As an ever-increasing number of boards move from paper and free digital sharing solutions and toward purpose-built board meeting software, options abound on the market that can seem to differ wildly in terms of price and the support offered by the vendor. There are some essential features that any portal should offer your organization; make sure you check off these criteria before you settle on any solution. Make a list of the features that your organization cant live without and then schedule demos to really see how the software looks and functions.
Portals, or board meeting management software, deliver the online convenience that directors and administrators demand, but not only are they more secure than email or free file sharing services, they also make it easier to plan meetings, distribute meeting-related materials, and conduct board business such as voting and surveys. These are the essential features that make a board portal worth adopting:
- Instant file delivery: instead of getting tangled up in email chains, administrators can upload files to the portal (instantly converted into PDFs) and share them with the appropriate groups to distribute complete board books with the click of a finger
- Reference materials: administrators can also easily collect links to all of the relevant materials (legislation, bylaws, financial reports, minutes) to items on the meeting agenda through the software, keeping the meeting running on time
- Working offline: the software should allow directors to access materials offline without having to download them to their device (a security risk), especially as more directors want to be able to work while they travel.
In the portal market, a higher price tag does not necessarily mean better performance or suitability for organizations with bigger budgets. A high-quality, affordable portal will work just as well for a large financial institution as it will for a small not-for-profit. The philosophy behind software vendor Aprio, for example, is that all organizations should have the tools to enact good governance. In addition to providing a secure and convenient product, they have also launched a program to award their software for free to a nominated not-for-profit.
Customer support is where so many vendors differ and the better ones distinguish themselves from the crowd, providing close, one-on-one training, live customer support, and ongoing learning programs that keep pace with the changes to their platform. Quarterly webinars are offered by the vendor Aprio to keep their users informed about changes and upgrades to their software, so that directors and administrators always know how to make the most of the technology.
Live, 24-hour customer support is another must-have; while your board may seat certain directors who always seem reluctant to adopt new technology, even the most tech-savvy professional sometimes depends on reliable customer service support to troubleshoot a problem. Nothing can be more frustrating than calling customer support and getting a robot or not being able to find the answer you need; busy directors are just as likely to hang up the phone if support isnt forthcoming. When your organization chooses a portal, make sure you find one thats supported with live, 24-hour customer service.