Board portals have moved out of the novelty stage and into the necessity stage for most corporations and nonprofit organizations. Organizations that haven’t made the move yet may still be trying to justify the expense and to figure out how to make it work within the budget. The reality is that moving to a board portal will likely save you more than it appears on the surface.
If you’ve done any cursory shopping around for board portals, you’ve probably discovered that you have a few options to consider. You’ve probably also discovered that board portals range from free to reasonable, with a few that you might think are out of your budget. The good news is that all of these options work. The bad news is that not all board portals will give you your money’s worth. Rather than do a feature-by-feature rundown of the various options, let’s take a hard look at what your board needs in a portal and how best to provide it.
What Options Should Boards Be Considering in Implementing a Board Portal?
If you’ve done any online searching at all for a board portal, you’re bound to come up with a few vendors that offer board portals for free. If the word “free” makes you skeptical about getting a basic program that does little more than give you a way to collaborate online, you might be wise to trust your instincts. Free is not necessarily better. In fact, some free board portals don’t have the main features you’ll use most and will likely leave you throwing up your hands in frustration.
The next question that arises is how much you’ll need to spend on a board portal that fits your organization’s needs. Once you’ve decided that free portals can’t provide your board with the tools they need, the next best options are commercial, pre-built board software products and board portal software provided by a board portal service provider.
Commercial Software Board Portal Products
There are a few board portal products out there that you can install on your computer and use as a basic system. They’re sort of a “one and done”-type product. These products may work fairly well initially. However, there are two problems with these types of products. And they’re big ones — governance and security. The financial world is seeing more change in governance than they’ve seen in a long time. A one-time software product has no way of keeping up with governance changes, which means that you’ll just be throwing your money away at some point.
Security is an even larger issue. Data breaches are becoming rampant and boards are accountable for taking adequate measures to protect the company. A software board portal product that doesn’t come with strong security updates is much like having no security at all.
It won’t take too much thought to realize that the risks in not keeping pace with governance and security aren’t worth any amount of cost savings. So, for organizations that have qualified staff, what about just building something from the ground up, using their own in-house IT personnel?
Pros and Cons of Building an In-house Board Portal
Smaller organizations may not have qualified people with enough expertise in IT to build a portal for use. Organizations that can build their own systems will also find that they’re not really cost-effective either. Here’s why:
On the plus side, an in-house IT expert can probably put together a reasonably good portal. They might even be able to tailor a few features to the organization’s needs. So, let’s look at the things they can’t do and the things that are impractical for them to do. This is truly where the rubber meets the road, proving how using a full-service board portal product backed by an expert company saves time and money in the long run.
An in-house IT team already has tasks and priorities that they’re working on. That’s why you’ve hired them. Things like offering support for training such as developing videos, help guides, webinars and online help are bound to be very low priorities for them. IT teams often don’t get to low-priority items at all. If you’d like them to add a new feature like an enhancement to a mobile app, they’ll probably get to it — someday.
Security is also an issue when using in-house IT teams. It’s true that they’ll have a higher level of security than a free or one-time commercial software product. Where the costs start to add up is in maintaining the level of security standards to stay ahead of hackers trying to break into systems. Most in-house IT teams won’t highly prioritize things like conducting technical and security audits on the board portal with any kind of regularity. Don’t forget that if security is lax, the board is still responsible.
Having a problem with your portal off-hours? Sorry, your in-house team has left for the weekend.
The Most Cost-effective Option Is a Board Portal Product Backed by Quality Service
The bottom line is that no cost savings is worth implementing a portal that doesn’t provide all that your board needs. To save you money, your board portal needs to do much more than save you time and money on producing and shipping board books. Let’s look at all the ways that a total board portal solution can curb your budget for conducting board business.
A board portal service takes care of ongoing maintenance issues. They even answer your questions around the clock, every day of the year. Board portal specialists know that their customers want various training methods, so you can usually take a webinar, watch a video or get 1:1 training any time your board members need it.
What about those two problems of governance and security? Board portal specialists stay up-to-date on the latest governance issues. They’ll be offering you updates and enhancements before you discover that you need them.
Board portal companies also take on the liability for their software. This means that they take security seriously. In most cases, they’ll perform regular technical and security audits and penetration testing to make sure your board business remains only your business.
What Are the Costs of a Board Portal Service Provider?
Board portal system providers charge an annual subscription fee. This means that you’ll know upfront how much you need to put in your budget to cover your portal, including all the updates, training, enhancements and security measures that come with it. The cost for your budget is “one and done” while the board portal service provider lets you conduct business securely and without risk of interruption. The only other cost is the cost of internal resources that you need to operate the system.
Most companies say that the actual cost of using a board portal is about the same as that of not having one. The true cost-effectiveness comes from the standpoint of efficiency.
Your board members are busy people with limited time for conducting board business. They need the right tools to do their job. If they serve on another board that uses a quality board portal service provider, you stand the risk of losing quality board members if they get frustrated with using an inefficient, outdated manual system.
Overall, the benefits of a board portal service provider are worth any increase in cost, so you are still ahead money-wise by switching to one. Count the cost savings and the total savings in efficiency, and you may find that a board portal service provider fits your budget nicely.
See how BoardEffect can help provide you with the highest level of security and improve your board’s governance while offering an affordable solution for your board of directors.