January 10, 2018
Dee Sicklesteel

Assessing a board portal in 2018: three questions to guide you

Selecting a board portal is an important decision. It not only supports a functional need for your organization but also sends a message to your board. Your choice reflects who you are: your values and your decision-making.

There is a lot of choice. The board portal market has matured over the last several years, bringing new offerings. As Gartner pointed out in 2014, however, the similarity of board functions leads to similar portal features. It can be difficult to differentiate options, and pricing can mislead – paying more does not always get you more.

Whether you are selecting board portal software for the first time or re-evaluating your current portal, you want to receive the best value. Since we published our free board portal buying guide, we’ve received a lot of feedback about its usefulness. The guide offers a simple ten-point checklist that helps you evaluate your options. We also heard what really matters once organizations start using a board portal. Here are three questions to assess any board portal today:

Does it empower your administrator?

Your board portal should be designed to give your administrator confidence. It should shave days off the time it takes to compile material, be easy to use, and offer the strongest security. Most solutions provide basic security, but you need to know about the extras, such as choice of location for data hosting and processes in emergencies. If a director loses a mobile device, can the data be instantly deleted?

Administrators are trusted employees. They have been trusted for years with their board’s secure documentation, and that doesn’t need to change. Administrators should have self-serve features, without having to contact the vendor, such as:

  • Add a new contact
  • Upload all material
  • Adjust license assignment
  • Run reports

How supportive is “support”?

Your efficiency will be closely tied to the quality of support. As well, each of your directors’ satisfaction with the board portal – and with your organization – will be connected to the quality and timeliness of support. Questions to ask about support include:

  • How quickly does someone answer requests? What does 24/7 truly mean?
  • Where is the call center located?
  • How personal and dedicated is the service? Is it a relationship, not a line-up?

Training is critical both to adoption and continued use. Ongoing training for new directors should always be included as part of the pricing. As well, you want to ensure that the training has different types of resources, including one-on-one options. Not all directors are created equal. Some will take to an online platform immediately while others have questions. The last thing you want is a frustrated director because of a lack of personal support.

What is your total cost of ownership?

The two main reasons to purchase a board portal are security and efficiency. Your total ROI will be tied to how well the details of your solution support these two areas on an ongoing basis – and how much they truly cost.

Watch for hidden costs. Pricing should be transparent and not involve additional costs for such things as adding groups or committees, adding administrators, ongoing training for all levels of user, or mobile apps.

Evaluate ease-of-use. Directors today are far more tech-savvy than they were in the past. While they will expect a simple interface, they do desire and require tools that help them come to the boardroom prepared – regardless of whether they are using a laptop or mobile device. Online and offline access is expected in today’s paperless world.

Finally, consider innovation. At Aprio, we commit research and development resources every year to our product. Since releasing one of the first board portals in 2004, we have continued to solicit product feedback, talk to directors, and ensure that ongoing user insights fuel product enhancements. You want to commit to a provider who will listen to you – and have the skill to act on recommendations.

Your experience with a current board portal can help you answer these questions. You can also gain insight from vendor websites and demos. To fully navigate your board portal assessment, incorporate the following:

  1. Use our free board portal buying guide to evaluate the top ten feature sets you should compare.
  2. Talk to customers! Ask for customer references and/or call customers listed on vendor websites.
  3. Ask vendors tough questions. Doing your research will arm you with information about the details that truly matter.

If you have questions, we’re always ready to help. Contact us any time for a demo.

Download the free Board Portal Buying Guide.

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