How tech tools boost governance at HPE
Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) is a technology company, and that tech focus is part of its governance team’s DNA. ‘Since HPE’s inception, we have focused on transforming our governance practices by incorporating technological innovations to enhance efficiencies in key areas, such as reducing time spent on administrative matters, offering valuable control points and establishing meaningful collaboration across diverse teams,’ the firm’s submission states.
Over the past year, the governance team has shown creativity and dedication in finding new and better ways to work. In September 2019 it began thinking about using virtual reality (VR) platforms as a means to collaborate with colleagues around the world. That initiative began before the pandemic but has come into its own even more so since.
‘Some voices get lost on video or telephone calls,’ says Derek Windham, vice president and associate general counsel at HPE. Individuals may feel more timid and it may not always be possible to see when someone is trying to contribute to the discussion, and the VR program was designed to increase inclusion, he explains. ‘From the first meeting [using VR] you feel a much closer connection to the people you’re with,’ he says, adding that it is easier to ask colleagues for input. The platform allows attendees to see many of their colleagues’ physical gestures, such as nodding or raising their hand.
The team has identified several areas where VR meetings are useful: VR apps enable the team to create virtual rooms that function as permanent, private spaces for teams to manage complex deals, while the M&A legal team has used whiteboards, screen sharing, document sharing, browsers and other tools to work on deals in VR.
The team reports having found increased levels of engagement during VR meetings where there are fewer distractions such as emails. It has conducted training via VR and has found presentations in the medium are more interactive and engaging. The litigation team has also looked into using VR to conduct mock trials set in virtual courtrooms to practice and prepare for trials and depositions.
The HPE governance team has gone back to school, too. Specifically, it has been learning to code in the Ruby programming language at 42, a Silicon Valley-based computer-programming school. Windham explains that although HPE uses excellent tech tools created by outside providers, there are limits to how far they can be adapted to the company’s specific needs.
‘We wanted the team to be able to take existing tools and tailor them, or even go beyond that to build our own technical tools to increase productivity and improve the work stream,’ he says.
In 2020 the team used programming skills to build an in-house board and committee meeting scheduling tool that enables the fast and automated creation of a full board schedule based on director availability and committee membership, avoiding conflicts or overlaps. The team also created an in-house insider trading compliance self-help tool to help employees with trading restrictions and windows.
Among other things, the focus on technology led to the international governance team winning the legal department’s 2020 ‘legal hackathon’ by developing a macro [an abbreviated set of computer instructions] to create a fully integrated HPE tool for colleagues in the department to make updates to its global entity management system via a dropdown menu in Outlook.
‘You can tell there’s a culture of looking to use technology wherever HPE can to make things more efficient,’ points out one of Corporate Secretary’s judges. ‘The company is willing to be a first mover,’ says another.
You can read more about the Corporate Governance Awards in the Corporate Secretary Yearbook