Software giant SAP headed to Austin’s South by Southwest festival last month armed with virtual reality (VR) headsets. The goal was to show people the future of the boardroom, using the kind of technology we’re likely to find in them soon enough – Google Cardboard and Samsung Gear VR Oculus headsets.
Jonathan Knight, associate director at Boardroom Intelligence, agrees that it won’t be long before virtual reality is a staple in the office: “Consumers are about to taste their first experience of HQ Virtual Reality with the release of major VR offerings this year (Oculus Rift and HTC Vive). If these are successful with consumers, we expect applications in the business world to follow, including a more “in-person” form of video conferencing.”
This is the latest in a long line of digital innovations in boardrooms. One of the first things to revolutionise them was the replacement of board packs (once vast paper tomes) with iPads. “The development of the iPad in 2010 and other tablets since has enabled many boards to go digital with their board packs, saving time, cost and carbon,” Knight says. “Paper is becoming a thing of the past.”
These “board portals” are expected to become even more sophisticated over time, offering board members relevant and timely information on the go.
Communication in the boardroom has also been given a facelift over the past few years, with video conferencing making it easier to conduct face-to-face meetings with people located all over the world. We could also expect to see an uplift in the use of e-voting over the next few years, according to experts. “E-voting will help eliminate paperwork while providing a complete audit trail on decisions,” Knight adds.
Adoption of this kind of technology can help to increase efficiencies, keep costs down and offer better collaboration. According to Donald McLaughlin, director, Cisco UK, one way to ensure its success, is to make sure tech is discussed in the boardroom: “It’s critical that technology decisions are brought into the boardroom and that the IT department remains fundamental to the business’ overall strategy.”