Board software helps boards and their management teams manage the board’s needs more efficiently and securely than with generic tools such as email, word documents, spreadsheets and dropbox.
It falls into two broad categories:
- Corporate portals, which have been around for 15 years and serve enterprise boards with price points starting from $10,000 per annum. Portals typically focus on document management, distribution and security and predominantly serve board members.
2. Board software is a newer category aimed at small-medium business / enterprise and not for profits that haven’t been able to justify the expense of a corporate portal. Board software typically delivers broader value as both a workflow tool and document repository – serving both board member and management needs across the board cycle.
Both portals and software are delivered as cloud software and key benefits include:
- Up to 50% less work for the management team to support the board process
- Easy access to board documents and matters including history for busy board members
- Increased security of sensitive and confidential information
- Greater visibility, discipline and speed on board action items – converting precious board attention into results
- Easier for chairs to manage the board process – allowing more time and energy for the big discussions and decisions
- Better board practice such as a tighter focus on key decisions and discussions
- Elimination of paper and couriering costs
Choosing the right board software can streamline your board processes and help you deliver effective governance with less effort and stress.
Smaller organisations often benefit more than larger organisations as their resources are limited and supporting the board draws effort away from core business activities
A useful way to approach board software is to consider your needs at each of your board meeting stages. A board cycle is made up of multiple jobs to be done, many of them small but important.
EXAMPLE NEEDS BY MEETING STAGE
See below a full list of features to consider as part of “how to choose board software”.
How to Choose the Right Board Software:
STEPS TO TAKE
- Evaluate your current board solution (even if using desktop tools) and identify your pain points. Be sure to canvas all the participants in the board cycle including chair, board members, CEO, managers and administrators – as each will have distinct roles and needs. i.e. Administrators typically compile the board pack and deal with late changes and distribution of papers in a timely fashion.Use a prompt like the “needs by meeting stage” framework above to ask participants to identify their pain points. Evaluation of board software is often triggered by one or two pressing needs (such as security or reducing management overhead) but should take in the whole board cycle to maximise net benefit to the organisation.
2. Form your evaluation team. Small to medium businesses typically evaluate board software in a very pragmatic way. The topic is raised at a board meeting, the board members are canvased for known solutions and the evaluation delegated to CEO and onto an administrator to do the heavy lifting. Given the opportunity to deliver value to all participants, it’s well worth looping in the chair (as a minimum) as part of the evaluation team. Another way to get broad input is to run a board cycle using both existing and new solution in parallel – see step 5 below.
3. Decide what your ‘must-have’ items are in a board software solution like note taking on board papers, secure document storage or responsive support. Be aware that your ‘must-haves’ may expand as you evaluate options and realise the potential benefit available. For instance, new BoardPro customers often report up to 50%-time savings for administrators.
4. Short-list providers. Look for providers who do a good job of presenting lists features and benefits that match your must-haves and budget. Use our simple guide below to help you get started.
Note: Corporate board portals listed above have not been evaluated in detail and placement as indicative only. Please conduct your own evaluation.
5. Evaluate solutions
Insist on a free trial of your preferred provider(s). A great way to get a full picture is to i) fully populate your last completed meeting in the software and ii) run your next board meeting live in the software. Test the provider’s support systems on the way – are they responsive and effective? If you have digital laggards on your board, take them gently on the journey. Demonstrate the solution to the board in advance of running a live cycle and/or run your old process in parallel so they have a fallback option if struggling with the technology. Look for solutions (like Boardpro) which are very intuitive and easy to use – vendors who offer optional induction packages are a good indicator that they back their software’s usability.
6. Pick your winner.
When looking for a board software solution, zero in on these five main areas:
1. Adoptability: How easy is the board software to use and is there training available?
If the software you choose isn’t adopted, it’s a wasted investment that may leave you less secure than you were before. For an application to be embraced by your board, it needs to be accessible from any device, easy-to-use and accompanied by solid support. Having the ability to read and annotate board pack items like you could do with a hard copy, is comfortable and functional; a digital board pack should be as simple to flip through as paper, but with lots of additional advantages. A paperless board pack is an easy switch for some, but for others who have used printed board packs for years, the right vendor should have options for easy printing and training to help ease them into the new solution. The right solution for many organisations is easy for everyone to use.
2. Support: How accessible is your board software provider?
While there are many dozens of electronic board apps to choose from, board software is certainly not a commodity. Excellent customer support is essential for administrators who are stuck and need to distribute board papers on time OR a board member trying to access a critical paper the day before the meeting. Are there options for induction training or user training? Can the training be recorded and made available on an ongoing basis? . Are their comprehensive online help resources in place? This is where it can be important to check reference sites like www.capterra.com OR interview existing clients: sometimes the advertised customer-support experience doesn’t live up to it’s billing.
3. Governance Good Practice: Will This Board Management Software Improve Your Governance and Efficiency?
Does the software prompt good practice? Such as introducing key discussions and decisions early in the agenda OR including health and safety as a default agenda item OR auto-prompting approval of the minutes at the next meeting.
Is the software smart? Does it provide for automatic deletion of board member’s private notes on board papers, which you may not want to be discoverable in the event of some future legal dispute.
Does the software increase board efficiency? Does it automate routine board tasks that don’t need to be repeated manually. I.e. can you enter an action item once in the minutes and have it automatically populate the action item register and support automated reminders? Does it support group meeting announcements and reminders?
4. Features & Functionality: What Features and Functions are Available Against Your Requirements?
Your business and board may end up with a ‘shopping list’ of features and functions they would like to utilise. Here’s a list of features you’d expect to find in robust, modern board software:
5. Security: How secure is the board software solution?
Security is certainly a consideration of boards adopting new technology, and with good reason. Hackers work tirelessly trying to break electronic security and gain access to an organisation’s systems to spy, steal, or extort. Often, hackers are able to do this without a company even knowing its security has been compromised.
If you want a secure solution, you need solid security methodologies and encryption – not just another file management system for your board. Board software allows a business to feel secure in knowing their confidential and financial information is safe. Make sure any potential vendor makes you comfortable with their security practices for your data.