BOARDROOM BEST PRACTICES

What to Look for in Board Director Software

Choosing board director software is a high-stakes decision. Get it right and your organisation will reap the benefits of stronger governance, improved efficiency and seamless board collaboration. Get it wrong and you run the risk of frustrated directors, low adoption and increased security risks. To make sure you get a good return on investment it is important to evaluate the options available against the benefits you want to achieve, because diligence at the start will pay dividends in the end.

What should you look for when choosing board director software and what are the key questions to ask prospective suppliers?

Is the Board Director Software Easy to Use?

One of the biggest concerns for businesses making the transition from hard copy board meeting materials to a digital board portal is whether directors can be persuaded to make the switch. Directors who have always used paper board packs can prove resistant to new ways of working, which is why a great user experience is essential.

If the experience is cumbersome, you risk directors finding workarounds that are insecure and inefficient or, even worse, don’t use the software at all.

Board director software must be straightforward, logical, and intuitive to use. Vendors should also offer a comprehensive onboarding programme that includes director training. By the end of a short training session that’s appropriately pitched at their skill level, directors should feel comfortable navigating around the environment and using the key features. This is even more important for directors who have tried board portal software in the past and been unimpressed, because they can be unwilling to invest effort in familiarising themselves with “yet another piece of technology” if there are even the slightest barriers to usability.

Vendors should be able to offer you a full user training and onboarding programme that smooths the pathway to director adoption and ensures you get the full benefit from your investment.

Is Comprehensive Service and Support Included?

Even with the most intuitive software, questions sometimes arise. When they do it is vital they are addressed quickly to avoid any board disruption. And when directors work long hours, or across multiple time zones, they need support that is always available; nine-to-five is not enough.

Make sure that the vendor offers 24/7/365 telephone support—human, not automated—as part of your contract. There should always be someone available to troubleshoot last-minute issues and provide courteous, comprehensive and skilled advice when needed. Ask what the customer service team’s first-time call resolution rate is—a good team should be proud to share this kind of data. If you need multi-lingual support, make sure that it is available, so your users are supported in their native language.

Be wary of add-on costs when it comes to support services. Training on new features, or re-familiarisation sessions when needed, are an essential element of getting maximum value from your investment and should be included in the standard fee, not an added extra.

A strong client service focus should be evident in every interaction you have with the vendor. When choosing board director software, you should feel that you are building a long-term partnership, not just making a sales deal.

Does the Vendor Maintain Strict Security Protocols?

The days of directors accidentally leaving board packs on trains or in the back of a taxi need to be consigned to the past. One of the most compelling benefits of board director software is much greater security for confidential documents. However, by going digital, what was previously a physical security challenge becomes a cybersecurity issue.

Highly confidential board documents contain a wealth of information that is attractive to cybercriminals. From privileged investor intelligence to intellectual property data and future strategy plans—all of it has value to malicious actors and is therefore at risk of cybertheft. If you are entrusting your ultra-confidential documents to a third-party vendor, you need absolute confidence that they adhere to the highest security protocols and standards. This is not just nice-to-have, but a key pillar of compliance with data protection regulations.

Best practices to look for are:

  • 128-bit encryption of data in transit and at rest on user devices, with strong security key management
  • ISO 27001 certification showing the rigorous application of information security management
  • A robust external security audit regime and regular penetration testing
  • Transparency about the number of breaches vendors have suffered in the past

On top of cybercriminal threats, there are also important data protection compliance issues to consider. You need to know where your data will be held geographically, in order to comply with regulations such as the GDPR.

Of course, going digital doesn’t entirely eliminate the risk of user error or physical theft. If a director’s laptop or iPad is lost or stolen, you need to know that your board portal is password-protected and that you can remotely wipe the device and prevent access to your board materials, so make sure this is possible.

Ultimately, prospective suppliers should be able to explain how their security approach enhances your organisation’s security posture.

Does the Solution Meet All Your Governance Needs?

The biggest boost to board productivity comes from the governance features offered by effective board director software. Features such as document review and e-signing, online voting, note-making and real-time updates all help boards collaborate more effectively. A broad suite of integrated tools can digitise and streamline previously time-consuming activities such as board evaluations and conflict of interest and maximise the efficiency gains from deploying a digital solution.

On top of tools to support board processes, a key feature to look for is the facility to securely store and catalogue key documents that directors may need to reference. Space to create a library of important documents such as policies, audit reports and privileged investor information ensures these are always at directors’ fingertips whenever they are needed.

Is the Board Director Software Scalable and Customisable?

Look for software that can grow with your business. Innovative vendors are always seeking to improve what they do, so find out what future product features you can expect to see from the vendor. Ask what they have in the roadmap to help you achieve your modern governance ambitions across the realms of communication, digitisation and management.

No two organisations are alike and, while best practices are a good starting point, you may want to customise the solution to integrate with proprietary processes. Discuss the potential for this with your prospective providers.

And to get the most from your investment, ask if there are applications beyond the boardroom. Can the vendor point to examples where their software has added value for clients across wider committees and business units?

Do Your Peers Have Recommendations?

When you are making important investments, it helps to talk to someone who has been in your shoes. Reach out to contacts in your industry and ask for their opinion and experiences of the options you are evaluating. Prospective vendors should offer you the option to speak to the other clients they have in your sector, too.

Choosing board director software is an important decision. To help you get it right, user experience, service and support, security, governance features and scalability are good places to start.

However, when it comes to the goal of achieving good governance, you don’t just want to buy a piece of software, you want to invest in a long-term partnership that will continue to add value to your organisation. Finding the right fit with a supplier—from software functionality to shared organisational values—is key.

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