Board Portals as Committee Management Software

Nicholas J Price
Every year, more boards are realizing the benefits of implementing a board portal. What many of them don't readily recognize is that board portals are also great electronic tools for committee work. Much of a board's important work happens in committees, where the members are focusing on one issue.

While board committees aren't one-size-fits-all, they need a structure and a format that allows them to get to work quickly. Board committees can fall prey to some of the same ills as boards of directors. Poor preparation by the committee chair can lead to unfocused meetings, lack of engagement from the committee members and wasted time. To function well and be productive, committees need good attendance, structure and an easy way to share documents.

Board committees meet according to their purposes. Standing committees meet all year long. Ad hoc committees meet for shorter periods and have a specific issue to tackle. One of the keys to capitalizing on committees is for boards to use them as needed and help them get organized so their meetings are productive.

In particular, nonprofit boards tend to form many committees — often many more than they really need. It's best to keep the number of committees limited and focused on the work the board needs them to do. Board administrators can help to get committees off to a good start by implementing a board portal and giving committee members access to the documents they need. A board portal streamlines many of the semantics so that boards can get down to business right away.

How Board Portals Support Committee Management

Committee meetings are a place where members get together to discuss and debate a problem and share their perspectives to come up with the best solutions. Often, committee members will research the issue outside of the committee and bring supporting documents to share with others. The committee chair is usually the person responsible for consolidating the meeting minutes and other committee activities into a board report for full board consideration.

A board portal is of great assistance to the board chair. The chair can set up automated reminders for committee meetings. Within seconds, the chair can solicit agenda items ahead of time and publish updates in real time, giving committee members access to the most updated information at all times. Committee members can receive and send documents only to other committee members using the highly secure platform.

Board Portals Convenient for Multi-Committee Directors

A Harvard Business School whitepaper on the structure of board committees supports the notion of using Multi-Committee Directors (MCDs). MCDs are board directors who sit on two or more committees of the same board. Certain committees need to share information regularly between them. Harvard students offer the example of the connection between the audit committee and the loan committee. One board director sits in on both committees and shares information from each of them with the other. Board directors who have financial expertise are popular candidates for MCDs.

According to the whitepaper, one of the deficits for MCDs is that they can become overloaded due to lack of efficiency. When we factor in the time they need to spend on board duties and multiple committees, it's easy to see how time constraints can detract from their efficiency. Board portals help to create efficiency, making them a valuable resource for MCDs and committees in general.
Diligent's board portal features granular permissions so that MCDs can more easily cross-share information across committees and also with the board as a whole.

Valuable Board Portal Features for Committees

Committee chairs and committee members will find that many of Diligent's features are invaluable. The board portal helps to streamline meeting agendas and meeting minutes. It also offers a useful feature for doing surveys and polls. The communication platform provides strong security for email messages that are contained safely entirely inside the portal.

Board committees need the time to perform their work before releasing their results to other committees or to the rest of the board. The portal keeps committee discussions confidential by containing them securely inside the portal.

Preparing agendas and taking minutes are two of the more time-consuming activities for board committees. Diligent streamlines the agenda process with an easy-to-use agenda software platform. Committee chairs can quickly drag-and-drop items into the agenda and attach any relevant documents. It takes only minutes to complete an agenda for a committee meeting and send it out to the members in real time. Well-prepared agendas sent in plenty of time before the meeting make it easier for committees to start and stop on time and be productive during meetings. The portal also makes it easier for committee chairs to allocate tasks and monitor them to completion.

Diligent Messenger
is a digital communication platform that integrates fully with the board portal. Messenger opens up communications to all board members, so they can communicate securely in between meetings. Messenger also gives committee members the benefit of mobility, as they can access the portal and the Messenger tool using any electronic device. Messenger allows for clear, timely and accurate communications between board directors.

Online surveys are a valuable tool for committees. Boards can use them for many different purposes, including polling the board to see if they need to add or discontinue any committees, inquire about how committees can be more effective, and request feedback from post-committee work.

Of course, with the high prevalence of cyberattacks, committees should be concerned with security. Diligent offers three levels of security, with firm controls at provider locations. Technology protects against accidental and intentional data leaks. Diligent also offers a data recovery service that protects against outages and/or other material loss of data. Board committees can count on Diligent to keep their committee work confidential.

In particular, nonprofit organizations primarily use volunteers, so it's vital for committees not to waste their time or energy using antiquated manual processes. Other types of organizations need to operate efficiently and cost-effectively as well. Committees are a real asset to boards. Board portals provide the platform for committees to create efficiencies and to reduce costs. Look no further than Diligent for the most secure, fully featured board portal on the market.
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Nicholas J. Price
Nicholas J. Price is a former Manager at Diligent. He has worked extensively in the governance space, particularly on the key governance technologies that can support leadership with the visibility, data and operating capabilities for more effective decision-making.