Many boards conduct business with solutions cobbled together from enterprise-wide applications. They prepare board documents with conventional office software and communicate via standard-issue email and messaging systems. Yet elsewhere in the organization, nearly every other function — from sales to manufacturing — benefits from the latest technology to capitalize on opportunities while managing risks. It stands to reason that organizations should similarly implement technology to attain secure, efficient and collaborative environments for their boards.
Antiquated board processes are cumbersome. Tracking changes and keeping documents in sync is laborious, error-prone and unsecure. The best board meeting technology streamlines board functions on a secure, integrated platform that’s easy for the board to use. As organizations create their strategic plans for the upcoming year, a careful evaluation of board technology options is an investment in efficiency, agility and risk mitigation.
When one considers today’s highly dynamic and risky business climate, more organizations are acknowledging the importance of managing board-level matters using dedicated solutions that bolster security and increase efficiency.
Board Technology Features to Look For
Careful evaluation pays enterprises back with a strategic technology asset that supports best practices while facilitating secure collaboration. Ideally, board meeting technology selection will consider these features and criteria:
- The ability to easily upload, download and review board materials and meeting annotations.
- Secure distribution of board materials.
- Multi-channel capabilities that increase mobility and productivity.
- Functionality that allows for e-signatures, voting, directors’ and officers’ (D&O) questionnaires, evaluations, minutes and note-sharing.
- Multilingual interfaces, training and support.
- Reference repositories, governance data and benchmarking to encourage good governance practices. Some examples of these might include evaluation of board processes, competitive intelligence, industry trend alerts, and similar organizations’ executive compensation and board composition data.
- Board assessments with insightful results visualization and action-item tracking.
- Access to a board candidate database to facilitate a broader search for directors with specific professional backgrounds, experience and/or demographics.
- Tools that improve visibility and decision-making, empowering governance professionals to function as trusted board advisors.
Choosing Technology that Encourages and Facilitates Adoption
What makes users adopt and use new board management software with enthusiasm? For starters, board members and executive teams appreciate the ability to access board documents across multiple devices, such as laptops, smartphones and tablets. They value live support that’s available around the clock. They welcome intuitive interfaces that mimic familiar processes such as email, file sharing and text messaging capabilities.
Training is essential to rapid adoption and user confidence. Ideally, the board management software provider offers continuous training in sync with software enhancements and security protocols. Training should include customizable and bespoke options that cater to the enterprise and individual users. Ongoing user support is essential to sustained adoption. A provider should support board management software – by phone or virtual session, and by training and retraining – for the duration of the contract, at no additional cost. Support should be available around the clock, every day of the year. Make sure in-house experts handle support calls – not outsourced call centers. Don’t overlook the relationship between support and security; rapid issue resolution mitigates security risk.
Cyber criminals who target board members and governance professionals call their activity “whaling” because senior officials have access to a company’s highest-value, most confidential and most sensitive information.
Businesses that fail to protect sensitive data get fined and suffer reputational damage. As board activity grows ever more digital (and as the transition to fully virtual work continues), look for board management software that’s designed for protection of privileged information:
- Ask how the provider integrates the latest security technologies into their products. Make sure the provider delivers security feature enhancements frequently, and ask how they mitigate cyber risk.
- Check that board meeting technology offers fully secure communication and sharing tools.
- Confirm that data is encrypted at rest (while it’s being stored), in transit (while it’s being sent from one recipient or location to another), and when it’s distributed to users’ devices.
- While the board management software should allow archiving of user notes and annotations, make sure it also allows permanent removal of these, as a scheduled or on-demand task.
- Ask about routine security scans of infrastructure and services, as well as penetration tests for applications and networks. Providers should allow prospective customers to conduct security tests.
- Check whether the board management software provider has ever suffered a known data breach; ideally, opt for a provider who hasn’t ever had one. Investigate how any breach or attempt was handled.
- Review security qualifications. For instance, look for System and Organization Controls 2/Statement on Standards for Attestation Engagements 18 (SOC-2/SSAE 18) audits. These reports are officially defined as “management’s description of a service organization’s system and the suitability of the design and operating effectiveness of controls.” The SOC-2/SSAE 18 audits should be conducted annually and should always be defect-free. Additionally, ask about International Standards Organization 27001 (ISO 27001) certification, which requires an Information Security Management System (ISMS) to “bring information security under explicit management control.”
Identifying the Right Partner
A search for board management software is about the product, but also seek a provider who can be a strong partner. Consider whether the provider’s board management software is merely a point solution, or a fully integrated suite of solutions designed for complete, secure governance management. Confirm the provider updates the board management software annually or even more frequently. Look for well-planned implementation and onboarding processes. Promises of one-day or one-week setup may suggest the product isn’t highly customizable. Learn from the provider’s referenced clients, especially within similar industries and markets. Choose a provider with customers in comparable organizations to ensure a good fit.
Look for a provider who’s delivered board management software for ten years or longer. This suggests they understand directors’ and governance professionals’ work, preferences and concerns. Industry participation demonstrates a commitment to excellence and leadership in the corporate governance domain. Look for active engagement in organizations like The Society for Corporate Governance, the National Association of Corporate Directors and the National Investor Relations Institute. Check for industry awards, recognition and leadership in product innovation and customer service.
Superior board management software delivers robust features that streamline communication among board members, offer entity management to centralize and manage corporate subsidiary data, and insights and analytics to uncover risks and opportunities. Secure communications technology will additionally protect sensitive corporate materials. Last but not least, seek a comprehensive suite of integrated tools with a highly-adoptable user experience that’s backed by an industry-leading security team and award-winning support.
Still have questions about board management software provider selection? Resources like our buyer’s guide might be able to help.