A board of trustees essentially functions much the same as a board of directors. Trustees act as the governing body of an organization and are responsible for managing it. In fulfilling their duties, a board of trustees must serve the best interests of the stakeholders.
Much like boards of directors, boards of trustees typically include key members of the management team. In addition to executives, a board of trustees usually comprises a mix of internal members who have some connection with the organization and external members who serve based on some area of subject expertise and governance experience.
Boards of trustees are more commonly titled trustees in private organizations. They may also be called a Board of Regents or a Board of Governors. Some entities may be subject to certain industry regulations relating to rules for obligations or oversight. Boards of trustees are usually responsible for holding “in-trust” funds, assets or property that belong to others. Trustees have a fiduciary duty to protect the entity’s finances and other assets.
Organizations such as mutual savings banks, universities, university endowments, art museums and other types of associations often have boards of trustees.
Board Portals Are Becoming a Necessity for Boards of Trustees
If a board portal isn’t on your radar, it soon will be. Daedal Research reports that board portal usage is expected to increase from 34.5% to 67.7% by the year 2020. With 2020 right around the corner, the majority of boards will be getting their board books online by logging into a board portal on their laptop, tablet or smartphone. The time is looming when all organizations will operate in a totally paperless manner.
Board portal providers are evolving with board portal technology. Currently, you’ll find a range of providers from small startup companies to industry leaders. With all that in mind, now is the best time to think through your board’s needs for a board portal and choose the best board portal service provider.
Making the Software Decision for Boards of Trustees
Unlike other office equipment purchases, it’s important to choose the right board portal the first time around. Changing services later on can be costly for the software and retraining needed.
The responsibility for researching and choosing a board portal system often falls on the shoulders of the board secretary. Choosing the best board portal for a board of trustees can be challenging, considering that the secretary isn’t usually tech-savvy and may not even have clear guidelines for what to look for. It’s sometimes better to make the whole board part of the evaluation process.
Board portal sales departments can sometimes confuse things even more. Some of the startup companies may just try to sell a board portal and be on their way. Because of the importance of the trustees’ duties, it’s important to put more research and thought into the process.
In many cases, it’s helpful to involve the IT department, the procurement department, the risk management department or the audit department. Whoever makes the final decision should be aware that board portal technology has far outpaced board portal adoption. Consumers can get ahead of the game by learning a bit about board portals beforehand and being able to communicate to the salesperson what the trustees hope to gain from the software. Doing some research ahead of time will also help the buyer to better understand some of the industry terms.
To begin with, think through your meeting process. Is your goal to be entirely paperless or just to reduce the amount of paper you currently use? It may help to do some research and find out what your current processes are costing you so that you’ll have a means for comparison.
Perhaps your board is more interested in helping the trustees save time. In this case, you’ll want to explore programs that update information in real time. This can be a real time-saver for boards that commonly have last-minute agenda changes.
Rather than choose a simple board portal, it may be beneficial to choose one platform that offers a variety of software tools for different purposes. A platform with multiple tools alleviates the need for multiple log-ins and eliminates worries about the lack of security of one program infecting another program. Trustees should also be aware that software continually evolves and changes. This means that you can expect regular updates to enhance features and protect against vulnerabilities.
Training and support are high on the list of importance in comparing board portal systems. More than likely, trustees will have varying degrees of technical capabilities. It helps to go with a company that provides options for web training, onsite training and one-to-one training, if necessary. Trustees often work at odd hours. It will ease your board’s frustration when they have assurance that tech support is available 24/7/365 if they have any problems. It’s also a good idea to learn whether support calls will be answered by a live person who has the technical expertise to help people on the first call.
Of utmost importance is the security features. Most board portals have some degree of security features. Buyers should be looking for such security features as multiple-factor authentication for log-ins, strong encryption controls and regular third-party testing.
Importance of Board of Trustees Software
Board portal technology is continuing to evolve. Startup board portal providers may, at some point, either be acquired by industry leaders or dissolve due to un-competitiveness. Think about how your board portal will serve your organization now and in the future. A board portal service provider that’s going to be around in the future is currently an industry leader in board portal software. Industry leaders employ software designers who are working on improving current programs and are innovating software designs that will help boards work smarter and more efficiently in the future.
Diligent Corporation has been an industry leader in board portal technology from the very beginning. From the first, Diligent committed to providing the strongest security measures available to assure boards that their board work and communications remain confidential. Diligent built on the basic board portal with a suite of solutions called Governance Cloud. Board trustees can enhance their board portals with solutions such as D&O questionnaires, self-assessment programs, entity management and meeting minutes software, in addition to the regular offering of features.
Diligent Boards and Governance Cloud were innovations before their time and will continue to be available in the future. Diligent’s software designers are hard at work developing the next generation of board software solutions. Boards of trustees seeking governance management software should be sure to place Diligent at the top of their list.