5 Pitfalls to Avoid When Selecting a Board Portal Solution

  • Carissa Duenas
  • Published: January 14, 2021
5 Pitfalls to Avoid When Selecting a Board Portal Solution

This report from Quinlan & Associates states that the board portal market is expected to grow from USD 1.1 billion in 2018 to USD 10.9 billion by 2024. It might be safe to assume that these figures will surge as board portals continue to find their place in boardrooms — especially with the shift to remote work and virtual board meetings in the past year.

Like most technology solutions, the adoption of a board portal requires thoughtful evaluation and consideration. It is important to ask essential questions such as (but not limited to) the following:

  1. What are the needs of our end-users (i.e. directors, company secretaries, senior executives, etc.)? 
  2. How can we seamlessly integrate the software into our existing processes and workflows?
  3. What are the features included?
  4. Is customer/technical support available?

These are all important in your decision making process. But there are areas still often overlooked. 

We list down the pitfalls to avoid when choosing a board portal solution.

1. Evaluating board portal software solely on the basis of the number of available features

The availability of more features does not always translate to added value or efficiency gains. Evaluating a board portal solution on this basis alone can sometimes be detrimental to your long-term adoption goals. It can also negatively impact your return on investment (ROI). 

The organisation may very well end up with an over-engineered product that end-users will perceive as too challenging to use, impractical, or confusing. Moreover, there are costs associated with additional features: why pay for these when they are not critical to your board’s workflows?

A solid grasp of the board’s systems and processes will enable you to decipher which features are absolutely necessary and which aren’t. A board portal that is streamlined to directly address the “pain points” of your board, without a milieu of distractions, increases the likelihood of end-user adoption — a primary driver of ROI.

2. Overestimating the technological competencies of your users and the time they have to learn the board portal application

One might be inclined to select board meeting software without enough consideration for how long it will take to get the board up to speed — and comfortable — with the technology. But the reality is that directors are busy people and don’t always have the luxury of time to attend multiple training sessions. Time is a constraint. This is true regardless of whether they are digital natives or not.

When evaluating a board portal solution, factor in “ease-of-use” and the smart, intuitive design of the board portal. Are the user interface elements familiar? Can the end users navigate their way through the functionalities without a lot of hand-holding (after onboarding)? The more comfortable boards are with the design of the solution, the greater the value they’ll derive from it.  

That being said, make sure you avail of the free trial periods often offered by providers. This helps you gauge the features and functionalities relevant to the board, as well as obtain practical insight into the intuitiveness of the board portal’s design.

3. Overlooking the return on investment when advocating for its use

Administrators or company secretaries might advocate for board portals solely on qualitative metrics (i.e. convenience, ease-of-use, compliance, etc.). While that shouldn’t be discounted, it is important to highlight that there is a measurable impact to the bottomline as well. For instance, the cumulative cost savings below might help shape a compelling business case:

  • Paper cost savings
  • Resource/labour cost savings (e.g. prepping, binding, revising, etc.)
  • Printing cost savings
  • Shipping cost savings

This Paperless Savings Calculator helps estimate your savings.

Having said that, consider the productivity gains too: Will this reduce the time spent preparing for board meetings? Will this reduce the time your directors spend reviewing board meeting materials? If so, by how much?

4. Failing to read the fine print around training and customer support

The board portal you’re evaluating is likely to evolve as technology advances emerge or user input/feedback evolves. You can expect additional product feature releases (or changes) at some point in time.

This might mean you will be reliant on support and training throughout your contractual relationship. Ask whether this will translate to additional costs for your organisation — or if it is part of the contract. Look into what type of support and training you are entitled to (i.e. one-on-one, group, user role-based, manuals, etc.) and make sure it aligns with your needs.

The availability of exceptional customer support is also important. One of the main benefits of the board portal is its ability to save time for both administrators and board members. A knowledgeable, dedicated, around-the-clock support team to address the simplest of questions assures users that productivity won’t be compromised.

5. Failing to factor in the importance of security

It is easy to get caught up with the board portal’s features and functionalities. But that discussion should become moot and academic if the board portal solution is not supported by underlying secure technologies and processes. In fact, the use of a board portal without the presence of stringent security protocols places the organisation at risk.

Boards deal with highly sensitive information. A data breach could be disastrous from a reputational, financial, and strategic standpoint. Therefore, assess, at a minimum, the board portal’s security infrastructure, data encryption methodologies, certifications, and frequency of third-party audits. 

Issues around cybersecurity should not be trivialised and dismissed.

Final Note

The board portal’s inherent value should be evident not only to (and for) the board. It should extend beyond the confines of the boardroom and work towards making the board more effective, secure, and compliant.

To find out more about board portals and how to decide on the best solution for your organisation, download our free buyer’s guide: “The Definitive Guide to Selecting a Board Portal” or reach out to us.