There’s a big trend now towards the adoption of digital solutions for company boards. A new European study by EY and Brainloop shows that board portals are in use at almost all British, Irish and Scandinavian companies that have a supervisory, administrative or advisory board. The figure is already 70 per cent for companies in German-speaking countries.
If you’re thinking about implementing a board portal or electronic dataroom for meeting preparation and efficient board collaboration, you’ll need to be able to answer the following questions – and ensure that the providers you talk to can answer them satisfactorily too!
What advantages can I expect from a board portal?
A digital platform delivers multiple benefits for the work of supervisory boards and committees in general. All meeting files and other documents are available in digital format around the clock and are fully encrypted. The board portal makes it more efficient for board members to work on, annotate and share documents while ensuring that their files are protected against external attacks. As such, they’re much more secure than their paper equivalents and document management solutions like Microsoft SharePoint.
This security reduced the risk of liability, especially with important decisions taken at the highest levels, because every process within the board portal is traceable and data loss can be excluded due to the high-security workspace.
Once you’ve decided to go for a digital solution, you’ll need to select a provider. Here are a few aspects you’ll need to take into consideration.
How will the solution increase my productivity?
It’s important to you and all board members that the board portal is intuitive to use and that everyone can work with it productively right from the start. That way, any scepticism about the new digital solution will disappear after people start using it.
One thing that plays an important role is mobile capability, so the solution you choose should definitely offer an offline mode as well as the ability to add annotations from mobile devices. The fact that the documents are digital means that electronic board meeting pack is updated automatically as soon as there’s a new version of a document. Important: the personal and shared comments are maintained.
It should be easy for board members to quickly find documents from earlier meetings using a clear folder structure and full-text search. They shouldn’t have to spend ages searching or wade through dozens of folders.
Board members need to be able to prove that their decisions were made based on the right information, so a tamper-proof audit trail of all activities is essential in order to ensure that the information processes are traceable. The same goes for access to previous versions.
Some solutions offer you the benefit of digital resolution agreement processes. In that way, resolutions are logged in the tamper-proof audit trail and can even be conducted flexibly by using the circulation method. This ensures your board members can vote on resolutions without needing to be present – a useful feature if the meetings are only held once per quarter.
How are confidential documents protected?
Board documents are strictly confidential and must be given special protection. Your digital solution must work like a safe that can only be opened by certain authorised people and that archives the entire document history. End-to-end encryption should be applied all the time. This saves board members from struggling with complex email encryption processes and worrying about the risk of data loss. Electronic datarooms are designed to do exactly this.
You’ll also need to think about where the data is being stored. The data protection laws that apply are those of the country where the data centre is located. But that’s not all: the US Privacy Shield doesn’t offer sufficient data protection, even with local data storage, and a US Supreme Court decision could weaken data protection even more. In addition, the US government’s Cloud Act, which has already been agreed, provides for bilateral agreements with individual states that will facilitate online data searches. In order to ensure your sovereignty over your data, the solution you choose should come from a domestic or European provider that stores your data locally.
Shielding is another important factor. In Brainloop BoardRoom all data is protected against access by administrators and providers. Neither Brainloop nor your internal IT department can see any of the data you store in the board portal. This ensures that your board fulfils its duty of care concerning the way it handles confidential information.
It’s important to many board members to know how their personal data is being handled. Brainloop always leaves the creation of new dataroom user accounts to its customers. The users’ personal data is never sent out externally. This is essential, especially since the EU GDPR that came into effect on 25 May. Companies must always know where they have stored which data, who can access it, who can work with it and how. Otherwise they can be subject to severe penalties.
What’s the provider’s background?
Last but not least, you’ll need to check a few facts about the providers themselves. They should be able to give you several names of well-known reference customers. It’s advantageous for you if several companies are already using a particular board portal solution.
The type of platform is also important, as you can start working with the board portal immediately if it’s cloud-based. Make sure your provider has all the necessary certifications, including ISO 27001, ISAE 3402 and the Trusted Cloud data protection profile for cloud services. They demonstrate that its information security and data protection comply with European regulations.
In case of any issues, it’s essential that your provider offers 24/7 support – and it should be multilingual if you’re an international company.
You can see that there’s a lot of points to think about when choosing a board portal. But you’re already off to a great start if you ask the right questions.