The Buyer’s Guide to Board Portal Software

If you’ve recently decided to implement board portal software, or are thinking about replacing an existing solution, this article is designed to help you make an informed decision and choose a platform that will ensure your board works more efficiently, productively and securely.

1.November 2022
Written by Admincontrol

In particular, it will help you understand: 

  • What a board portal can do for your organisation  
  • What features and functionality you should be looking for in a board portal platform  
  • What questions to ask a potential supplier  
  • How to establish a supplier’s credibility  

Armed with this information, you’ll be in the right position to review the market, choose a solution that’s right for your organisation and start taking advantage of all the benefits that a market-leading board portal will bring. 

Specifically, we will cover:  

  • What is board portal software 
  • When board portal software can be used 
  • The board portal features you should expect in your solution 
  • The importance of e-signatures within board portal software 
  • Security considerations for board portal software 
  • Questions you should ask about board portal performance, history and support 
  • Questions you should ask about board portal software usability  
  • Questions you should ask about product roadmaps and updates

What is board portal software?

Board portal software (sometimes known as board management software) provides boards and management teams with a secure digital platform. This can be used for document sharing, collaboration, a historical digital archive and access to board documents online and offline. Board portal or board management software therefore replaces traditional ways of board working characterised by manual paper-based processes, large volume printing and insecure communication via email. 

Board portal software is used most frequently by administrators such as company secretaries and board directors before, during and after board meetings. Such as: 

Before the meeting 

  • To send reminders about meeting time and location, confirm availability, create agendas, compile board packs and upload previous minutes or any other relevant updates since the last board meeting. You can find more about how to organise online and offline board meetings here  

During the meeting 

  • To take minutes within the portal, record votes and decisions, assign actions and set deadlines 

After the meeting 

  • To securely send minutes, facilitate post-meeting sign-off on minutes and decisions via e-signature, set reminders on actions, notify directors of new uploads and enable votes on any business that is still open or requires approval 

Board portal software also enables directors, administrators and the leadership teams they interact with to collaborate more effectively between meetings by accessing confidential company information from anywhere. They can also communicate securely with other directors at any time within the portal, rather than through insecure channels like email.  

This helps boards to prepare for meetings more thoroughly, accelerate their time-to-decision and increase productivity, all of which are vital factors in increasing board efficiency. 

To get a more detailed understanding of what a board portal is and how it can help your board thrive, read our blogWhat is a board portal’.

The board portal features you should expect in your board portal solution

Not all board portals are the same. The level of functionality and features you have will vary according to how advanced your chosen solution is. As a minimum baseline though, you should expect to be able to:  

  • Easily and rapidly create agendas and board packs  
  • Communicate or chat securely (eliminating the need to communicate through apps like Slack)   
  • Create minutes and assign actions 
  • Enable e-signatures for remote sign-off on decisions and minutes

Other useful board portal software features include:
  • Access controls and user permissions  
  • User activity tracking  
  • Approval process and workflow control  
  • Secure document storage and retrieval  
  • Calendar management 
  • Compliance management  
  • Collaboration via commenting and notes 
  • Automated reminders for meetings and actions 
  • Secure file sharing  
  • Offline access 
  • Multi device compatibility  
  • Easy document search and archive 
  • Document version control

The importance of e-signatures within board portal software 

E-signatures are a particularly important feature within board portal software because they enable directors to sign the minutes of board meetings and other corporate documents remotely, securely and in compliance with company and official guidelines. They are also potentially as legally binding as an ink signature – but you do need to make sure the e-signature facility within the board portal you choose has the right measures and features for this to be the case.  

It’s therefore critical to make sure your potential board portal supplier has an appropriate electronic signature solution that facilitates both good governance and efficient board work alongside security and compliance.  

Firstly, you need to find out if the solution allows you to sign the files you typically use, and also if the solution provides an inbuilt automated signature flow. Ease of use is paramount. Does the solution you are using make it easy to prepare documents for signature? Can you sign on any type of device? Does your solution support advanced signature for documents with multiple signers? All these kinds of features are crucial for enabling more efficient working and getting decisions signed-off quickly.  

Secondly, you need to check if your solution complies with regulations in the territories you operate in. Does it comply with the latest eIDAS regulations for Europe, for example?  

There are various solutions and technologies in the market with differing levels of trust and legal force. The Admincontrol solution, for example, includes two options that are both compliant with EU eIDAS standards:  Advanced signature and Limited signature. Read our blog on how esignatures can improve board efficiency here.

Security considerations for board portal software

One of the other most important things that boards need to consider when thinking about buying or using an existing board portal solution is the ongoing threat of cyberattacks, which according to McAfee now cost businesses over $1 trillion annually 

The issue is particularly important for boards because directors and C-level executives are among the favourite targets of malicious hackers, a fact that is not surprising given the highly confidential nature of the information and documents that they work.  

This means that boards don’t just need to consider cybersecurity as part of their corporate risk management agenda – they also need to think about how they are securing their own communication too. 

For this reason, the board portal your organisation adopts should include: 

  • Ringfenced communication via secure communication channels within the portal  
  • Secure storage for all current and historical documents 
  • Electronic signing for remote approval of board documents  
  • Compliance with GDPR  
  • Two Factor Authentication to overcome weaknesses in user passwords and restrict access and ensure stringent user verification  

This latter point – Two Factor Authentication – is particularly important because over the years it has been proven that: 

  • 90% of passwords can be cracked in less than six hours   
  • Two-thirds of people use the same password everywhere  
  • 57% of people who have already been scammed in phishing attacks still haven’t changed their passwords 

Two Factor Authentication helps to solve this problem because it is an additional layer of security used to ensure only authenticated users gain access to an online account. Initially, a user will enter their username and a password as usual. Then, rather than gaining access straight away, they will be required to provide additional information. This second factor could come from one of the following categories:  

  • A code from an Authenticator app on a phone, or a code sent by SMS to a phone 
  • A biometric indicator, like the users fingerprint (Touch ID) or facial recognition (Face ID)  

The effectiveness of these measures is well proven: Microsoft has stated that 2FA is effective at preventing 99.9% of attacks on accounts, and as such it should be a key part of your defence against board level cybersecurity attacks and the protection of critical data held within your board portal.  

Read more on the effectiveness of 2FA here.

Questions you should ask to establish better security measures for board portal suppliers  

When assessing board portal software, it’s also critically important to ask a number of other key questions that will help you establish that the solution you select has the right measures in place to keep important documents and communication secure and safe.  

These questions should include.  

  • Is all data that travels within the portal encrypted?   
  • Where is the data stored?  
  • Are there backup servers? 
  • Has the board portal supplier’s security ever been at risk?   
  • Does the board portal mobile application have a shield against hackers? 
  • How often does the supplier conduct third-party penetration and security testing? 
  • Does the supplier have designated resources for security & privacy?  
  • Is the board portal software regularly audited by independent & respected auditors?  
  • Does the provider have a two-factor authentication log-in system? 
  • Does the portal provide ID based authentication at the highest security level? 
  • Is the board portal fully compliant with the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)?  

The right supplier should be able to provide evidence in the form of accreditations or certifications to give you peace of mind about their processes. They should also be able to tell you how often their systems are audited, by whom and be willing to share those audit reports with you.

Questions you should ask about board portal performance history and support 

Before you decide on a  board portal software provider, it’s also a good idea to read customer reviews and find out what other clients have to say about working with the provider you have in mind. Often this will hinge on the level of support they provide.  

Asking the following questions will also help you evaluate your potential supplier’s overall  performance history. It will also help you establish whether they have been successfully meeting customer expectations over the years.  

  • Does the supplier have reliable and detailed customer references? 
  • What is their customer renewal rate? [Text Wrapping Break] 
  • How long do customers usually have to wait for support calls?
  • What languages do the supplier’s support staff speak? 
  • In what markets does the supplier have local offices?  
  • Can you pay for premium support services? 

Another way to gauge the reputation of a supplier is to look at their awards and accreditations. Do they have any? Which bodies are they from? The more evidence there is of positive feedback from impartial sources, the more chance you will have of making an informed choice that will help you achieve the productivity and efficiency benefits you expect and deserve to gain from your investment. 

Questions you should ask about board portal software usability  

As well as establishing the credentials of your board portal supplier in relation to performance and support, it’s also important to understand how easy the system will be to use for both administrators and board directors in order to drive user acceptance and adoption. 

Board members are extremely busy people – often sitting on several different boards across different geographical locations and time-zones. As such, they are likely to resist a board portal that isn’t intuitive.  

This means it’s also advisable to ask more key questions to establish whether your potential supplier provides the right level of user-friendliness and usability: 

  • Will you or your users have access to support 24/7?  
  • What kind of advanced features do they offer (e-signing, eID, annotation sharing, voting etc)?  
  • Will you be able access and archive confidential documentation, both on and offline?  

Like with most modern technology, it’s likely that a degree of configuration will be necessary to make the platform fit your needs. This means you should also ask any potential suppliers what level of support they’ll provide during setup, whether they provide templates for ease of use, what documentation they have that you can follow and whether regular reviews will be possible in order to continually optimise your system. 

Questions you should ask about product roadmaps and updates 

Any technology you purchase needs to continue to support your business as it evolves. So it’s vitally important that you also make sure that your chosen provider is continuously improving their product based on customer feedback and industry needs.  

This means you should also take the time to Look at your potential supplier’s product roadmap to see where it is heading. Will it work for you long term? What features are they planning to add in the future? When they implement those new features, will they warn you before the update happens? And if your business grows, will the board portal be scalable in a way that will grow with you? 

There are some more key questions you should ask about your provider`s flexibility and their ability to support and adapt to your needs long term:  

  • Does the supplier have an in-house team that is big and dedicated enough to develop the application?  
  • What sort of training will your company get during the process?  
  • Will you get a contact person you can reach out to?[Text Wrapping Break] 
  • How many languages does the solution support?[Text Wrapping Break] 
  • Do they warn users before implementing updates?  
  • What supporting documentation do they provide? 

The right supplier should be open about their development plans, willing to listen to feedback and prepared to work collaboratively with their customers to decide what improvements to prioritise. 

Find out more 

Modern board portal software is a must-have for organisations that want to improve the efficiency and quality of senior level communications while saving time, money and keeping confidential documents secure.  

Asking the questions outlined in this article will help you to establish whether your chosen supplier will be able to meet all these requirements and help you achieve the right level of ROI.  

The answers you receive will provide an excellent indication of whether the solution and the provider is good for you both now and in the long term. 

To see a board portal platform in action, request your demo here. You can also read more about how you can ensure the success of your board via our ultimate guide to efficient boards:

Download the ultimate guide to modern board efficiency