The Board Portal Buyers Guide: 10 Things to Compare | Aprio
Board portal buying guide
March 31, 2020
Dee Sicklesteel

Board Portal Buyer’s Guide: top 10 board portal features evaluation

Gartner research shows that the majority of board-run organizations use board management software that is specifically intended to support the unique needs of a board. So what is the value of board portal software, and if you are not yet using board technology, how do you pick a tool that’s right for you? It starts with making a wise comparison.

Why is everyone shifting to a board portal?

Years back, a major motivator for companies to go paperless beyond environmental impact was board of director complaints that paper binders were heavy to lug around and costly to produce. If directors were travelling, couriers would drop the binder where they couldn’t get to it. Today, the modern drivers that are prompting boards to adopt board portals include security and efficiency.

“The use of purpose-built content sharing and distribution portals has become a common practice for sharing sensitive documents with corporate directors in preparation for board meetings.” – Gartner

Emailing board documents or sharing with free editions of software like Dropbox or Google Drive poses real security risks. More sophisticated file-sharing solutions like SharePoint often frustrate directors who struggle to find the right materials within unfamiliar folder names and labelling conventions. On the efficiency front, many boards are seeking to best engage high-contributing directors, which means offering online convenience. And for organizational efficiency, corporate secretaries and administrators are seeking automation tools to perform their work in less time as governance demands grow.

What is a board portal?

In case you don’t yet use board portal software, it’s like a web application that executives and directors use to perform their role for an organization’s board of directors. When you log in, everything you need for an efficient board meeting is together in one place.

A board portal offers directors confidential access to board materials, past and present, and provides tools that make it easier for administrators to prepare for board meetings and conduct committee activities. Board portals also improve information flow to and among busy board members, even as they travel.

How to choose a board portal

Top ranked benefits of board portals

From talking with board members and board administrators, Aprio knows that what they value most from board portal software are time savings, escaping the email swirl, and avoiding frustrating directors with systems that make board materials hard to access. 

Here are the six most common benefits reported by users of board portal software: 

Board portal benefit #1: instant updates 

Same-time delivery of updates and documents to board members at any time, anywhere, via secure email link. 

Board portal benefit #2: centralized access

One login to find meeting materials, communications, policies, bylaws, and archives in an easy-to-use online experience that’s simple to search. 

Board portal benefit #3: faster prep of board books

Board administrators can efficiently produce and distribute board packages, without paper waste and cost. 

Board portal benefit #4: convenient prep for directors

Mobile access from anywhere. Online note taking and collaboration. 

Board portal benefit #5: efficient board meetings

Better engage directors with a digital agenda and direct links to relevant documents. Track who preps for meetings. 

Board portal benefit #6: data security

Last but certainly not least, board portal software safeguards board information against data leaks and gives the board administrator the ability to remotely wipe data off a device if it is lost by a board member. 

How do you pick the best board portal software?

There are many different board portals available on the market, some with similar features. How do you choose one right for your organization?

Not all board portals offer the same tools to make board meetings efficient or the same level of security. Buyers need to conduct a thorough comparison of tools available. Take a close look at what’s included in pricing, investigate how data security is protected, and consider references from your peers. 

Top 10 things to compare – easy board portal software comparison

When evaluating board portals, there are 10 key things to assess to find the board technology that’s right for you. Want a simple checklist to make it easy? Get the Board Portal Buying Guide

Step 1: board administration & management

Explore how a board portal eases the process for administrators to prepare for board meetings and provide updates to directors when dates or documents change. Consider the routine effort you take today and enquire about how much time you can save. 

Step 2: director access & collaboration

A principle function of board portals is to provide timely, transparent access to board information. Assess the ease-of-use of different products. What will be intuitive for your board? 

Step 3: mobility & convenient engagement

Travel is a routine part of daily life for many directors and executives. Both for recruiting high-contributing board members, and for keeping them engaged, technology matters. Explore the conveniences you can offer mobile directors, from tablet apps, to on and offline access, to support for remote approvals. 

Step 4: security

Safeguarding the confidentiality of board documents and communication is a key motivator for boards to use a board portal. Select software that both secures board materials and makes accessing information simple and secure for directors.

Step 5: getting started & adoption ease

Software has no impact on efficiency or security unless it is adopted by your whole board. Understand the help that vendors offer to get your whole board using their technology. Do they provide personal training for both board admins and directors? Do they give guidance on portal set up? 

Step 6: technology innovation

How can you ensure the tool you select today will evolve along with governance best practices and the needs of your organization? Ask about future product updates and how your voice as a customer will be incorporated into product development. 

Step 7: reputation & service

Next to product ease and reliability, service is the biggest deciding factor on whether customers are happy with a software vendor or quickly move on. Talk with peers who use the product. Ask about their service experiences and how issues are resolved. 

Step 8: support

Because a board portal is used by some of the most influential and time-starved people in your organization, it is paramount that help is highly professional and useful. Consider calling a vendor’s support line to test the support you’ll receive. 

Step 9: pricing

It’s buyer beware when it comes to board portal pricing. Be on the lookout for vendors that demo full-featured software then share pricing for lite products. Ask about all the possible add-on fees, including those for additional administrators, committees, reports, training, or data storage. 

Step 10: best overall fit

While conducting a software assessment, you will meet the people on different vendor’s teams. Consider the help they provide, their responsiveness, and interactions with your team. Which vendor would be a best fit? 

Need more help making the right decision? Use the Board Portal Evaluation Checklist in the free Board Portal Buying Guide.

How to choose a board portal: read our guide

Curious? Find out more.

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