Organisations in all sectors are increasing their use of board portals to improve governance, save money and improve the information they provide to their directors.
But all portals are not created equal. If you are looking to invest in a portal or change your current solution, we share some tips that will help you answer the question ‘how user-friendly is your board portal?’
What to consider in a board portal
Whether you don’t currently take a portal-based approach to your board information, or are looking to change solution provider, there are some key considerations.
Some of these – like security and customer support – should be a given. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case; you can read more on this in SAAS – does the service match the software?
But user-friendliness, something that should also be a pre-requisite, is sometimes overlooked.
Here are our tips on making sure your portal gives you what you need.
Is your portal user-friendly? – the 8 questions to ask
1. How easy is it to navigate? What is the room structure like? Is it intuitive – can you easily find what you’re looking for? Your board members aren’t likely to be IT experts. It needs to be simple to learn and use if you want people to adopt it.
2. Can any number of users, across your offices, access it easily and cost-effectively? The ability to ‘scale up’ portal use is a vital consideration. It needs to be easily accessible to as many teams or offices as possible, so you can use it as widely as you want to.
3. Do users have a choice when it comes to the way they read board papers? Not everyone wants to go totally paperless. A good solution will enable directors to download and print papers if they want to, or view them on screen if they prefer. Check your current or preferred solution to see how simple it is for members to download and print packs.
4. Does it easily convert Microsoft Office files to PDF? User-friendliness isn’t all about your end users. For the administrator or company secretary who compiles your packs, the ease of converting papers received as Word, Excel or PowerPoint documents into PDF files is a vital consideration. Make this a simple process and you’ll save time – and associated cost – when it comes to pack production.
5. Is it accessible offline? Many directors want to access papers without the internet, so they can prepare for meetings when on the move. How easy does your solution make this? The best portals will offer on- and offline access, so packs and other corporate documents can be read wherever board members are.
6. How are papers presented? When it comes to viewing documents on screen, simple is best. Gimmicky presentation detracts from the message, and makes documents hard to download and difficult to read.
7. How easy is it to search previous papers and other corporate documentation? A good portal won’t store just board packs but also associated documents, like terms of reference or corporate policies. If you are a regulated company in particular, this audit trail is essential for regulatory compliance.
8. Was it designed with company secretaries, administrators and end-users in mind? As we’ve said above, the people producing your packs need to be considered alongside those using them. The best solutions will make life easier for everyone involved.
Consider user-friendliness alongside these factors
Of course, these aren’t the only things to think about when you’re comparing solutions.
You will also want to look at the level of support your chosen sol offers. Quality customer service should be a given – does it offer 24/7, UK-based support? What initial training, manuals and online libraries exist to support you?
Look at the cost of your preferred solution. Pricing can vary dramatically. If you have a portal already, look at how much you are paying for it, or how much you are prepared to pay if you haven’t yet gone down the portal route. Does the cost include – often expensive and unnecessary – add-ons that you may not need?
Does it deliver anything in addition to the basic board papers? The best portals offer additional meeting functionality – information on locations and attendees, for instance, or real-time invitations to future meetings. Can you access corporate information, past papers and other documents you might need?
Maximising the benefits of a board portal
The benefits of a portal-based approach are well documented:
- Improved corporate governance
- Better access to the information directors need
- Saves time in producing paper board packs
- Saves money in printing, production and delivery
- Improves security
Maximising these advantages relies on a solution that’s intuitive and user-friendly; simple to access and easy to navigate.
For more on what a good solution should deliver, and how to make sure you select the right one, you can read our Board Portal FAQs, which answer more of the questions we are often asked by company secretaries and administrators. They’re free to download, and you can get your copy here.