At Directorpoint, we don’t like the phrase “less is more”. “Less is more” sounds like an excuse to deliver less. Good board management software delivers more while making it feel like less. Sometimes, making it feel like less means making it look like less. That’s minimalism; little more than an aesthetic choice. What we’re talking about here is seamlessness. When bank boards choose software for their directors, they need to find a portal that offers seamless design in support of seamless functionality. Here’s why that matters.
Defining a “Seamless” Experience
A board’s most important output is “the decision”. At its core, the role of board software in helping bank boards make more effective decisions is about getting directors from Point A (the issue) to Point B (the decision) as seamlessly as possible. Before we talk about what this means, let’s clarify what it doesn’t mean.
1. “Seamless” Doesn’t Mean “More”
The features of a portal can help bank boards reach a broader range decisions from a single location. In theory, the ability to simply “do more” from a single location seems like it fully achieves the goal of board software. In reality, it’s only half the battle. While a strong set of features helps a board reach more effective decisions, a seamless experience is not something that features, alone, can solve. More detail on this in a second.
2. “Seamless” Doesn’t Mean “Fast”
A board’s goal is rarely to make “fast” decisions. Most bank boards would prefer to reach an informed decision. The challenge is in reaching an informed decision as quickly as possible. That’s where a seamless experience comes into play.
Now that we’ve clarified what a seamless board portal experience isn’t, let’s talk about what it is.
Here’s an example of what seamlessness looks like. Say you’re trying to schedule a group meeting and you want to check some dates in a calendar. You could open a paper calendar, find some dates, and ask the people in your group if any of those dates work for them. This was the preferred method of getting from Point A to Point B before tools like Outlook, Google Calendar, or iCal came along.
Before digital calendar tools began emphasizing a seamless experience, you would check your digital calendar and send out an email proposing meeting dates. In this case, early versions of popular email and calendar applications are analogous to features of a board portal. They got us from Point A to Point B from a single location, yet we still lost a great deal of time to discussing availability.
Today, the most popular applications offer a seamless scheduling experience. As long as everyone has made their digital calendars visible to the group, you can view the availability of all members, find a date and time when members are free, and send out a meeting invitation from the same screen.
So how does this translate to bank boards?
It’s clear from our example scenario, that a seamless experience isn’t something that features, alone, can address. The truth is, all board portals have great features. Having the ability to go from Point A (the issue) to Point B (the decision) from a single location is inherently valuable; both in the time it saves and in the $10,000 boards save, on average, per year in paper costs. If anything, “features” should prompt your bank’s decision to implement board software in the first place. But if all board portals offer features which carry an inherent advantage over pencil-and-paper alternatives, how do you distinguish between good board software and great board software? While “seamlessness” isn’t the only answer to that question, we believe it’s one of the most important. Here’s why.
The Case for Seamless Design
The case for seamlessness being the one quality banks must demand in their board software comes from everything we know about bank boards. And we know a lot. Banks fight an uphill battle when it comes to maximizing their decision-making effectiveness.
A 2014 survey from Deloitte found that 83% of financial services boards have nine or more members. This suggests bank boards are particularly vulnerable to the team scaling fallacy. This refers to a decrease in productivity given an increase in group size. This drop-off is shockingly steep. As we learned from our examination of Amazon’s Two Pizza Rule, researchers have observed a 50% drop in productivity as group size increases from two members — the lowest number of people you can even call “a group” — to three members.
A study in Small Group Research found that “groups containing 3 to 8 members were significantly more productive and more developmentally advanced than groups with 9 members or more”. This isn’t to say banks should reduce the size of their boards; you work with what you’ve got. But these findings place greater emphasis on a bank’s ability to maximize their board’s decision-making effectiveness. Failing to take advantage of opportunities to maximize your bank board’s potential means a lot more when the odds are already stacked against you.
Graph A: TynerBlain.com
A 1982 study from the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) put hard data behind a seemingly intuitive conclusion: a task’s completion time decreases with repetition. Consider the graph above, showing the completion of a 300-second task amongst users with a 90%, 85%, and 80% rate of learning. As the quantity of repetitions increases, the time to completion decreases. This supports the findings of BCG.
However, the graph above fails to account for one major component in the learning curve: time. If we relied solely on a graph of completion time over increasing repetitions, you could infer that filing your taxes gets easier every year. But it doesn’t. Why? Because you’ve had a year to forget. The time in between repetitions matters.
Consider the graph below, where (for a user with an 80% learning rate) the task completion time is measured across calendar weeks. The graph marks the point at which a first impression has been made, the end of software training, and the average point at which a user is no longer actively trying to decrease their task completion time.
Graph B: TynerBlain.com
In this graph, the maximum time interval from one repetition to the next is one week. In reality, Deloitte found that 79% of boards of directors in the financial service industry meet 12 times a year or less. A monthly board meeting isn’t going to do much to decrease task completion time through repetition. That means that outside of phenomenal training, your bank is otherwise at the mercy of the learning curve. More specifically, reaching a unified consensus places you at the mercy of the learning curve of your least technologically proficient board member.
That’s why seamlessness matters. Now, based on our scheduling example, it would be easy for bank boards to mistake seamlessness as being solely the product of functional interconnectivity. It is. But that’s not all it is. Seamlessness has to be baked into the design of the board portal and it’s the design component of seamlessness that’s most important. Take a look at Graph B again. You can have seamless functionality and use phenomenal training to get the task completion time to drop pretty far between the first impression and the end of training. But seamless design is all about moving the starting point down the y-axis so that wherever your board ends up once they hit the “End of Attention Span” phase, their task completion time is almost guaranteed to be lower than it would by relying on functionality alone.
Seamless design should feel, to a board member, as though the world is at their fingertips. Nothing should stand in the way of being able to reach out and grab what they need. There’s a lot of good software out there with a lot of great features, but very few make their users feel every bit as powerful as they are when using it. Find software that empowers your bank boards’ members with great features, and supports them with design that accommodates a seamless user experience. Then sit back and watch the difference it makes in their decision-making.
Directorpoint is proud to offer a seamlessly-designed user experience with our “One Screen” view, giving you access to everything you need at the touch of a button. To learn more about our “One Screen” design and how it works to support bank boards, give us a call at (888) 492-7020. Interested in seeing it for yourself? Click here to schedule a demo.
Hax, A. C., & Majluf, N. S. (1982). Competitive cost dynamics: the experience curve. Interfaces, 12(5), 50-61.
Wheelan, S. A. (2009). Group Size, Group Development, and Group Productivity. Small Group Research, 40(2), 247–262. https://doi.org/10.1177/1046496408328703