What is a Board Portal?

Board portals are a secure environment for administrators and board directors to access meeting materials, communicate with each other, and execute their governance responsibilities. By combining new mobile hardware with rapidly improving cloud technology, board management software replaces the old regime of paper, printing, and emails.

To do this, two distinct sets of tools exist, one for the administrative staff who run the entire process behind the scenes and the other for the board members who make the critical decisions. Board management software simplifies every step of the Board Meeting Life-Cycle.

Before The Meeting

  • Before everything gets hectic, administrators can organize information, upload minutes, check director availability, and dynamically update information.
  • As the board or committee date inches closer, reports are distributed to the board. The administrator then compiles that information into an agenda, invites directors, and publishes the board book.
  • Directors receive the board book and begin their review. They can annotate and share their notes, review past materials, reference documents, and chat with their colleagues.

During the Meeting

  • Directors arrive and find there’s no last-minute changes or surprises. The meeting starts, and one-tap navigation between sections keeps the meeting on track.
  • As decisions are made, directors can vote within the app, sign paperwork, set deadlines, assign tasks, and follow up on outstanding questions.

After the Meeting

  • Reminders and notifications provide directors an alert when there are outstanding tasks like a document that needs an eSignature, to cast votes on open approvals, and respond to surveys.
  • Every action, every attendance report, and each upload is tracked to ensure governance compliance.

This workflow, coupled with stringent security measures, is the bare minimum for any solution to be considered board management software. With that in mind, there’s a lot more board management software can and should do. So let’s look specifically at the technology you should expect from any provider.

Passageways Presents

Everything You Need to Know About Board Portals

Board Portal Features & Capabilities

All The Features You Should Expect.

To Make Boards Happy

Notes

Notes & Annotations

To effectively review for the meeting, directors need tools to mark-up their board books with notes, questions, and highlight important information. Those notes should sync to every device so when they leave the office, everything is available right on their smartphone.

eSignature

eSignatures

Board management software should allow directors to govern outside the boardroom. If a document demands a signature, it should provide them all the context they need to make a decision and tap to sign.

Chat 2

Secure Chat

Directors should be able to start a conversation about anything right in the same app that houses the board book – so that when finance committee begins their review, the CFO is just a tap away to answer any questions.

Remote Wipe

Surveys & Questionnaires

Directors should be able to start a conversation about anything right in the same app that houses the board book – so that when finance committee begins their review, the CFO is just a tap away to answer any questions.

offline access

Offline Access

Whether in the air or a thousand miles from land, directors must be able to continue their work and expect their actions and annotations to sync when they re-establish an internet connection.

Multiboard

Multi-Board Support

Directors rarely serve on just a single board, so board management software should allow them to do board work across organizations with a single login.

dashboard

Intuitive Drag & Drop Book Builder

The heart of board management software involves taking all of the disparate report; PDFs, PowerPoints, and Excel sheets, and quickly compiling them into one final document to be shared with the entire board.

Search

Comprehensive Search

Need to find an old board book? Previous minutes? Or just an old note to jog your memory? Search for it.

Timed Meetings

Auto Save

The devastation of losing all your progress is such a heart-wrenching experience. No one should never worry about that with board management software. It should save as you go, so there’s never a risk.

Every Device

Made for Every Device

Directors should be able to read, review, annotate, and chat, on any device they already know how to use. Technology is often a hurdle for this demographic, so placing the additional barrier of learning an entirely new operating system is one step too far.

Global Data

Anywhere Instant Updates

When the CFO sends a revised financial statement the night before the meeting, updating the board book and agenda should be as easy as replacing the file and sending out a brief notification.

2fa

Two-Factor Authentication

Board software should enable organizations to require a second PIN texted to the director’s phone, before regaining access.

face ID

Biometric Security

Only the appropriate members and support staff of the board should have access to the meeting materials. Board software should explicitly require a thumbprint or facial recognition to gain access to materials.

RSVP

Voting & Approvals

Voting from anywhere empowers organizations to safeguard their compliance by keeping digital records of each action the board takes. This provides value when an authorization is on a short deadline and when an action must be taken on a time-sensitive matter.

Resource Folder

Unlimited Resource Folders

Not only should old board books be available for ongoing review, but vital documents like the bylaws, annual financial reports, and committee assignments should be housed within the board software for quick and easy retrieval.

Complete File Support

Every File Should Work

Board management software should never make you stop and ask whether this file will work. Everything –Word documents, PDFs, Excel spreadsheets, PowerPoint decks, Google Docs, YouTube videos, and more should all be able to be dropped right into the agenda and then exported into the master board book.

Let's start a conversation about OnBoard, our Board Portal Solution.

Join a Demo. Start a Trial. Talk to an Expert.

Join a Group Demo

Join us for a free live demo with our solution experts. We'll show you how our customers' love translates into an amazing product.

Start a Free Trial

OnBoard is the only leading board portal that offers a no strings attached free trial, so you know precisely what you’re getting before you fill out any paperwork. There’s no credit card, no commitments.

Talk to a Solution Expert

Our experts are on standby to talk with you right now about how OnBoard will drive value at your board meeting. So let's start a conversation.

What to Look For When Evaluating Board Portals

How to Find the Right Board Portal

Before you purchase a board portal, before you commit your board to a long-term contract, it’s imperative to understand what to look for in a board portal provider and to know which questions to ask as an informed buyer. After all, changing course, particularly in your boardroom, can be extremely taxing. So what should you look for? When searching for a reliable board portal provider, you should examine the robustness of the platform and the years of experience of the vendor (There are also helpful tools available to see whether a board portal is right for your board).

A great platform is defined by its ability to promote collaboration, deliberation, and improve board flow. This is important for a variety of reasons; not the least of which is directors are already pressed for time at board meetings. Consider this excerpt from a report from McKinsey:

“Most boards have about six to eight meetings a year and are often hard pressed to get beyond compliance-related topics to secure the breathing space needed for developing strategy. When we recently surveyed board members to learn where they’d most like to spend additional time, two out of three picked strategy. A related finding was that 44 percent of directors said their boards simply reviewed and approved management’s proposed strategies.”

To truly make room for deliberations, to create a world-class board, you need to ensure your board portal is designed to provide directors more time to hold strategic discussions. That means efficiency is key. In particular, the speed that you build a book and the way you access and securely prepare for the meeting should result in real-time savings. When done right, the platform should allow for collaborative board meeting preparation. It should also provide directorship immediate access to review information or last-minute updates anywhere, on any device, so you’re ready to hit the ground running when the meeting begins.

Your board portal must ensure that the meeting is productive, Board book access is intuitive, archives are accessible, meeting actions such as votes can be taken, minutes entered, eSignatures penned, that time is measured to guarantee you have devoted time to strategic deliberations.

Finally, a board portal should ensure your company sees a tangible Return on Investment. That occurs not only through time-savings, printing declines, and labor savings, but also by ensuring your board is more prepared to more informed discussions leading to better governance outcomes. A board portal should facilitate strategic discussions, and move your board away from the operational meetings.

A truly collaborative experience, however, hasn’t come naturally to the board portal space. Wedded to old technology, most platforms were never engineered to take advantage of cloud-first technology.

Board Portal Security

Board Portal Security

There may be no more significant an asset than the trust of ones customers. Reputation. That’s why it’s surprising that people frequently underestimate the value of security – reputation. Because the unauthorized release of confidential board information can instantly impact an organization’s financial position and brand.

For example, a survey by Javelin Strategy & Research reported that 25% of consumers would seek to sever business ties if an organization’s data was breached. Add in the opportunity cost of lost acquisitions and legal actions, and not only is your reputation in shatters, but so is your business.

The security of board materials is often a blind spot for organizations before looking at board management software. They know security is important but not how or why. Many teams under-appreciated just how risky email and file sharing remain, especially for documents containing sensitive information.

Whether it’s an email breach or a hacker tricking a hapless person into giving them their password, there are major information security vulnerabilities across thousands of organizations that aren’t taken seriously until it’s too late.

That’s why when you’re evaluating providers, several questions need to be answered about their infrastructure, data integrity, external audits, and their security teams.

  • Encryption. There are two central types of encryption buyer’s need to be aware of: how data is stored when no one is accessing it (at-rest encryption), and how data is encrypted when it’s sent from the server to a device (in-transit encryption). What you’re looking for from a board software provider is data that’s encrypted with RSA 4096-bit standard in transit and AES-256 encryption for data at rest.
  • Infrastructure & Cloud Security. The infrastructure that delivers data over the cloud is vital to keeping your secure. Broadly, board management software is built upon either a major cloud provider or the vendor creates and hosts their own data-centers. Major cloud providers include Microsoft Azure, the gold-standard in cloud-security and Amazon Web Services (AWS). Think of Azure the enterprise-grade provider, the Microsoft team is laser focused on keeping secure and without breach. While AWS is focused on start-ups and consumer needs. Finally, a vendor created cloud should raise warning flags – there’s no way to tell who or what has access to your data, no way to verify the security. Worst of all, if the vendor built their own data centers, it will by design be more expensive – there’s no scale. Be wary, you don’t want to pay more for less security.
  • Data Replicability and Integrity. A significant problem faced by on-premises installations is the threat of lost data. Whether a flood takes out a server or a power-surge wipes a hard drive, data backups are central to maintaining a permanent record of board activity. That’s why buyers should look for providers who regularly replicate data in a secondary region. That could mean having a server in New York and Chicago or L.A. and Berlin. The overarching goal is to keep the data geographically dispersed so that an isolated disaster doesn’t become a crisis for your compliance.
  • Penetration Testing. Vendors hire outside firms to do something called ethical hacking. They ask the firms to see if they can get into their systems and breach dummy data. Any vendor worth their salt will have at least an annual penetration test performed to guarantee their systems are secure.
  • External Audits. It’s critical that any vendor you select has undergone extensive external audits. Those audits are conducted by third-party providers and look at the procedures, controls, and security practices of the board management software firm. They focus on availability, security, privacy, confidentiality, and system integrity. The gold-standard is a SOC 2 certification that assures buyers the product will meet their compliance or IT governance requirements. However, you should ask any vendor about a range of compliance standards including, GLBA, FERPA, HIPAA, FISMA, ISO 27001/27002, SOC 2, SOC 3, SSAE 16/ISAE 3402. All those letters and numbers mean the vendor has opened their processes up for external review and has therefore proven that its system is designed to keep its clients’ sensitive data secure over time.
  • People. The effectiveness of any security system cannot rise above the integrity and ethical values of the people who create, administer, and monitor them. Integrity and ethical values are essential elements of any security environment, affecting the design, administration, and monitoring of other components. It means that management has considered and removed incentives and temptations that might prompt personnel to engage in dishonest, illegal, or unethical acts.

The security of a vendor is a critical part of your evaluation cycle. Research, ask pointed questions about their encryption, their audit history, and how well their employees understand their responsibility to be effective stewards of information security.

The History of Board Portals

History of Board Software

The history of board portals is defined by three distinct generations. At the onset of the digital age, organization began sharing their board materials over the internet. As security concerns grew more pressing, second generation board portals were engineered to securely facilitate the creation and distribution of the board books. And as the cloud became sophisticated enough to host technology in a more accessible, user-friendly, and secure way, third generation board portals were engineered to make meeting better.

1st Generation Board Portals

Long gone are the days of printed documents, FedEx couriers, and endless filing cabinets. Replaced by the glow of a computer’s screen.

In the wake of this technological disruption, the first generation of meeting solutions were born. They were basic communication platforms: A simple way for board professionals to facilitate important communications between directors and the company, moving board work from paper to the digital realm by leveraging email and file- sharing sites to communicate with the board of directors.

At their core, the purpose is to take advantage of digital’s increased efficiencies, communications, and convenience. Through these first-generation solutions, documents are compiled and sent to directors via non-secure digital channels. Administrators export all materials to PDFs, bundle them as attachments, and point the directors to the right location. Some organizations compile each document into one large PDF. For the variety of platforms boards utilize for this initial digital transition, none are designed for the work of committees or a board of directors. Instead, they are platforms for sharing digital documents to directors.

While Generation 1 covers a variety of services, at their heart they are digital platforms that enable distribution of materials like Dropbox, file sharing, SharePoint, email attachments, and homebrew solutions.

2nd Generation Board Portals

Engineered with being a ‘secure board book compiler’ as their top priority, second generation board portals are purpose-built for a board of directors, and they streamline the creation and distribution of meeting materials as their primary objective.

Yet, their primary functionality is still in service of creating board books and securely delivering them to directors. Mimicking paper, the design of the interface was copied directly from the real world.

Yet, their primary functionality is still in service of creating board books and securely delivering them to directors. Mimicking paper, the design of the interface was copied directly from the real world.

Yet, their primary functionality is still in service of creating board books and securely delivering them to directors. Mimicking paper, the design of the interface was copied directly from the real world.

A central feature of Second Generation Board Portal technology is how they are created and hosted. Most portal providers that started in early 2000s were designing software for on premise hosting. These implementations have since given way to a vastly superior method to engineer software using the Single Tenant Cloud based architecture.

The key benefit of this cloud architecture is not just that it’s efficient to have a single edition that everyone accesses, but that it’s less costly, engineered for all browsers and devices, superior in its redundancy and availability, and more secure. While all significant selling points of the Cloud, the key benefit is the agility that comes with a cloud based set up. The providers that are of “Cloud First-Mobile First” can update faster, experiment faster, innovate faster, and react to security threats and user preferences much faster.

3rd Generation Board Portals

What really separates Third Generation Board Portals from legacy platforms is that once in the hands of users, the Cloud allows Gen 3 providers to get feedback from actual users faster, so they can iterate on that knowledge and make the product better, faster. These providers incorporate a “build-measure-learn” loop, adopting a faster, more agile product development methodology.

The core collaboration improvements enable as many people as necessary to work together to create and distribute board material. An administrator in Chicago and their CFO in New York can update the board book simultaneously. One striking example is when a director takes notes on their iPhone, it immediately syncs to the cloud, seamlessly appearing on their desktop.

Leveraging the cloud, Gen 3 board portals are available on every device and platform (iOS, Android, Windows, MacOS, Kindle Fire). This provides directors the opportunity to use any downtime to continue their review on their own terms on their favorite device. This translates in real-time workflows. Administrators are able to publish parts of the board book, and directors can receive notifications and immediately review material. Once they get to the meeting, that additional preparation pays dividends.

Gen 3 board portals offer a suite of real-time tools that can be leveraged during a meeting. Approvals can be conducted directly through the board portal platform, creating an immediate record of every decision. Minutes can be immediately linked to the board portal without any additional steps.

Simply put, cloud-first engineering opens up possibilities that were unheard of for second generation board portals. The agility and collaboration benefits of the cloud changed the course of board meeting solutions.

How to Find The Best Board Portal Providers

Finding a Board Software Provider

Experience should speak for itself. After all, you are trusting a company to handle your most sensitive materials. Those providers with long-term partnerships across a variety of industries have the credibility to prove they won’t compromise your materials and will always be around to take your call.


Credibility is also derived from vendors who work overtime to ensure you have access to the most widely read experts on board governance. You should look for a vendor that not only provides a great product, but one that ensures continuous learning activates from the most reliable voices in board meeting execution.


Credibility is also derived from the number of years a provider has spent delivering on their promises across a variety of categories: support, training, and customer success. These are the questions you should ask to find the best possible vendor:


Does the vendor offer 24/7 technical support that you can always speak with no matter where you live? Is this support being delivered through an outsourced ven
Ask about training materials, keeping in mind that everyone learns differently:
Do they provide hands-on training for new directors and administrators?
Do they offer a robust library of training materials including guides, and videos?
Is there built-in training on the platform, as it can get embarrassing to request for downstream questions?
Are both guided and self-taught training option available to every member on my team?


Finally, does the vendor offer your organization a dedicated, named account manager who knows when your next meeting will occur, and is prepared to help in every way possible? Do they provide a relationship with an individual who will always be around, who knows each member of your board (if you wish), and how to best instruct them? A reliable account manager will be there to answer any questions and will be invested in your organization as the main point of contact for supporting your board.


Those aren’t easy criteria to meet, especially for cloud-first providers just entering the scene. You can’t trust your board documents to a platform that may not be solvent—that may vanish into the night like a fleeting side project. This is particularly vital for a platform for board meetings. Demand a provider that has a track record, a history of delighting their customers, and one that you’re certain will be around for the long-haul.

Introducing OnBoard

OnBoard

Board Management Software

OnBoard combines powerful engineering with clear insights into how real boards work. The result is board software with unrivaled ease of use and versatility that makes boards happy.

Master iPad Com@2x

The People Have Spoken

And Voted OnBoard #1. Everywhere.

AppStore Standalone 1

Winner of Governance & Compliance Solution

Leader in Board
Management Software

Easiest to Use
Board Software

Board Management
Market Leader

Top Rated Board
Management App

Designed For Directors

To Make Your Board Happy

Let's start a conversation.

Join a Demo. Start a Trial. Talk to an Expert.

Join a Group Demo

Join us for a free live demo with our solution experts. We'll show you how our customers' love translates into an amazing product.

Start a Free Trial

OnBoard is the only leading board portal that offers a no strings attached free trial, so you know precisely what you’re getting before you fill out any paperwork. There’s no credit card, no commitments.

Talk to a Solution Expert

Our experts are on standby to talk with you right now about how OnBoard will drive value at your board meeting. So let's start a conversation.

Live OnBoard Group Demo

We invite you to join us for a live group demo of OnBoard. Ask questions, see OnBoard for yourself.