Not all board management software tools are made the same. Here are some key differences.
Boards need to meet to get things done, whether they’re advocating for financial institutions, health care organizations, universities, nonprofits, corporations, or governmental bodies. Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve all learned to change, adapt, and adjust to meeting on computer screens, smartphones and mobile tablets.
Will online board meetings become the new norm for the foreseeable future? Probably, especially in light of the recent surge in Delta-variant COVID cases, the raging public debate over who got vaccinated versus who didn’t, and a renewed interest by boards of all types to create better solutions for managing their meetings during normal times, and not-so-normal times.
In the past year, your board probably conducted a meeting virtually over Zoom or some other platform. You may have even tried a board portal or board management software to organize, execute, and follow up on board meeting tasks. In either case, you more than likely discovered the pros and cons of various board meeting management solutions, and still wonder what’s the best solution.
Board management software can take many forms. We’ll guide you through the unique characteristics of various forms of board management software. Primarily, we’ll examine the pros and cons of:
- Virtual meetings
- Board portals
- Board management software
- Board intelligence platforms, a new solution for board management
Video-conferencing platforms that facilitate virtual meetings, whether via Zoom, Webex, Google Meets, or some other venue, can be considered a form of board management software, as they enable meetings to occur without the board’s physical presence in the room. Downloading an app for a video conferencing platform also takes the least amount of effort by board administrators. It also costs less than facilitating a digital board meeting.
But nothing is as easy as it seems, and conducting board meetings in a virtual format is no exception. Board members may not know how to access your online meeting link, let alone know how to control their microphones, cameras, or backgrounds. Many may also fail to plan for unexpected surprises from their children, pets, and other daily distractions when attending your virtual meeting.
Beyond general user error, virtual meetings also present challenges for boards when it comes to storing board materials with easy access in one central location, or protecting important board documents from cybersecurity threats.
While conducting virtual board meetings during COVID shutdowns — when we had no other choice — definitely kept boards moving forward, the permanence of this solution remains in question. As the country reopens, but with social distancing requirements in place, do you continue meeting over Zoom, or try to create a hybrid meeting environment with both physical and remote participants?
At OnBoard, we believe hybrid meetings create too much inequality in your boardroom, leaving remote board members at a disadvantage. And while virtual meetings allow boards to collaborate in real time, they do little to protect against possible security issues.
Pros of Virtual Meetings:
- Digital presence: Ability to meet to discuss board issues without attending physically.
- Real-time collaboration: Ability to share files, screens, and messages in real time.
- Face-to-face interaction: Ability to read the room, and gauge body language and facial reactions.
- Calendar integration: Ability to sync board calendars and send meeting invites.
Cons of Virtual Meetings:
- “You’re on mute.” Board members resistant to new technology may require training and set-up.
- Security may be an issue, especially for important board documents that require signatures or encryption.
- Nowhere to permanently store board materials. Administrators waste time tracking down documents for board members, who need them now but simply can’t find them.
Board portals represent a step up from virtual meetings, in that they’re specifically designed to house and retain important board meeting documents. A board portal gives administrators and board directors a powerful tool to access meeting materials, communicate with each other, and execute their board duties.
A board portal may consist of a connected system of software platforms, unified for a common purpose. For example, a board may operate its communications and document storage using company or organization-based email plus a shared drive on a dedicated server or storage platform with password-protected access.
A board portal may also be a dedicated software platform designed specifically to optimize board management. They can help to digitize and streamline the board meeting experience, leaving more time for strategic discussions.
Pros of Board Portals
- Dedicated digital curation and/or file storage (Dropbox, Sharepoint, e.g.)
- Dedicated collection of channels, or specific software for board meetings (email, calendar, web conference tools, virtual meeting, PDF readers, storage)
- Document retention and storage
- Password-protected for additional security
Cons of Board Portals
- Multiple channels increase cognitive workload and tasks (Where was the document stored? Who sent the last email? etc.)
- Multiple channels also make accessing board materials from mobile devices difficult.
- Security capabilities are not a holistic feature, as each individual software platform represents an individual vulnerability.
Board Management Software
Dedicated board management software helps organizations create better workflow, allows board directors to collaborate in real time, and provides more stringent security than virtual meetings or simple board portals.
Board management software makes it easier for administrators to upload minutes, distribute reports, compile meeting agendas, publish board books, and schedule board meetings. Directors come better prepared to engage more at every meeting, and they can easily vote within the app, sign documents, or follow up on past items.
According to OnBoard’s Board Effectiveness Survey, 66% of respondents who used board meeting software saw improvements in board collaboration, and 47% spent more time discussing strategic issues.
Pros of Board Management Software:
- Dedicated software/specifically built for board governance
- Reduces multi-channel approach with a single source of truth for all board materials, communication, and resources
- Ease of use (reduces friction and administrative effort)
- Mobile device support (if available)
- Integrates with other apps, systems, and platforms (if cloud-based and product-focused)
- Real-time updates to board materials, and may eliminate paper-based board materials
- Uniform and consistent
- User buy-in, support and training required
Cons of Board Management Software:
- Requires software onboarding and implementation, including training
- Must “lock in” or commit to annual subscriptions, etc.
- More expensive than creating workarounds or DIY approach
Board Intelligence Platforms
Board intelligence platforms represent the pinnacle of an effective board, with every spoke in the wheel working at an optimal level. This new solution for board management combines all the advantages of a board management platform, but takes it to the next level.
Using artificial intelligence (AI) to analyze data, insights and actions, a digital board intelligence platform like OnBoard seamlessly empowers and enables boards to be more effective, more focused, and more secure.
Pros of a Board Intelligence Platform:
- Cloud native and data rich
- Administrative effort minimized
- Scalable across the organization, multiple organizations, or business units
- Proactive, data-based feedback and insights for optimal board performance
- Highly secure and encrypted
- Integrates with other apps, systems, and platforms
- Analyzable and optimizable metrics
- Source of truth/system of record
- Mobile compatible
- Easy-to-use, with minimal training
- Focuses on meeting productivity, deliberation, and decision-making
Cons of a Board Intelligence Platform:
- Requires training and user buy-in
Ready to take your meeting agenda and minutes to the next level? Request a demo or a free trial of OnBoard, the board intelligence platform that empowers boards and committees to hold more effective, informed, and uncomplicated meetings.
About The Author
- 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.