Trends in Board Portal Adoption

Corporations and other organizations have adopted board portal technology, as features like file sharing and secure messaging make digital platforms invaluable to board members, corporate secretaries and executive management teams.

Now, a report from online publication Corporate Secretary provides new insight into just how extensive this trend has become. Based on a survey of 300 corporate executives from both publicly held and private companies, “Trends in Board Portal Adoption” explores the advantages of board portal platforms, users’ impressions of the technology, and why companies from Allstate to Microsoft have jumped on board.

Board Portal Users Prioritize Security, Simplification

With so much to offer, board portals appeal to companies for different reasons. According to Corporate Secretary’s report, however, executives’ top priorities are generally aligned.

Board portal users named board material security, along with the ability to simplify the director process and the distribution of board-related materials, as the most important factors in their decision to use the technology. “Advanced board portal collaboration software provides a secure data environment with control over distribution, access and record retention/destruction consistent with an organization’s policies and compliance requirements,” the authors of the report wrote.

Although the cost savings associated with eliminating paper materials does play a part as well, executives value the time-saving and meeting efficiency benefits of this digital technology even more. Users told Corporate Secretary that they expect their board portal to include features like messaging, scheduling and note-taking — all in a secure environment.

“Other methods of digital document distribution cannot match the controlled collaboration environment offered by board portal technology,” noted the report, which included commentary from Jonathan Kuai, the general counsel and corporate secretary for Korn Ferry. As Kuai pointed out, board portals help companies ensure that the most sensitive materials remain secure. “Think of the old days,” he said, when “you’d hand out paper board books and were never sure where all the paper would go.”

Remote Participation Makes Board Portals a Must

It stands to reason that the use of a board portal would impact meeting participation. When you make board books and related meeting materials easily accessible to directors through desktop computers, tablets and smartphones, they can do their part whether they’re at corporate headquarters or halfway around the world.

That’s important, because geographic diversity of board members and remote participation in board meetings are both on the rise. According to the report, 33 percent of respondents said that at least one board member participates remotely a quarter of the time, while 20 percent of executives said that remote participation occurs at about half of their meetings. Meanwhile, more than 30 percent of surveyed executives said that a quarter of their board members don’t reside in the city in which their organization is based.

In a case study related to the report, Brian Sandstrom, executive counsel for General Electric, emphasized the role that board portals play in this trend. Sandstrom told Corporate Secretary that when it comes to the monumental task of successfully distributing current board materials to traveling board members while coordinating shipping schedules with their varied itineraries, he “can’t imagine people doing it without a board portal.”

Automation and the Need for Speed

Board secretaries may be switching from manual to automated processes, but one thing that hasn’t changed is their need for workflow speed. This is another area in which board portals excel. More than half of survey respondents said that compiling the contents of their board books typically takes days, if not weeks, but the Corporate Secretary survey noted that the process of distributing and archiving those materials is much faster with automated board portal technology.

Adopting a board portal can improve workflow speeds so effectively that administrators can create a board book in mere minutes (this Diligent video demonstrates how). Once a book is published, it becomes a framework for future books, thus streamlining the board book creation process in perpetuity.

“Shrinking preparation time enables organizations to deliver materials earlier and easily keep them current with updates prior to board meetings,” explained the report’s authors. Meanwhile, directors can access these materials without the security risks associated with other file-sharing software.

Another advantage, according to the report, is that board portal users — like Visa’s Board Liaison Ati Soleimani — can directly access and answer questions from directors, such as helping them change their passwords. This provides a more complete customer service experience for board members.

Attitudes Toward Board Portals Prove Value

The benefits associated with adopting a board portal leave users with a generally positive outlook on this increasingly essential technology. In analyzing the board portal adoption trend and its survey data, Corporate Secretary found that “most board portal users are pleased with their experience.” Nearly 70 percent of board portal users also said that they were “highly satisfied” with the customer support they receive. Among all major board portal providers, Diligent received the highest high-favorable opinion score.

“Board portal technology has revolutionized the way many organizations manage the board preparation process, from creation of materials to distribution and archiving,” noted the “Trends in Board Portal Adoption” report — and the technology isn’t done yet. As factors like methods of communication continue to evolve, board portal vendors will “continue to adapt.”

In the meantime, corporations and organizations will no doubt find even more to love about the world’s most innovative and advanced board portal platforms.

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