Data Analytics: Crystal Ball or Smoke and Mirrors?
How often have you been asked “What do you do?” or had a conversation along these lines:
You to the CEO/CFO:
“We are really busy — we need more resource”
“Why are you so busy — what exactly are you doing?”
“We are really busy supporting lots of meetings and
ensuring corporate compliance”
“I don’t understand why that all takes so much time
— show me exactly what you and your team do”
“Err — we do lots of stuff and we are all really busy”
Raises quizzical eyebrow…
That may be an oversimplification, but it is often a challenge for Company Secretaries to evidence what they do and the value that delivers. If we do our jobs well — the board runs smoothly and the business remains compliant — and NOBODY NOTICES! In today’s business world where costs are being managed tightly and productivity and efficiency are the mots du jour, how can Company Secretaries prove that they are delivering value to the business, yet alone pitch for more resource?
This is where Data Analytics comes in — data, or particularly theinformation you can derive from data — is the friend of any support function when it comes to justifying your very existence.
Historically, while Company Secretaries have been considered to be the ‘keeper of secrets’ or the holders of corporate knowledge — they have not used data, or more specifically ‘Data Analytics’ to look at how their own function operates.
What is Data Analytics?
Data Analytics is the process of capturing, categorising and examining data in order to gain insights into what is happening, how it is happening and what might happen going forward. The insights that can be gained from collecting and analysing data can inform the Company Secretary on where budget can be best spent or saved, on how their team is performing and delivering against stakeholder expectations, identify where operational efficiency can be improved and so on.
Why is it important?
The business world now revolves around data. If Company Secretaries are to be able to catch up and keep up with their executive colleagues — they have to be able to communicate using the language of data. If you want budget to invest in your function — through consultancy, technology or people — you have to be able to support that request with data — what will the return on investment (ROI) be? What is the current issue and how does that impact empirically on the business? How will your proposal solve that issue? Those questions can only be adequately addressed through the analysis of data. Likewise Risk Management and Performance are all driven by data, or more particularly the information and insights gained from Data Analytics.
In the current economic environment being able to justify the costs of running the function is as important as seeking investment. Being able to share insights into the value Secretariat delivers can be critical in defending against blanket cost reductions.
Data Analytics can help you achieve the following:
Expose patterns, trends, correlations that may not be easily come by, and can enable you to show the business in a meaningful way that your function is not just a cost but also a value creator.
Show progress and improvement — internally and benchmarking against external peers.
Uncover opportunities for improvement and support establishment of goals.
Drive call to action
Drive discussion and serve as a basis for key action steps.
Bring objectivity to your assessment of your department’s performance or resource requirements.
When should I use Data Analytics?
Start by thinking about what are the key questions and challenges you are facing.
These could include:
- Evidencing value delivered by Secretariat.
- Understanding how to manage resources
- Delivering more effectively against
- Predicting shareholder voting patterns.
- Understanding why something unexpected happened.
- Quantifying risks.
The ways in which Company Secretaries could use data are limited only by your imagination and the data available.
Top Tip: When starting out with Data Analytics — try and choose a simple question where you know you already have data available.
What should I measure?
Having thought about your key challenges and questions, work out what you can measure to address those points.
Questions to ask yourself include:
- What are the drivers of my costs and headcount? Volumes of entities, number of meetings, types of meetings, organisational complexity, process inefficiency?
- What services do you provide that add value and how can you measure the impact or operational efficiency? Can you track size and quality of board packs? Are you running an entity elimination programme — how effective is that? What are the outputs? How efficient/effective is your AGM? How effective is your corporate compliance programme?
- What is the function’s strategy or your personal objectives (and how does that map to organisational strategy) — how do you show progress What are your Key Performance Indicators?
An example of very simple data analysis is as follows:
You want to establish the average number of entities supported by each team member. You know the total number of entities from your Entity Management System and you know your headcount from your Budget or Headcount report. This number could then be used as a baseline for Key Performance Indicators around Efficiency or Productivity, e.g the ratio of entities to headcount remains above 50:1. If you carried out more detailed analysis, say tracking the number, type (dormant, active, etc), location of entities per team member — you would gain insights into allocation of resources.
Resource analysis can be a powerful tool in budget and performance discussions. It is not necessary to track every hour of the day spent, but getting the team to track overall time spent on various activities during the day, across a year can give valuable insights into annual peaks and troughs of workloads which can enable you to take action to smooth out workloads across a year in the most efficient way possible. We all know that trying to get interim resource at the last minute around Year End is challenging and costly — yet the need for additional resource is a predictable occurrence that can be evidenced through data analysis.
Where do I find the data?
When you have identified your question — think about the data you already have available. Do you think there is data missing? Could someone else in the Company have access to that data or how else can you obtain it?
It is worth spending a little time mapping out the data currently available to you. This doesn’t have to be exhaustive at this stage — but it is a useful exercise to start thinking about data. Try and identify all data touched by the Secretariat team — so you may not ‘own’ the data source.
Examples of where data may be lurking include:
- Entity Management Systems.
- Board Portals.
- Share Plan Systems.
- Insider Management Systems.
- Registrars or In-house Shareholder Registers.
- Risk Management Systems.
- E-billing Systems for outside counsel spend.
- Board Effectiveness reviews — particularly if run on
a fairly standardised questionnaire.
- Any reports regularly provided to Secretariat (e.g Budget, Headcount, other corporate KPIs).
- Publicly available data such as benchmarking data or
whitepapers from The Chartered Governance Institute
and other industry organisations, law firms or consultancies.
- Government Data from consultations, whitepapers,
From your data map, identify your core sources. For most Company Secretaries this is likely to be your Entity Management Systems, Board Portals and Registrars. These are existing sources of data that are easily accessible without much additional resource required to extract and analyse the data.
It is important to understand how the business uses data more broadly as you will want to ensure that you are producing metrics that are helpful and aligned with the wider business objectives.
Questions to ask include:
- What are the strategic Key Performance Indicators?
- What are the key strategic deliverables?
- Is the business measuring productivity
or efficiency or both?
- What about employee and customer engagement metrics?
- What externally reported data insights does
the business produce?
Board and Business diversity statistics, Gender pay gap reporting, financial and non-financial performance indicators are all examples of commonly reported data metrics.
Top Tip: If your organisation has a Chief Data Officer or a Data Analytics team (they could be sitting in Finance!), ask to spend some time with them to understand their approach and to get some hints and tips on analysis and presentation of data.
How do I share my Insights?
Everyone loves a dashboard — and dipping your toe into Data Analytics means you can create a Secretariat dashboard to share your insights within the team or with key stakeholders in the business.
- A basic dashboard could include:
- Total number of legal entities.
- Diversity metrics for Directors.
- Tenure of Directors.
- Number of legal entities
- Number of Shareholders split
by Retail and Institutional.
- Geographic split of Shareholders.
Ultimately what you include in a dashboard will be driven by the audience and conversations to be driven by the insights — your internal team dashboard is likely to be very different from an external facing dashboard.
You do not need separate tools to create dashboards — Excel and PowerPoint can be used to good effect and you may find that one of your existing technology products has useful dashboarding functionality. As the team becomes more advanced with Data Analytics, and if your organisation runs Microsoft 365 — tools such as Power BI and Power Automate can take your data analysis to the next level.
The most important thing to remember when starting out with Data Analytics is to keep it simple and to find the quick wins to build up the skills and confidence in using data to create insights. Data in its unstructured form can be overwhelming and obfuscate the insights — Smoke and Mirrors — but following a structured approach and analysing the data can give you insights which will help you identify opportunities to run the Secretariat function more effectively, efficiently and could even be predictive — the proverbial Crystal Ball.
Data Analytics forms one part of the Governance Operations Framework, but it can be a gamechanger in moving your Secretariat function towards future fit governance. Used effectively it can be key to driving excellence and efficiency and being able to evidence this to stakeholders.
Kuberno operates its Governance Operations Consultancy through the Governance Gym. All of our consultants have led transformations in the Secretariat functions of organisations from start-ups to FTSE 100 Groups.
We have combined our market leading knowledge and experience of running Secretariat teams with cutting edge software development to create our own entity governance platform, Kube. Structuring the data held in Kube so it can be easily accessed and analysed has been a key goal in building Kube, and includes powerful dashboarding functionality out of the box.
For more information on how you can get started with Data Analytics, how Governance Operations can deliver excellence and efficiency, or how Kube could transform your governance practices, please contact us at the email@example.com or visit www.kuberno.com where you can find more information and book a demo.
Kube — Far More Than Traditional Entity Management!
Kuberno recognises that Company Secretaries and governance professionals are some of the most talented business people you will come across. They make things happen. They get things done. They understand things on the company level. They have the ability to add huge strategic value to the businesses they work for.
But so much of the role of the Secretariat can be about managing legal entity data. It’s complex. It’s time consuming. It is not seen as ‘value added’. Information is held in silos across the business from Tax, to HR, to Legal and processes are often manual and disjointed. Surely there should be an easier way to manage entity governance and to demonstrate the value that Secretariat can add?
Well there is, and it’s here…welcome to Kube. Kuberno’s digital solution for governance professionals joining one another with the common mission to beat bureaucracy and give governance a good name.
There’s nothing like Kube on the market right now. Kuberno’s system has been designed by governance professionals who could not find what they needed, so have created a platform to meet the evolving needs and requirements of Secretariat teams and entity governance professionals.
Kube is going to transform the role of the Company Secretary and liberate individuals and their teams from cumbersome processes. Kube goes far beyond traditional entity management by combining cutting edge workflow and automation with core entity data capture and management capability. Kuberno’s platform enables teams to collaborate through a single, intuitive portal, allowing teams to adopt more efficient ways of working with minimal change management impact.
Entity Governance spans across the organisation far beyond the Secretariat function. At the core of Kube is its ability to fully integrate with other systems — breaking down data silos and delivering powerful data management functionality. Out of the box, Kube has a market first level of integration with Companies House in the UK. Kube provides an instant window into Companies House — eradicating the need to swap between systems looking for company information. Legal entities can be imported by a click of a button along with all publicly available data from Companies House on filings and officers, and automatically setting up compliance tasks for confirmation statements and accounts. Kube constantly validates the data it holds on entities against Companies House, removing the need to check when filings have been successfully registered — whether e-filing or paper filings — and removing the risk of inconsistencies.
Kube integrates with systems across the business, from HR, Tax, Legal and Finance to break down data silos whilst enabling an intelligent audit trial and managing workflow. It’s accessible and adaptable for all users such as Secretariat, Compliance, Tax and more to see tasks, reports and actions, and so intuitive and user friendly, that minimal training is required.
In addition to in-house systems, Kube will also integrate with other market leading governance solutions such as our very own Insider Management System; Insidertrack, and other Board Portal, Share Plan and even RNS system providers enabling Secretariat teams to streamline processes across the business, collaborate with stakeholders and gain oversight of, and insights into, the entire corporate governance ecosystem.
Kube — Product Features & Benefits
Companies House Integration
User Centric Interface
Secure Access and Single Sign On
Complete Audit Trail
API First Approach
Zoe Bucknell, Founder, Kuberno