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Choosing board software: What to look for, what to avoid

Businessman using a tablet.

The right board management solution can help transform how your board operates. And as we all know, an effective board can be a boon to any company looking for improved efficiency, better risk management, a strong recruitment pipeline and a reputation for being a responsible corporate citizen.

A board management platform:

  • Provides secure and role-appropriate access to information such as board papers, subcommittee reports and other strategic documents;
  • facilitates communication and collaboration;
  • enables online access to voting, meetings and other functions; and
  • improves succession management and recruitment.

What to look for

You – or your organisation – might have specific board management software functions or criteria in mind. It’s essential to choose a package that addresses those needs, but also consider that any board package will include a host of features. So, when you’re evaluating the different options, your selection criteria should include the following:

  • Usability: There’s no excuse for producing software that’s hard to understand. The interface must be intuitive and user-friendly for users to engage with a system and access its full functionality. A package that’s hard to use won’t be used – and you don’t want to waste your money.
  • Security: Board materials are sensitive and must be protected, especially against external threats and cybercriminals. With cyber threats evolving and increasing, your board solution should include robust security measures such as two-factor authentication, access controls, secure communications and strong data protection.
  • Privacy: Access to board information and communications should only be available to appropriate people, and data-sharing policies should be clearly articulated. Look for a solution with strong user identification and access controls, compliance with all relevant privacy requirements and robust audit functions.
  • Collaboration and communication: Collaboration and communication have many business benefits. Board members routinely share information and must be able to do so freely. A solution with annotation, document sharing, messaging, real-time collaboration and version control features is preferred.
  • Meeting management: A good board solution will be able to manage the entire meeting lifecycle, from agenda creation to distributing finalised minutes. Your package should include scheduling, agenda creation, attendance tracking, minute-taking, voting, task assignment and minutes management.
  • Mobile accessibility: ‘Anywhere, anytime’ access to information and communication is no longer a ‘nice-to-have’; it’s a necessity. Look for a board solution that provides mobile apps, responsive web interfaces and online access to its full functionality, including virtual board meetings.
  • Customisation and integration: Every organisation is different, and there’s no such thing as a ‘one size fits all’ solution. Look for a customisable platform that can integrate with existing applications and core business functions such as document management, email and calendaring.
  • Change management, training and support: Onboarding and change management support are critical for any successful software deployment. Including board members in the decision-making process and providing training sessions, user guides, tutorials and responsive customer support are the keys to success.
  • Strong return on investment: Every investment has to justify itself, at least partially, by demonstrating a meaningful ROI. Choose a platform that aligns with your organisation’s budget and cash flows. Pricing models and subscription plans should be transparent and comprehensive, with no hidden costs or additional fees.

As noted, every organisation is unique; the weight given to each factor will vary depending on your industry, market position, organisational maturity, financial position and more.

What could possibly go wrong?

Conduct your research with care. And consider some of the more common complaints we hear from organisations that have adopted hasty solutions:

  • Overly complex: Systems that are too complicated, with non-intuitive workflows and procedures, will cause frustration and fail to deliver expected efficiency gains.
  • Hard to use: Systems with unfriendly interfaces make it harder for users to access needed features and perform their appointed tasks.
  • Unstable: Glitches, system crashes, connectivity problems and poor performance can impede your board’s work and add unwanted costs to your budget.
  • Inflexible: Software that can’t be adapted to specific workflows, business rules and functions is less useful and may not be fully adopted, reducing efficiency and ROI.
  • No training: Systems not adequately supported with training and other resources make it harder for users and can lead to frustration and workarounds.
  • Offshore data: Systems that don’t offer business-appropriate and legally compliant data-handling regimes put businesses at risk of security and legal breaches.

The simple solution

Happily, there is a simple solution: OnBoard. OnBoard is highly rated by its users, meets all the above criteria, and is positioned as the G2 Grid for Board Management industry leader. You can do your own homework if you prefer, in which case you might find our Vendor Comparison Worksheet handy.

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