What is a Board Portal?

All about board meeting software.

Definition of a Board Portal

A board portal convenes, documents and governs meetings of the board of directors of a company or non-profit organisation.

While it is named for the board of directors, the functionality of a board portal extends to any meeting held by a company or corporation. .

A board portal is an electronic system designed to manage the people and processes required to schedule, document and govern meetings held under the aegis of an organisation.

A board portal provides a secure, central platform for:

  • agenda construction and approval
  • creation and distribution of agendas
  • presentation or distribution of meeting documents
  • scheduling and management of meetings
  • documentation of  attendance
  • documentation of decisions and outcomes of board (or other kinds of) meetings
  • providing an accessible repository of meeting documents

In these times of social distancing, a board portal allows board and committee members secure remote access to board meeting materials at any time, on any internet connected device.

The Agenda Builder Advantage

As a result of all the background effort required, the production of a final pack can take far more work than immediately apparent. Which is where the advent of tools for the digital preparation of board packs come in.

Initially the innovation in board pack production was the PDF.

What was previously a mound of paper, photocopied for each director became a merged PDF document that could be dispatched to each committee or board member by email. Unsurprisingly, for the company secretary, this simple sounding process often consumed most of the time between board meetings to produce. This was caused by the many challenges related to the board pack production process.

Modern board portals have evolved to address many of these issues, which include:

  • Facilitated board pack production by ingesting source documents in most digital forms
  • Versioning of board document pack builds
  • Earlier delivery of packs, allowing directors time to research and prepare ahead of meetings
  • Managed distribution flows, that allow for tracking of board pack delivery, on a director-by-director basis
  • Engagement statistics per board member, driving measurement and reporting of involvement (per agenda section) for all directors

Board Meeting Processes

In the time of COVID, the deficiencies in the email distribution of board packets became much more obvious.

Emailing packs as merged PDFs to directors opened up many potential problem avenues, which included:

Security issues:

  • PDFs were sent as simple email attachments, which could be opened and read once downloaded to a director’s laptop or device
  • There was no way to track downloads, opens or any activity once the mail had been sent
  • Board pack revisions were announced via email when the company secretary sent an update, invalidating the previous version and replacing it with a new attachment. This left directors with ‘version uncertainty’, as they could be working from an out-of-date pack, without realising it.

A board portal overcomes these issues by providing a secure platform that facilitates all of the above process. Most crucially by delivering and storing all documents in an encrypted form.

Availability Announcements for new Board Packs

A board portal will never send board packs directly. Instead, availability messages prompt directors to connect and authenticate to the board portal before gaining access to board documents.

Current best practice for the announcement of the availability of board documents is via a secure link, dispatched from a board portal. These announcements are delivered via email or electronic message such as SMS or even via message services such as Slack and Teams.

In addition, messages can be bubbled-up to the mobiles of directors, via (smartphone) app-based messaging services.

Inclusion of E-Meeting Attendees

The advent of the hybrid or fully-remote board meeting has lead to the proliferation of videotelephony systems like ZOOM and Teams. These kinds of e-meeting platforms are superb at connecting meeting attendees and facilitating the meeting process.

However, hosting meetings in this kind of environment abstracts the meeting processes from the meeting itself. As a result, board portals have an option to include the videotelephony functionality directly within the platform, which provides a unified board meeting experience for directors. This is a good option for organisations who have an enterprise-wide platform like Microsoft Teams.

Another less comprehensive option is to include links to meetings with the meeting data. These kinds of links allow for greater flexibility, since links can be sent any videotelephony system. Once clicked the links open the target system in a separate browser window or via a separate app. Thus the unified experience of hosting the e-meeting alongside the agenda is lost.

Secure Document Storage

The portal also exercises role-based access control to all the documents it stores. This ensures that documents can be hidden or made available by committee group or by individual board member and prevents unnecessary exposure of sensitive information.

Governance Issues:

Once sent by email board packs go ‘off the radar’ and actions related to each pack in a director’s hand become unauditable.

This results in a number of issues and gaps in the governance of meetings and the directors invited to attend them, which includes:

  • Tracking meeting attendance and absentees
  • Ensuring delivery of board documents happen in a timely fashion, thus allowing directors sufficient time to review and reflect on agenda items that concern them
  • Providing board members with tools which allow board pack annotations and highlighting functions, within the board portal system, thus avoiding the use of external tools, which can compromise sensitive board information
  • Provide board members with access to historical board meeting data and previously used supporting documents
  • Vote counting and recordal by individual board member

Modern board portals give board meetings the cover of accountability, by unobtrusively tacking and guiding meeting preparation as well as in-meeting activities.