By Mike Evans – CEO of ICSA Boardroom Apps Limited
The use of technology in the boardroom is not a new concept. The ability to consume a high volume of corporate information delivered through a browser or tablet means that more and more directors are happy to consider a portable tablet solution as a viable alternative to paper board materials.
What is a board portal?
Accessible on a browser or a tablet, such as an Apple iPad or a Windows device, board portals offer directors confidential access to board materials past and present and provide tools that make it easier to prepare for board meetings. A board portal also permits a secure digital exchange of information between board members and meeting organisers. This need has evolved as external board members are not typically part of an organisation’s internal computer network and so an independent solution is required.
Some board portals offer a self-service reference library that provides directors with 24/7 access to past meeting documents and minutes, charters, policies, investment portfolios, press coverage, regulatory and legislative updates and reporting.
Typically, the portal includes encryption to protect the organisation’s data against unauthorised access – especially on mobile devices – and security controls that keep members’ communications with each other private. It should enforce the document retention policies, not record directors’ activities and allow for the organisation to remotely wipe any directors’ annotations once the meeting has been held.
The portal also includes tools that greatly reduce the time and cost of producing and managing board materials and scheduling board work. Interestingly, it has become common practice for management teams to use their own version of a board portal as they seek to add greater governance to their meetings and increased security for sharing and collaboration on documents, especially on mobile devices.
Why implement a board portal?
A board portal helps directors to work more efficiently with information being made available to them instantly by meeting organisers, as well as providing a clear link between them and other directors to record votes, make annotations and review documents before meetings. “With the amount of solutions on offer, it’s important to define the list of requirements that are important to your business rather than focus on features that are nice”
“With the amount of solutions on offer, it’s important to define the list of requirements that are important to your business rather than focus on features that are nice”
Directors aren’t the only party to benefit from more efficient working processes. Meeting organisers benefit from an increased control in the distribution of meeting and corporate information, including last-minute changes, as well as a more streamlined process of board pack collation.
They are able to save time and effort by collating and distributing digital board packs through the online board portal instead of manually printing, collating and couriering the paper board packs out to directors. Meeting organisers also take advantage of extra security enhancements with the ability to control print and email capabilities, as well as information access from a central point. This comes in handy, especially when a device is lost or stolen, as information can be remotely deleted to prevent any unwanted consequences.
A board portal’s security is often a business’s concern. But with strong password policies, hosted or self-hosted options, fully configurable deletion options, full AES encryption of data and completely configurable server policies, you can rest assured that your data is more secure than if it were printed on paper.
What do the best board portals do?
The best board portals contain many different options with various features and functionalities to cater for the management and distribution of paperless board meetings. With the amount of solutions on offer, it is important to define the list of requirements that are important to your business rather than focus on features that are nice to have but may not provide some of the more essential functionalities.
Below are five points that you should always look out for when searching for board portals.
- Security measures: Perhaps one of the most important areas as the information that will be stored within a board portal is some of the most confidential data in any organisation. Having strong security measures that make your internal IT department feel at ease when it comes to your corporate information is vital.
- Hosting options: You should always have the option to host your board portal on your own premises or have the board portal supplier host it for you, provided they can meet your specifications.
- Post-sales services: Once you have bought a board portal product, you will need to be confident that the implementation, training and ongoing support are up to the highest standard to ensure that you are getting the most from your new board portal.
- Client referrals: Ensure that you are able to see case studies and referrals from current clients. This will give you an indication of how that particular board portal provider treats their existing clients, helping you to make a more informed decision.
- Simplified meeting management: Most board portals will focus on the end users and how they are able to use a board portal to become more efficient. The back end of a board portal is equally important, since meeting organisers will be the ones using the software on a regular basis. This area should be simple and easy to use helping to reduce the workload, not increase it.
Board documents at your fingertips
Embracing board portals instead of relying on paper versions can be beneficial for both meeting organisers and directors, since they can deliver significant improvements in working practices.
Board portals provide directors with secure access to the critical documents needed to fulfil their duties while maintaining the records required for corporate governance needs.
Board portals also give meeting organisers a larger element of control over the meeting production process and the information that directors receive and consume. Board portals allow for document uploads to be done instantly with last-minute amends being ‘forced’ to occur. Print and email restrictions can be made to stop information being distributed; devices can be activated and disallowed from a central point to ensure data security is managed effectively.
Businesses as a whole also benefit from board portals as they eliminate delivery, paper wastage and printing costs while regaining hours of time that would have been spent collating and distributing paper board documents – not to mention the increases in data security and privacy of sensitive information.
Modern boardroom practices
After all, most directors, have very little to do with the actual preparation of the board packs. The fact is that preparing board and committee papers is an enormous task.
So what have board portals ever done for us? You mean, apart from being more secure than paper packs, easier to update, more efficient, allowing direct instant access to a wide variety of material and background information, saving staff time and saving trees? Well, now you mention it, rather a lot.
About The Author:
Mike Evans is CEO of ICSA Software International and ICSA Boardroom Apps Limited, Mike is responsible for overseeing all aspects of both companies and making sure that the businesses maintain their core values and continue to strive towards our mission