Board Portal vs. Board Management: What’s the Difference?

  • By: OnBoard Meetings
  • July 30, 2021
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A secure board portal certainly makes it easier for administrators and board directors to access meeting materials, communicate with each other, and execute their governance responsibilities.

Board portals help corporations, nonprofits, universities, hospitals, and other organizations replace the old, laborious regimen of paper, printing, and emails prior to, during, and after a board meeting, with a more efficient and manageable process using new mobile hardware and rapidly improving cloud technology.

But is a board portal the same thing as board management? Not exactly. 

Board management is what drives an organization forward. Board directors take action to establish a mission, set strategy, collaborate with company leaders, and exercise accountability. A board portal is merely a tool (albeit a useful one!) to make all of that happen in the most efficient way possible.

Why Board Portals are Beneficial to Good Board Management

Board portals simply allow busy administrators and board directors to say goodbye to paper-based media, outdated processes, and inefficient technology — and hello to a new generation of board governance solutions. Better workflow. Stringent security. Real-time collaboration.

For administrators, board management software makes it easier to upload minutes, distribute reports, compile meeting agendas, publish board books, and invite directors. For directors, it means they arrive better prepared for the board meeting with convenient access to more information at their fingertips, and they can easily vote within the app, sign documents, or follow up on previous discussions. 

Serving on a board and providing good board management can be quite demanding, especially when balancing other commitments and responsibilities in the community, at work, or at home. Consider, for a moment, the three legal requirements for any board of directors: 

  1. Duty of Care (protect all assets)
  2. Duty of Loyalty (act in the best interest)
  3. Duty of Obedience (follow all laws and regulations)

Essentially filling important fiduciary and legal roles for an organization, a board of directors must also advocate for its mission, help guide the day-to-day operations, and strategize for the future. We demand quite a lot from our governing boards!

How Board Portals Assist Board Management, but Don’t Replace It

Most board directors like to be prepared, and they need access to the right board materials at the right time to participate most effectively. While the COVID-19 shutdowns forced many of us to change the way we do business — or put us out of business entirely — some organizations found success through digital board portals or board meeting software

Digital boards make it easy for staffers to find and compile the information they need, or direct board members on where to find it, in one central hub. According to OnBoard’s Board Effectiveness Survey, some even discovered a few unanticipated advantages when using board meeting software, such as:

  • Increased meeting attendance
  • More attendee engagement
  • More evenly distributed interaction 
  • More just-in-time education
  • More participation from committee members and outside guests

According to the survey, 79% of respondents also said their boards saw improved effectiveness in the past 12 months, with 59% citing the shift to remote work as the primary cause. In addition, the survey found:

  • 66% saw improvements in board collaboration.
  • 47% spent more time discussing strategic issues.
  • 57% of respondents used a digital board management platform. Amongst these respondents, 81% indicated their boards improved effectiveness, versus only 58% of those who did not use board management software.

Simply put, a good board management strategy becomes even better with a good board portal.

What to Look for in a Board Portal or Board Management Platform 

Before investing in a long-term contract with a board management software provider, it’s important to know which questions to ask as an informed buyer. Asking your board to change the way they operate by adopting new technology can be quite challenging for some organizations, so strive to make it as simple as possible.

When searching for a reliable board portal provider, the two most important factors to consider are: platform and credibility. A great platform promotes collaboration, deliberation, and improves workflow. Look for a provider with a good reputation and a long track record of providing awesome customer service.

At their core, board portals are dedicated platforms that digitize and streamline the meeting experience. They are designed to:

  • Facilitate the creation and distribution of board materials 
  • Enhance collaboration around meeting logistics 
  • Securely deliver board materials to directors’ devices 
  • Improve directors’ review of board materials 
  • Improve board meetings by streamlining the mundane, leaving more time for strategic discussions 
  • Facilitate important board actions such as voting, minutes approvals, and board assessments

Why Board Portals Won’t Help Without a Sound Board Management Approach

Making a distinction between providing good board management and using the tools offered by a good board portal is important to know for any successful board. The terms aren’t interchangeable. A good board portal assists a sound board management approach, but it can’t replace one that doesn’t exist.

According to the National Council of Nonprofits, good board management practices can’t all be achieved simply with a board portal, but a board portal can assist administrators and directors in carrying out their duties more effectively. The agency says best board management practices include:

  • Accountability
  • Transparency
  • Efficiency
  • Responsiveness
  • Inclusivity
  • Participation
  • A consensus-minded approach

With a cloud-first board portal and completely mobile-compatible platform like OnBoard, you can help board administrators save time assembling relevant board materials, get information to directors faster so they’re better prepared, and create a more effective board with sufficient time to dedicate to real strategic discussions.

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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.