Boards are always looking for ways to increase meeting efficiency, keep their directors engaged, recruit the next generation of members, and ensure good governance. Technology can play an essential role in helping boards to achieve these goals – but the motivation to seek board meeting software comes from having a handle on the problems it can solve.
If any of the concerns we’ve listed below sound familiar, it’s likely time to start exploring how a board portal could help your board of directors run better.
Perhaps you’re using a combination of Dropbox and email to prepare for meetings and communicate with directors. Or, maybe you’re still doing it the old-fashioned way: with a courier who races around town delivering stacks of paper documents and binders to directors to review.
With either method, staff scramble to accommodate last-minute changes and there’s always the risk of important documents getting lost, or worse, of a data breach via email. Then there’s the effort required to help directors find the documents they need in the haystack. It’s likely that the first 30 minutes of every board meeting are spent getting everyone looking at the right documents – which only stresses out board leaders further. Point is, patchwork solutions fall far short of what board members expect and increase the administrative burden required.
With the right board portal software, your staff can spend far less time on meeting preparation. Aprio offers automated meeting agenda creation and the ability to send out digital board packages. For most boards, the meeting prep process shrinks from days to a few hours.
And if updates need to happen once the board package is sent, staff can easily inform board directors that revised materials are ready with just a few clicks in the software. Directors come to meetings feeling prepared, board meetings run smoother (led by an agenda linked to vital materials), and the board can be more effective and efficient.
If you’re relying on paper documents or PDFs attached to emails to keep your directors updated, it’s not easy or straightforward for them to read materials on the road or stay on top of developing issues.
If a director forgets to print or download the document in question before hopping on a plane, or if they forget that massive five-ring binder at home, they’re out of luck entirely.
Using Aprio board portal software means eliminating paper copies of documents completely. Directors can switch seamlessly between their desktop, laptop, or tablet to view the most current materials and annotate documents. Within the board portal, they can also share comments or pose questions in real time to other directors ahead of the next board meeting.
Board members can expedite decisions and submit votes through Aprio surveys, so important conversations aren’t stalled when one director is out of the country or otherwise unavailable.
All boards, at some point, discuss private and sensitive issues that must remain confidential. It may be on CEO performance and compensation, it may be on target acquisitions or strategic growth plans, or it simply may be routine reviews of financials. This information, as well as meeting minutes and discussions, should be safeguarded.
Unfortunately, many directors continue to use their private email accounts to communicate about board-related matters – a practice that leaves their organizations vulnerable to data leaks. If a director downloads sensitive material onto his or her personal device, and then loses that device, there’s no way to ensure that the material stays protected.
Board portal software allows directors to be sure that they are discussing confidential issues and reviewing documents in a secure online environment. Aprio also gives administrators full control over access permissions for committees, sub-committees, and even individuals, so only those who need to see specific documents are able to do so.
The software also lets you control which documents can be downloaded or printed. If a device is lost or stolen, Aprio enables you to wipe it remotely and you’ll feel confident knowing that your data is safe. When someone leaves the board, it’s also possible to revoke their access so that confidential information doesn’t leave with them.
And every time a board member logs in, Aprio board portal software provides advanced encrypted information sharing protection – for both the sender and the receiver. All board data is protected on highly secure data servers, with your choice of geographic location.
The demographics of boards right now are overwhelmingly old, white, and male. As your board sees directors retire and goes to replace empty seats with younger, more diverse members, you may have realized that it’s no longer possible to simply use your personal network to recruit and that you must broaden your search.
Be sure to consider the needs of the generation you’re striving to attract. The next wave of board directors have high expectations when it comes to technology. Many of them are Gen X professionals who’ve grown accustomed to using intuitive technology in many aspects of their lives. They don’t just want anywhere, anytime access to board documents and discussion; they expect it. And coming up behind them, 70% of millennial workers want more mobile connectivity in their jobs, according to a 2016 Deloitte study.
These next generation recruits are accustomed to juggling many responsibilities and will expect to be able to view board documents on their laptop or tablet. They also expect to communicate securely without the risks of an intercepted email leak that can impact their personal reputation.
Explaining that you only use email and Dropbox as your communication system may be enough to deter a younger professional from joining your board altogether. There’s also the risk of them joining the board, but then not contributing to their full potential, or worse, leaving their position out of frustration because of communication inefficiency or data risk. Aprio makes meeting prep and communication convenient and secure for directors, whether that’s on their desktop or their tablet, or at their office, home, or the coffee shop.
It’s common to have one voice in the boardroom that’s louder than others. Unfortunately, board members who are the loudest are sometimes the most heard – even when they shouldn’t be. It can be challenging for the more introverted board members to voice their opinions during a meeting, especially if it’s about a divisive issue. This hampers governance. And your board is stronger, and more effective, when you’re leveraging a diversity of opinions.
Technology, in this case, can act as an equalizer. A board portal solution democratizes communications first by providing absolutely equal access. In Aprio, all directors receive information at the same time, eliminating the risk of a director firing off an email to only half the board. When administrators circulate board information and updates through Aprio’s board portal, all directors receive an email alert. Every board member has the same lead time to prepare for meetings. When it’s time to cast a vote between meetings, Aprio’s survey tools ensure all directors can be engaged from anywhere in the world and can cast a vote of the same weight.
With board diversity and inclusion top of mind for many boards, a board portal is an affordable and reliable means to ensure that all directors, no matter their gender, age, or ethnic background, have the opportunity to contribute equally to moving issues forward and managing organization risks.
Your new directors are excited to make meaningful contributions right away. The onboarding process will set the tone for their future experience and either encourage them to dig in, or leave them feeling overwhelmed and disengaged.
Gone are the days where an administrator sitting next to a new board member and flipping through a massive binder of paper documents was considered an appropriate and effective onboarding tactic. New board members are eager to access efficient tools that will help them get educated about their board’s needs and quickly start making valuable contributions.
Board portal software can give new members easy-to-search access to historic discussions and decisions. In Aprio, new members can chat directly with their peer directors and get answers to their questions in between meetings.
Aprio board portal software is simple to use and shares meeting calendars and director contacts. Without having to scramble to find emails or unfamiliar SharePoint links to meeting materials, new members can gain familiarity with board background quickly to immediately begin making strategic contributions to the board. It’s even possible to track director logins, so the board chair can stay on top of directors who may be feeling disengaged or who are not adequately preparing for meetings.
As part of onboarding new directors on Aprio, we offer 1:1 training to get them up to speed. They’ll also benefit from ongoing how-to webinars that explain the new features we add to the software every quarter.
If you struggle with more than three of the board priorities below, it’s worth your time to consider the benefits of board meeting software:
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