What Questions Should Your Board Ask When Evaluating a Board Portal?

Nicholas J Price
5 min read
The advantages of using a board portal are beginning to far outweigh the past practice of manually printing, collating and assembling board books in preparation for board meetings. Not only do board portals save time and money, they are more secure and easier to use than large, cumbersome, paper-filled board books. As the demands of governance continue to increase, boards of all types and sizes need to streamline their usual business so they can focus more heavily on strategic planning, oversight, identifying threats and emerging issues. Smaller organizations may think they can get by with using platforms like Google docs or Box. However, those platforms were not designed or intended for board use, and they don't provide the level of security that boards need.

With more board portals entering the marketplace, each with its own special features, how can you choose the one that works best for your corporation? Asking the right questions will lead you to the board portal that fulfills the needs of your organization and gives your organization the most value for your money.

Whether you represent a private, public, nonprofit, or government board, you'll want to learn about the features, mobility, user-friendliness and security of the best board portal products. Here are some questions to get you started.

Questions to Ask About Features of Board Portals

One of the features that takes away much of the time constraints for the board secretary and board chair is the ability to create board books in preparation for meetings as quickly as possible, but board portals can do much more than that. Board portal software includes many features that help the officers and at-large board members conduct board business as well. Ask about these features:
  • Does the portal have a shared calendar for board members?
  • How quickly and easily can the secretary create a board book?
  • Does the software allow board members to use e-signatures?
  • Can board members comment electronically on documents in the portal?
  • Can members share notes about documents and reports with one another?
  • Will board members be able to access the portal offline as well as online?
  • Does the portal have a section for storing documents like agendas, minutes and reports?
  • Can the administrator restrict permissions so that members can only access the parts of the portal that they need?
  • Can the administrator restrict permission by the type of electronic device?
  • Does the portal have private workrooms for committees?
  • Is there a way to create meetings and special events inside the portal?
  • Will the portal perform global searches?
  • Does the portal have a section for storing policies, financials, bylaws, etc.?
  • Does the portal have a place to post articles and news?
  • Does the portal have the capability for administering D&O questionnaires?
  • How can we use features of the portal to help us reach our goals?

Questions to Ask About the Mobility of Board Portals

Nearly everyone these days has a laptop and a cell phone. Many board members also use tablets or computers in shared meeting rooms and hotels. Mobility is an important feature for busy board directors. Here's what you need to know about mobility.
  • Does the software have an app for various types of cell phones and tablets?
  • Is there an extra cost for mobile apps?
  • Is the app intuitive and easy to use?
  • Can users set their preferences for certain applications?
  • What future plans does your company have to improve the mobility of the portal?

Questions to Ask About the User-Friendliness of Board Portals

Board portals have come a long way to making software intuitive and user-friendly. Still, some products are easier to use than others, and this makes directors more inclined to use it, especially if they don't feel particularly confident using technology. Here's what to ask about ease of use:
  • How easy is the portal to use?
  • How easy will it be for board members to get up-to-speed when there are updates and enhancements?
  • Are the workflows consistently designed?
  • How does the product design help users navigate different areas of the portal?
  • What types of board portal training do you provide? Webinars? Group training? Individual training? Videos? Phone support?
  • Will we have access to 24/7 support?
  • When we call, will we get to speak to a person?
  • Will the person we speak to be knowledgeable enough to help us without starting a trouble ticket or having to call us back?
  • Can we get help that is customized to our board needs?
  • What kind of response can we expect if our board takes a drastic change of direction and goals?
  • Has your company won any awards for customer service?

Questions to Ask About the Security of Board Portals

Security should be of great interest to boards of all types. Many different types of industries are regularly being victimized by hackers. Board business is sensitive and board directors should place the highest priority over protecting it. Ask these questions and more about security features:
  • Where does the portal store the data? Onsite somewhere? In the cloud?
  • Is the server shared with other companies? What risks might this pose to our organization?
  • What types of certifications and reports does the data center provide?
  • What physical security measures are in place at the data center site?
  • What are your policies around handling data and keeping information private and secure?
  • How will your company handle a disaster? How long would our portal be inaccessible during a crisis? What is the risk of losing data during a disaster?
  • How robust are the encryption measures?
  • Does your company perform third-party testing on a regular basis? How often?

The Final Wrap-up on Questions to Ask About Board Portal Software

If it seems like the number of questions to ask is overwhelming, it's because your board should want to make the best decision about purchasing a board portal from the start. Shopping for a board portal can be a bit complex and confusing. The more questions you ask, the more you will learn about the useful features that board portals provide.

The questions listed here will help you make the most informed decision about choosing your board portal for your board and stakeholders now and in the future.