Why Your Board of Directors Needs a Board Portal

Nicholas J Price
Manual and paper processes are being eliminated in nearly every aspect of business. Standard board processes are becoming outdated, as digital solutions have proven to improve board communications, streamline processes, save time and money, and bolster security. Portals become an important tool when boards choose a full-featured board portal designed by an innovative board portal provider that offers strong security and has a keen eye on future developments. Leading board portal software providers offer around-the-clock support to help board directors get the most from their investment in board portal technology.

Board Portals Provide Benefits for Boards and Corporate Secretaries

Board portal software revolutionized the way that boards create board books. Board portals drastically reduce the time that corporate secretaries and other staff members spend creating, compiling, updating, and delivering board books. Board portal software reduces the time boards spend on board books from days and weeks to hours.

In addition to saving costs on labor, boards also save on material costs such as printer ink, paper, wear and tear on equipment, and shipping costs. Corporate secretaries can quickly and easily update board books in real time, which eliminates the need to contact board members every time there's an update. Real-time updates also ensure that board directors will arrive at board meetings having access to the most updated information.

Board directors appreciate the ability of being able to make notes in real time and to find the marked copies among hundreds of other pages within seconds. Often, board directors conduct board business from multiple locations. Quality board portals provide the capability for board directors to access their board materials from any location using any mobile device.

Today's corporate marketplace is a whirlwind of rapid and evolving changes. The solutions of today may be outdated tomorrow. Boards should be interested not only in what board portal providers can do for them in today's volatile climate, but also what governance solution providers can provide for the future. The future of boards will almost certainly demand that boards utilize governance software solutions that support board activities, such as D&O questionnaires, board evaluations, voting, minutes and entity management.

How to Evaluate Board Portal Security

The extreme competitiveness of board business requires boards to safeguard their planning with the utmost security. One of the best and most apparent benefits in board portals is the capacity of built-in, robust security. In seeking a board portal provider, companies should inquire about the level of security that exists inside and outside the board portal. Getting the right answers begins with asking the right questions about board portal security.

Board portal service providers should be able to answer every question you have about board portal security and educate you on security measures that you should be asking about.

Look for board portal providers that can demonstrate that their products meet the highest industry standards by explaining how their design incorporates security features at every juncture. Providers should be able to explain how the system uses different password strengths, user restrictions, lockout policies, and options for exporting and printing documents to help keep your board's information confidential. You should be able to learn about data redundancy and backup procedures to protect your data around the clock. The best board portal service providers provide continuous penetration testing, rather than annual or occasional penetration testing.

While it's crucial for board portal service providers to have strong internal security measures, they may also have equipment at other locations. It's vital for boards to inquire about physical security safeguards and system monitoring for their servers, routers and other equipment. Boards should inquire about whether they have CCTV monitoring of equipment, perimeter security or other measures, such as having equipment locked in secure areas with special protections for keys.

Media reports have told stories about how breaches and cybersecurity concerns have initiated from internal actors. Find out what the board portal service provider's process is for screening new hires who may be able to gain access to your confidential board portal information. Ask if the company has experienced any data breaches and how they've added internal controls to prevent them in the future.

It's a known fact that hackers are becoming increasingly sophisticated in their ability to break through cybersecurity measures. The reality is that hackers are no longer working in solitude  they're organizing to position themselves for global disruption. Board portal service providers that you're considering should be able to explain how their IT teams are staying a step ahead of emerging threats.

As rapidly as technology is evolving, it's changing many different things in the corporate realm. Board portal service providers need to be able to anticipate future trends and problems and be able to address emerging issues expediently. Any contenders for your board portal service provider will have an active research and development team and should be investing heavily in creating digital governance solutions that protect board information and enhance governance principles.

Benefits of Using a Board Portal Before Going Public

The period of time when a company prepares to make its initial public offering is a crucial time of planning. The strong security of board portals enables companies to reduce many of the risks of taking their company public. High-level security ensures that communications and documents remain confidential until the company is ready to release them to shareholders and to the public.

A board portal serves as an online gathering place where auditors, underwriters, legal teams, owners and board directors can collaborate and ask questions using a highly secure platform. A board portal acts as a repository for all the necessary and legal documents that the board must gather to meet the requirements of their initial public offering. As the board makes preparations, they can add documents and update the system in real time to ensure that all parties can access the most updated documents at all time.

Board portals help to keep the process moving forward as they assist board directors and others in keeping track of the board's goals, deadlines and meetings.

The time just prior to an initial public offering isn't a time when boards want to be worried about rogue conversations being shared over insecure public or private email platforms. A secure board portal offers a closed loop system that protects email communications and controls what information users can print or download.

Best Practices for Getting the Most From Your Board Portal

When putting in the time and effort to streamline your board's processes and secure your communications, you'll want to be sure that all board directors are using the board portal to its fullest capacity. While that sounds simple in theory, the reality is that all board directors may not be so eager to part with traditional ways of managing board business. The solution to making the most of your board portal experience may be to anticipate some degree of hesitation and put a few strategies in place to combat it.

First, be committed to making the most of the board portal's features. Acknowledge to other board directors that it will take time for all of them to acclimate to the technology. Try to gain agreement from all board directors to give the system their best effort. If possible, get some initial training going before implementing the board portal.

Think through your current workflow patterns and work with the board portal provider to replicate your process as closely as possible, while taking advantage of helpful and time-saving improvements. Thorough training will increase the success of your board portal experience. Set up valuable, convenient training opportunities, including webinars, online trainings and phone assistance. A quality vendor will provide unlimited trainings for new members and special assistance and refresher trainings for existing board directors in a variety of standard and customized formats.

It's important to consider that board directors' needs can be urgent at times. When they need customer service to help with a system problem, they need it without having to wait for an email response or a return call. Insist on 24/7/365 support with a knowledgeable human on the other end who can solve problems immediately and without unnecessary frustration.

Finally, don't force all board members to use the board portal right away. Many companies find it helpful to use manual or paper processes in tandem with an electronic board portal in the beginning. As board directors gain a comfort level with the technology, paper board books begin disappearing from the boardroom and electronic tablets take their place. For the best chance at success, allow your board to take its time in adapting to board portal software and other digital governance solutions. A little general encouragement goes a long way.

Final Thoughts on Successful Board Portal Implementation

Technology has entered the governance space, and it's here to stay. Cybersecurity issues will continue to occupy space on boardroom agendas as critical board matters. The benefits of board portals more than justify the cost of implementing them. All board portals are not created equally; and boards will need to make wise choices in choosing a board portal service provider. Board portals are intuitive and easy to use, and it helps to take advantage of training opportunities to get the maximum benefit from the platform. Competition in the marketplace is fierce. The extra time your board takes to implement a board portal may be all the time your competitors need to gain a competitive edge.

Diligent Corporation designed Diligent Boards as the primary tool for boards to reduce the time, cost, energy and stress of creating manual board books. Along with understanding how critical it can be to keep board communications confidential, Diligent created a digital communications platform called Messenger that eliminates the risk of board directors communicating using insecure email platforms. As an industry leader in enterprise governance management solutions, Diligent invests heavily in developing innovative governance solutions. Digital solutions such as D&O Questionnaires, Board Assessments and Minutes are a sampling of the governance solutions that comprise Governance Cloud  a suite of digital software solutions for total enterprise governance management. Diligent is committed to developing governance solutions that supply the needs of corporations globally, now and in the future.
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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.