New Approaches to Governance for a Changed World

With the events of the last two years seeing a fundamental shift in how meetings and collaboration amongst colleagues are conducted, flexibility has proven key to successful corporate governance and the willingness to embrace new solutions and technologies has taken on an ever increasing significance across the public sector.

Many of us believe that if we have regular, structured meetings and keep a risk register listing all the specific things that might go wrong then we are delivering good governance. Anyone who has sat through a traditional Board meeting or Risk and Audit Committee meeting with an A3, double-sided, Risk Register in front of them knows in their heart, though, that it is only a part of the solution.

Take Covid, just one of the significant events to hit our lives and businesses in recent years. Very few people had anything like a global pandemic on their risk register before 2020 or any specific plans in place to deal with one. The businesses that survived best during this crisis were the ones that had flexibility, agility and resilience built into their organisation and governance structures. Organisations that could easily see what was happening, could react and adapt to the emerging situation, know what needed to be done and then do it, were the ones who coped best.

With the world around us becoming more complex, with external and internal pressures growing alongside increased scrutiny, boards and leadership teams have a difficult job to do. Adding environmental and social impacts to governance (ESG) is vital for sustainability but adds further complexity and more responsibility on the shoulders of the governance team. All the time, advances in technology are adding new threats, such as Cyber Crime, and new opportunities, such as advances in Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence and Cloud computing.

To succeed, we need new digital tools and governance frameworks that are more appropriate to the modern world. These tools must be easy to use, clear, reliable, secure and available anywhere and at any time of the day. These tools do not need to be complex, in fact, over-engineering solutions to governance problems is a real danger leading to a false sense of security and over-burdening teams with additional work just to feed the system.

The key requirements for good governance are straightforward:

  • A clear view of your objectives and results from the highest level down to specific departments and teams, with a way to see an overview of the current status, spot warning signs, and drill down into the details when appropriate.
  • A simple way to manage meetings, agendas, documents, outcomes, decisions and actions in context without piles of paper or complex email threads and drop-boxes.
  • A structured, embedded approach to Risk Management with easy capture, assessment and categorisation of Risks and automatic reminders and prompts to review and test your controls and complete critical actions.

Building a flexible, resilient organisation with solid controls, a clear vision, and a well-defined set of objectives should be the primary task for any leader. While the core of good governance shouldn’t be complicated, it is time-consuming and needs to be embedded across your whole organisation, so choosing the right tools to help you is essential.

The Department of Finance has purchased board meeting and risk management software, Decision Time for use across Northern Ireland Civil Service to improve governance through better meeting, risk and strategic objective management. The company also works with several other public sector organisations across Northern Ireland.

Modern governance tools such as Decision Time can provide an integrated, user friendly interface with controls and alerts to support the delivery of excellent performance, especially in current times of uncertainty.


Denise Burns, Corporate Governance Manager of Mid & East Antrim Borough Council said, 

"The Decision Time toolkit for Meetings, Risks & Objectives has helped us streamline our Governance processes. As a large, dynamic public organisation having a secure, integrated, easy to use solution facilitates accountability, collaboration and real-time reporting.”

While Dave Vincent, Chief Digital Officer for Tourism Northern Ireland said,

“In our drive for digital transformation, Decision Time has proven to be a valuable technology partner. Their all-in-one toolkit for governance and strategic performance simplifies decision making and complex business issues, supporting our priority to move fast and fix things in our delivery of a world-class tourist destination.”

Further Information

A follow-up article covering the various uses of the tool in the public sector and a more in-depth look at some of its features will be published early in the new year.

Related articles

Back to top