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.

Introducing OnBoard

OnBoard is a comprehensive and secure board management platform that helps you govern more effectively. To have better, more strategic meetings. It drives real-time collaboration and helps you accomplish more outside the boardroom. Join more than 2000+ global companies who are already using our platform to run their business.

OnBoard-Comp-White
OnBoard Presents

Everything You Need to Know About Board Portals

Board Portal Features & Capabilities

Key Board Portal Features

Zoom Integration

The Zoom integration enables directors and CEOs to meet face-to-face directly within the platform. No need to switch between apps.

Secure Messenger

OnBoard Messenger allows the board to quickly start individual or group conversations.

Dashboard Homepage

The Dashboard is the personalized homepage for every organization. Quickly examine upcoming meetings, with instant one-touch access to supplementary materials and announcements.

Notes & Annotations

Your review is aided by built-in annotation tools to mark up your book. You can highlight, draw, or create a sticky note. And your notes always stay in sync between devices.

Presenter Mode

When guiding a meeting or showing your board materials for others to see, you can easily hide your personal notes and annotations.

Group 5

Surveys

Create a board evaluation survey, find out member availability, settle on a meeting location. Collect any opinion or preference from the board.

News & Announcements

If an important policy is changed or meeting is rescheduled, communicate with the whole board or individual committees with targeted announcements.

Auto-Save

Multiple people can collaborate together when the agenda is being created. The board book builds and updates in real-time. Never lose your work. Never over ride a previous version.

Engagement Analytics

Engagement Analytics prepares directors to better engage with board materials before meetings. Providing unique insights into your meeting.

eSignatures

Upload the document that needs a signature and directors immediately receive a notification that a signature is pending, and with just one click they sign their name.

Minutes Builder

Unify your workflow by making minutes directly within OnBoard. Effortlessly take notes, create tasks, track attendance, and mark motions as the meeting progresses.

D&O Questionnaires

Make minutes directly within OnBoard. Effortlessly make notes, create tasks, track attendance, and mark motions.

Meeting Briefs

An intelligent email alerts attendees when they are invited to a meeting, coaching them on next steps and how to better prepare for their meeting.

Multi-Board Support

Directors often sit on more than a single board. OnBoard allows directors to quickly move between organizations.

Search

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

Voting and Approvals

Govern from anywhere. Amend the annual budget, update the bylaws, any board actions can be voted on directly within OnBoard.

Task Management

Manage, organize, and track your most important action-items happening throughout your meeting cycle. 

Book Builder

The agenda and meeting builder is a drag and drop, every file-type enabled, template powered, cloning capable, document organizing, decision tracking, powerhouse.

Intuitive Design

OnBoard was created with the guidance of real board members. That's why directors with limited experience using technology find it so easy and natural to use – it was made just for them.

Bulk User Creation

Get your organization up and running in just minutes. Simply import a CSV file and OnBoard will instantly populate all of your end users.

Device Agnostic

Anywhere, anytime, and on any device: web app, iPhone, iPad, laptop, Kindle Fire, and Windows Surface.

Unlimited Resource Center

All your key documents are always one click away. Finding exactly what you need is easier than ever.

Offline Access

Work online or off. When there’s no internet you can still access all your board materials. Once you’re back on wifi, all your work will instantly syncs.

iOS Hand-Off

Pick up where you left off on iPhones, iPads, and Macs. OnBoard can seamlessly transfer exactly what you were working on from one device to another.

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 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.

Security Features & Credentials To Look For

Azure Security

OnBoard offers the gold standard in Cloud Security: Microsoft Azure. Delivering full disaster recovery & active geo-replication. It's just part of our security first mindset, so you can be sure your board materials are completely private.

Two-Factor Authentication

With two-factor authentication, your OnBoard account can only be accessed by verifying your identity using a second method, separate from your password.

Granular Permissions

Granular access controls allow you to set who has access to board materials and communications. Every item in your board book can be quarantined for those pesky conflicts of interest.

Ecrypted

The strongest standard in the board portal industry – our data centers utilize industry leading RSA 4096 bit encryption for data in transit between a user’s device and at rest.

Remote Wipe

Remote Wipe provides a contingency plan for your organization if a board member’s mobile device is lost or stolen. Quickly remove any stored data from the device to further protect your organization’s information.

Idle Wipe

As older devices find their way into junk drawers, OnBoard ensures those devices are wiped of sensitive data. When a user goes 90 days without connecting to the internet, the OnBoard app will delete all locally stored information.

Biometric Security

The strongest security available! Never worry about forgetting your password. Simply login Touch ID or Face ID on your iOS device.

Compliance & Records

Control how your organization handles sensitive data. You can automatically purge all notes and annotations when board books are archived.

Soc II WhiteCreated with Sketch.

ISO 27001 Certified

Our world-class security program and infrastructure is ISO 27001 certified, ensuring information assets such as financial data, intellectual property, and employee details are safe and secure.

SOC 2 Certified

Our procedures, controls and security practices have been audited by outside firms with a focus on our availability, security, privacy, confidentiality.

GDPR Compliant

OnBoard is compliant with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). It's part of our commitment to protecting the privacy of our customers around the world.

HIPAA Compliant

We know that healthcare providers experience frustration when selecting and adopting cloud solutions. That's why we've invested heavily into maintaining complete HIPAA Compliance.

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

Ready-To-Find-Out-Where-Meetings-Are-Going
Ready to Find Out Where Boards Are Going?

Talk to a board intelligence expert.