A board portal is a secure app or website designed explicitly for the purpose of facilitating communication between directors and the company. The current generation of board portals supports information exchange and captures the process both during meetings and between meetings.
Access for directors on a web browser or via a tablet app
Wi-Fi unavailability doesn’t impede board materials review
Security that meets or exceeds the standards of the IT organization
Toolkit for the corporate secretary
Before the introduction of the iPad, directors would access their board books online, a technically uncomplicated task. But since it was easier to read a document on paper than on a laptop, the paperless boardroom did not become a reality for many years.
With the invention of the iPad, adoption of board portals increased, largely because the iPad topped paper for readability. As a result, boards across a wide range of organizations set more ambitious goals. Their directors asked for more than just document access, and many made the shift quickly.
Today many boards use secure collaboration for committee work, and they communicate between meetings with secure email. Many general counsels have discontinued the distribution of printed board books, and conduct their written consents, including eSignatures, on the iPad. They have gone paperless.
Going paperless raises the bar on what’s required from the software platform. This of course begs the question: “What should I look for in a board portal?” With that in mind, here are five product attributes that are must-haves for success:
Directors expect ready access to their board materials even if they're out of Wi-Fi range. An essential requirement is technology that syncs content seamlessly between online and offline so any notes made while offline are immediately available when a director is back online. Also, to ensure directors have the latest information, the system lets the general counsel push new materials directly to the director's briefcase.
Having a board book on a director's iPad creates a potential risk because directors may forget to purge this information, and the device may be lost or stolen. This risk is eliminated with a system that centralizes control with the general counsel, so that downloaded content, and directors' notes, can be purged remotely, without relying on the actions of directors.
A big part of board communication is about who sees what and when they see it. For example, what members of the audit committee see is often different than what members of the governance committee see. Since it’s easy to retain that control with paper, it’s critical that the electronic board portal has an equivalent ability to differentiate access between various users. Many board portals have a control matrix and content segregation, which make it easy to control user access.
Since users expect more from a board portal, this means the user experience for your directors has to be more engaging and satisfying than what currently exists with paper. This requires an application that takes maximum advantage of the rich graphics and animation of the iPad to improve the director’s entire boardroom experience.
For years, the board portal was a one-way communication tool. The general counsel distributed materials and directors retrieved it online. Now board portals are shifting to two-way interactive capabilities that improve decision-making by allowing directors to communicate back to the general counsel in real time on the substantive issues, thus providing greater efficiency.
Signing and approving documents is efficient when done through a board portal. A board portal can alert the user when a signature is required on a document, and can also display important information such as instructions, due dates, and a list of people who have already approved the initiative.
Board portals can make it easy to annotate documents with their built-in tools for notes and highlights. The user can then select the users with whom they wish to share their documents.
Gathering input and opinions is an important part of working in a team environment. Board portals with a built-in survey feature make it easy for users to vote on an issue, provide feedback and complete director self-assessments.
At many large companies, the features of a board portal can also be beneficial to the executive leadership teams. In a mobile enterprise, leadership teams are often dispersed and they have communication needs that go beyond email and paper. They need a secure environment where they can share documents confidentially, and they also need tools to conduct secure meetings and a way to drive initiatives and make decisions when they are on the go.
As a result, CIOs at these companies are increasingly seeking a common platform for both the board and leadership processes. A platform with a solid technology base that is purpose-built for boards and leadership teams is better suited to address today’s needs and scale up in the future than a board portal that was designed to only satisfy the board process.
The All About Board Portals: A Primer is a highly recommended read for anyone who is involved with the board and is keen on making the process more efficient.
In this guide, you'll learn: