Many factors go into making a decision to invest in board governance management software. Your board has probably discussed the features they can’t live without and the features that would be nice to have. Board portal software has been available for some time, so there are plenty of options from which to choose.

Your board may have also considered such parameters as getting the best value, the reputation of the software provider and the potential for long-term value relative to future innovations. Board portal software solutions are an investment in the quality of the board’s work as much as they are an investment in software products.

On the low end of product offerings, there are a few free alternatives. But, let the buyer beware! There are more reasons to pass over the free options than there are to consider them. Free board portal software and free messaging options may end up costing your board in major ways.

What Costs Should Boards Consider When Choosing a Board Management Software System?

While the market offers a range of costs for board governance management software, your board will need to know what costs they’re incurring now and compare them to a few of their best options.

Generally speaking, boards can expect to pay an annual subscription cost for their board portal system. There may be extra costs for upgrades, add-ons and other valuable software solutions. The only other cost to consider is the cost of resources that you’ll need to administer the system.

Perhaps, your board hasn’t considered the true expense of one of your major board expenses, which is creating and distributing board books. Let’s consider the cost of manual labor, materials, distribution and other expenses.

The corporate secretary or another person spends many hours preparing the agenda, as well as organizing, printing, collating, assembling and binding the board book. If you multiply that amount by the average hourly labor cost, you have the cost to prepare board books. Then you have to multiply that number by the number of board books you need and the number of board meetings per year. The total figure may already have sent you into a state of shock, but the calculations aren’t finished quite yet.

Add in the costs for paper, printer cartridges, binders and any other materials needed. How does your board distribute board books? Do you mail them? Courier them? Do you use overnight carriers? Be sure to add in those costs. These are the minimum costs, which could continue to escalate if there is a mistake in the board book or if the board book needs a last-minute change. The total costs could net your board in the tens of thousands of dollars.

With such huge costs just for one board process, it’s easy to see how working with a provider of board governance management software programs can save your board time and money.

Is a Cost-Free Board Portal Worth Considering?

The first consideration that your board must make is that a cost-free board portal is only cost-free if it doesn’t end up costing anything on the front end or the back end. The reality is that a cost-free board portal system will only offer you the basics. The provider may not have any additional programs or products for you to even consider. If they do have additional software solutions to offer, the cost of one add-on after another may end up being more than going with one industry-leading, comprehensive board portal system. Free systems will most likely lack the functions and features you need most, and thus will likely fail to offer you the efficiency and productivity that you’re looking for.

Beyond features and function, there’s one more major consideration to think about — security. With the multitude of media reports about hacking corporations and data breaches, board directors need every system they use for board business to be highly secure. Top security comes with a cost. You can be sure that free board portal systems come with little or no security, which leaves your board with no protection.

Is It Acceptable to Use Cost-Free Messaging Platforms?

Before the advancement of governance software solutions, board directors had no choice but to use personal or business email accounts for board business. These platforms are free or mostly free, which is great; however, they’re not the best or most secure solutions for conducting board business.

Gmail is one of the more popular email platforms. Google boasts having over 1.4 billion Gmail accounts. What they don’t boast about is how susceptible their platform is to hacking. Yahoo discovered just how vulnerable personal email accounts could be when over 3 billion of their email account users were hacked in 2014.

Cybercriminals are hacking away, looking for ways to get around cybersecurity systems to gain entrance to a wealth of personal information and other data. Hackers find this information valuable, so they can sell it to advertisers or other criminals who use it for extortion or other crimes.

The Wall Street Journal recently reported that app developers had gained access to personal emails so that they could study algorithms.

In addition, there’s always the risk of board directors getting so many emails that they miss important messages about board meetings or board business in time for the meeting.

Boards that continue to use personal or business email accounts for board business expose themselves to a big risk of being hacked, which could lead to charges that allege lack of responsibility for duty of care. Board directors should be cautious about putting themselves into a position where they could be held legally liable. The inconvenience and frustration over a lawsuit will cause them to believe they should have made a proper investment in a quality board governance management system to begin with.

In essence, corporate board directors should only be considering board governance management systems that were designed with board purposes and uses in mind.

Diligent Is an Industry Leader in Enterprise Governance Management — Now and in the Future

Especially with the pressure that corporate boards are facing from regulatory bodies and shareholders, there couldn’t be a worse time to consider using free board portal software or free email accounts. Between the lack of efficiency and the poor security, the risks are simply too high.

Today’s board directors should consider using nothing less than an industry leader in board governance management solutions like Diligent. Boards need a secure messaging app like Diligent Messenger. It’s a messaging app that is ISO 27001 certified and offers boards the highest possible security. Diligent Messenger fully integrates with Diligent Boards, and they’re both part of Governance Cloud, an ecosystem for a total Enterprise Governance Management system.

Diligent’s products aren’t free because developers worked hard to create the most secure and efficient system for boards possible. That’s the best return on investment your board can expect.