Board Management: Are Free Options Really Free?

  • By: OnBoard Meetings
Free Not Free
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Board Management LessonsAs a society, we are driven to get things done. We enjoy solving problems and finding the methodology to achieve success. However, we don’t always find the best way the first time. Recently, a friend told me she hired a handy man, with little experience in painting, to paint a few rooms in her house. This option was originally selected because it was inexpensive and quick. But in the end, it took an extra three weeks, extra paint, and the quality was just okay – too many brush strokes. She wished she had used a professional who understood the full process, had all the correct tools to do the job quickly, efficiently, and within budget. She reminded me that you get what you pay for, and she wished he would have paid to save her time and protect her home investment.

It is important to remember that time is a limited resource and the cost to protect it is difficult to measure. In business, many of us choose a lower cost, or free option, to complete a task thinking we are saving money. But ultimately, we are spending extra time creating processes and duplicating efforts; saving money means spending our time. This lack of efficiency makes us vulnerable to other unintended consequences that could be potentially harmful and wastes time we could otherwise use to grow the business.

Many businesses use several systems to help with board management. They select free tools or ones not designed with the business problem in mind. They start throwing company data into cloud solutions designed for file backup (not sharing). Then they’ll instruct the user to leverage a combination of personal email and E-readers only making the entire process more convoluted. These actions are putting companies at a far greater risk than many may realize.

Think about it. Does your company really want the board materials, containing all of your organization’s very sensitive information, sitting in a DropBox folder next to a director’s summer vacation photos? What happens if they accidentally leave their E-reader, with all those files, sitting somewhere? How much time will be lost trying to mitigate this loss? Worse, what happens when that data is now in the wrong hands? How much risk could you expose your company too?

There has to be a better way. OnBoard.

A well organized board portal such as OnBoard is a complete system that gives you peace of mind knowing your data is only being seen by those you want, is protected, easy to update in real time, and gives you and your organization added efficiency that can only come from the experience of understanding the true board meeting process.

When looking at electronic board solutions, ask yourself these questions to see if the solution is safe, reliable, and saves you time.

1) Does the solution understand the process of creating, distributing and reviewing board materials?

A basic cloud system is nothing more than a document bank to store data and dispense it accordingly. And E-readers are not made to handle dense material where there needs to be running notes or search critical information within the document.

Creating a board packet (or a board book) using several files often in varying formats such as Word, PDF, Excel, and PowerPoint are never easy. There are several free tools that your Executive Assistant or Board Secretary may use, but these tools mimic the hassle of the traditional paperboard book process. They do not capitalize on the efficiencies of the digital world, and for the director, the limited ability to navigate minimizes the effectiveness of content review. If an update is needed, the entire process starts over – for everyone. In addition, let’s think about the director. Once they receive the information, they must cycle through data from their email or E-reader, such as Goodreader, and begin the burden of managing data and a process that they don’t have time to manage.

OnBoard was built to address the business problems of both administrators and directors. The web application provides a sequential method for the administrators to create meetings, build the meeting agenda, attach all materials and distribute them rapidly, all while allowing for future edits and changes. For the director, the iPad app gives them the ability to always know they have the latest materials. Our annotation tools and offline access allows them to work when and how they choose while doing it in a secure manner.

2) Does the solution provide the security needed for your organization?

Free cloud storage can be a major security risk. You are giving all of your sensitive information over to providers such as Dropbox or They were designed as systems to backup data not distribute it securely to an audience. They also have limited contractual obligation to protect your data. In fact, there are several examples of data loss with no repercussion. Also, these large systems are regularly targeted and at a greater risk of being hacked.

Turning our attention to the E-readers, they are not built to read secure documents and have no methods to help these secure materials remain privileged. Imagine the PR nightmare that may ensue if some information were to be compromised. OnBoard’s layered approach to security provides protection of your information with world-class data centers, data encryption in transit and at rest, and mobile security, just in case you lose the device.

Please request our full security information.

3) Does the solution limit liability?

It is important that you control who can access the information you send out. Using a free concoction of tools, not meant to be used for specific business purposes, can often expose you unsuspectingly. For example, how would you limit access to board members that have a potential conflict of interest? The process would be to create several digital versions. But, how easy it that to manage?

OnBoard understands the challenges faced by administrators to limit their corporate liability. Managing the system makes it easy to provide a clean copy of the book to auditors and examiners for compliance regulation. In addition, the access model allows you to give permission to the meeting materials down to a section level so you can exclude any board members with a conflict of interest and all notes are private so there is no chance to share this confidential information. OnBoard was built with limiting liability in mind.

Passageways understands the expectations you have for your organization and provides specific industry desired tools that help with your board management. With 400+ customers teaming with Passageways and over 50 now using our new solution, OnBoard is well worth considering as you think about running a professional board meeting!

Want to know how we compare to alternative solutions? Click to see how OnBoard compares to paper or even email.

About The Author

OnBoard Meetings
OnBoard Meetings
At OnBoard, we believe board meetings should be informed, effective, and uncomplicated. That’s why we give boards and leadership teams an elegant solution that simplifies governance. With customers in higher education, nonprofit, health care systems, government, and corporate enterprise business, OnBoard is the leading board management provider.