!
Before choosing Convene to help us go paperless we did a lot of research into the different products. We considered Dropbox and Google Drive but being in the NHS we’ve got such a high level of security that those options were not appropriate for us. Then we did a comparison of a few specialist products, including Convene, and met with the different companies too. There were several factors that swayed our decision in favour of Convene. One was the cost. And another was that Convene is cross-platform and works on Android, Windows, and iOS, while some of the competitors were only available on iOS.
Plus, we got the sense there was a lot more flexibility in terms of moving Convene forward and adapting it to our needs, which wouldn’t necessarily be the case with the other providers. This has proven to be the case. For example, we recently asked Azeus if we could have two different administrator levels. We wanted a ‘super-user’ level to have control over creating accounts and configuring settings, with the secretaries who create the meetings and add the papers being administrators. That was implemented for us and gave us exactly what we wanted.
Azeus was really good about letting us trial the product before buying the licences because it was a big culture change and we had to get the executives on board. There was a bit of scepticism at first so for the first couple of Board meetings we printed paper packs as well. Then, next time, we’d have just a couple of paper packs there. Then we took the paper away altogether, and that worked fine.
The administrative time it has saved is incredible. It used to take around five hours to prepare packs for a board meeting. Now it takes about 30 minutes. The user experience is very important, and the drag and drop are great – it just pulls it all in for you and converts it to pdf on the fly as well. That’s really handy. Executives find the portability very useful too, particularly if they are having to travel around. And they like that with Convene you can download and then work offline, so you’re not dependent on internet access. Basically, it’s helped us be more efficient because we can do everything more quickly and with less fuss.
It was always our plan to start with the board and roll it out a bit further which is what we are currently doing. We’re using Convene for all the Board meetings and sub-committee meetings too, and it’s also used for our Trust Executive Group, which is for anyone at the executive or associate director level. People are starting to know about it and like it. We’re finding people saying to us ‘Can I use it for my meetings too?’ People are taking notice of it and want it for themselves. There’s a lot of potential moving forward!
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