Making a Board Portal Decision: 3 Critical Tools | Aprio
Tools to make a board portal decision
July 22, 2020
Aimee Happ

Making a board portal decision: 3 critical tools

Are you in the market for a new board portal? Does the work of building a business case, evaluating different options, and presenting your results to your board feel daunting?

You’re not alone. No matter how necessary the solution, change can be difficult for any organization. In this post, we’ll present you with three critical tools that you can use to help your organization make a board portal decision, whether you’re moving to board management software for the first time or making a switch from a different solution.

Tool #1: guide to an effective board portal business case

Board administrators usually don’t need to be convinced that they need a board portal. The time-saving tools for setting up board meetings alone give the technology instant appeal. Convincing busy executives, however, to make the software purchase can take some smart persuasion.

Building a business case can be a simple exercise that helps you frame your own thinking as well as convince others of your recommendation. The document doesn’t need to be long, and the process of writing it will help give you confidence that you’ve made the right choice. 

Here’s our guide on the five sections that you’ll need to build an effective board portal business case:  

Section 1: introduce the need for board portal software

In this section, state that you want to purchase board portal software. If there are other board purchases being considered internally, you can point out exactly what is in and out of scope for your recommendation. For example:

  • Goal: purchase board portal software to improve efficiency, information security, and board communication
  • Out of scope: tablets for board members. 

Section 2: explain why a board portal is necessary

Here, you’ll want to highlight the most pressing organizational problems that will be solved by board portal software. You might be purchasing a board portal to:

  • Reduce board information security risks
  • Save administrative time in preparing for and supporting board meetings
  • Meet governance requirements more efficiently
  • Support new director recruitment by using leading-edge tools
  • Support directors with easy mobile access while travelling
  • Ensure business continuity in times of urgency
  • Eliminate costs from IT to support external access to company material
  • Save costs from printing paper board materials
  • Centralize past and present board documentation in one location 
  • Improve board transparency with an automatic archive and audit trail, equitable update alerts, online voting, and director and board performance evaluation tools
  • Enhance director engagement
  • Improve information flow and communication between board members.

Board portal decision tools

Section 3: clarify board portal costs & demonstrate ROI

Board portal costs should include up-front as well as ongoing expenses associated with the software. You should express pricing as an annual cost and include any necessary explanations, such as billing schedule, price per user, software setup costs, and training costs.

Next, compare the cost of the board portal with your expected return on investment (ROI). The first step to do so is to account for your current board meeting preparation expenses. If you’re using a different board portal, email, or file sharing tools already, you won’t have the paper cost of traditional board books for all your board members. You might, however, still have costs for your other systems or administrative and technical support, as well as any printed booklets for board members who get frustrated trying to find what they need and ask for paper. You should also account for time spent by admins and IT on:

  • Chasing directors for signatures
  • Helping directors find correct files and emails
  • Coordinating documents and communications for committees
  • Supporting external access to internal intranet or file systems
  • Supporting login issues and other help requests.

A board portal can reduce administrative time spent on supporting board members as well as the need for IT support, as all director and administrative questions on the board portal can be answered by your board portal software support teams.

Here’s an example of the type of ROI calculator you might use – we’ve filled in the approximate Aprio board portal impact as an example:

Current expenses Total current expense $ Approximate % savings with Aprio Annual savings $
(Admin time: hours per year) x ($ per hour) = 60%
(IT time: hours per year) x ($ per hour) = 100%
Hard costs: $ for paper, courier, etc., per year = 90%
Total =

Your total amount saved per year can then be compared to the cost of the software to determine ROI over five years. Subtract the software costs from the estimated annual savings.

Year 1 Year 2 Year 3 Year 4 Year 5 Total
Estimated annual savings $
Software costs/year $
ROI: savings minus costs

Section 4: explain the benefits of board portal software

Highlight the board portal benefits that you can measure, as well as the intangible outcomes that will benefit your organization but are difficult to quantify. Here are a few examples to get you started:

Benefits of a board portal Measurement
More efficient preparation of meeting materials and communication between meetings Less staff and director hours for meeting preparation and less staff hours spent assisting directors between meetings 
Reduced security risks from downloaded corporate documents and email exchanges No data leaks
More focused, efficient board meetings Agenda items covered within target meeting length
Improved transparency and accountability Same-time distribution of, and access to, all board materials
Increased board member engagement Improved meeting attendance and preparation by directors (logged access to board documents in advance of meetings)

Intangible: board directors feel more respected and efficient (assess in board evaluation survey)

Improved recruitment for new board members Intangible: monitor anecdotally by committee

The team at Aprio would be glad to help you build a business case for using our board portal. Whether you’re considering a switch from another tool or making the transition from in-house processes, we can also share the impact that Aprio has had with hundreds of other customers. Start by getting in touch.

Build a board portal business case

Tool #2: checklist for an effective board portal software evaluation 

There are many different board portals available on the market, some with similar features. How do you choose the one that’s right for your organization? Keep in mind that 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, so make sure to take a close look at what’s included in pricing, investigate how data security is protected, and consider references from your peers. 

Here’s our board portal software evaluation checklist of the top 10 things to compare: 

1. Board administration & management tools

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. 

Questions to ask

  • How easy is the software to use?
  • During a demo, ask yourself whether there’s a logical flow. Is the software user-friendly and intuitive? Does it work the way you work? Is your first impression “I get this,” and is the experience easy to follow?
  • On average, how much time do most of the vendor’s customers save when using their solution?

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?

Questions to ask

  • What tools are built into the software to facilitate secure director access and collaboration?

Secure board software for collaboration

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, including tablet apps, offline access, support for remote approvals, and more. 

Questions to ask

  • Does the vendor provide board portal apps to be used on tablets?
  • Can board materials be accessed offline?

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 for directors.

Questions to ask

  • How does the vendor guarantee secure storage of documents and board communication? 
  • Is there a choice of location for data hosting and processes in emergencies? 
  • If a director loses a mobile device, can their board data be deleted remotely?

5. Getting started & adoption ease

Software has no impact on efficiency or security unless it’s 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

Questions to ask

  • What kind of training will I get?
  • Will I be shown how to upload documents, create library folders, and master different features?
  • What training is available for new directors or administrators who join at a later date?
  • When you adopt the board portal, what happens to your existing data?

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? 

Questions to ask

  • What is on the vendor’s product roadmap? 
  • How will your voice as a customer be incorporated into future product development?

Board portal software reputation

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. Vendors who stand behind the performance of their products will also be happy to provide testimonials and references from their customers.

Talk with peers who use the product. Ask about their service experiences and how issues were resolved. You can also go back to the questions on this list. How do they rate the ease of use and level of security? Does the vendor follow through on its promise of great service and support? 

8. Support

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

Questions to ask

  • Is it necessary to contact the vendor to set up meetings, add directors, upload materials, adjust license assignment, or pull information for governance reporting? These should be self-serve functions.
  • What’s the support response time? 
  • Does the vendor offer 24/7 availability? 
  • Who answers the phone when you call for support? Where is the call centre located? 
  • Is there ongoing training available, like webinars? 
  • How does the vendor notify you about new product features?

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. 

Questions to ask

  • Are you seeing a demo of the premium version?
  • What are the extra fees for adding groups or committees, adding administrators, ongoing training for all levels of users, reports, training, and mobile apps? Make sure to keep in mind that product pricing is extremely important in order to truly weigh your potential ROI and make a solid argument when building your business case.
  • Will the fee structure change as your needs change, for example when you use more data storage?

10. Best overall fit

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

Need more help making the right decision? Check out our free Board Portal Buying Guide.

Board portal software director engagement

Tool #3: presentation guide for communicating board portal evaluation results

Now that you’ve built your business case and completed your evaluation, it’s time to present the results to your board. This phase is critical, as a poorly communicated idea, no matter how great it is, will never get the support it needs. Here’s our guide of the “dos and don’ts” to a persuasive board portal presentation pitch, inspired by suggestions from the Harvard Business Review:

Things to do for a persuasive board portal presentation

  • Tell a story by presenting the need, impact, and solution in a clear arc. Build in an emotional or human connection into your story to be more memorable and to help persuade others to accept this new idea of change without first resisting it. 
  • Highlight the board’s need for the board portal and show the business need for it.
  • Choose a presentation medium that will highlight key insights from your presentation. Consider using visuals, including slides, videos, or charts to make your point. Circulate your material to your board ahead of time, if possible.
  • Prepare a short and long version of your presentation in case you end up having less time than you originally anticipated to present.

Things to avoid for a persuasive board portal presentation

  • Avoid overlooking the concerns of board members, especially those board members who believe in the common “board portal myths”. By addressing concerns directly, you may win unexpected allies. Consider also giving your biggest critics a “sneak preview” of your presentation ahead of time and ask for feedback – it could help you achieve early buy-in from those board members.
  • Don’t overwhelm your audience with unnecessary detail. Keep your presentation to the point.
  • Avoid reading directly from your slides, if you choose this medium. Connect with your audience by making eye contact and prove that you know what you’re talking about without needing to constantly reference your slides. It’ll be more interesting for your audience, too!

Consider Aprio for your new board portal software

Whether you’re looking to make a switch or adopting board portal software for the very first time, we invite you to consider Aprio board portal software. According to Capterra, Aprio is the trusted choice of credit unions, financial institutions, crown corporations, non-profits, and public companies across North America.

The team at Aprio would be happy to help you build a business case for the Aprio board portal that’s tailored to the specific needs of your organization. Get in touch to learn more. We look forward to showing you how to take your organization to the next level with Aprio.

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