Guest blog: 8 questions you need to ask a potential portal provider

Oct 4th '19

Increasing numbers of organisations are turning to board portals as their solution of choice for delivering board papers.

This shouldn’t be surprising: a portal-based approach can improve the professionalism of your board packs; save you significant time and money; and make papers more user-friendly for the board members who read them.

But choosing a provider is a big decision. How can you be sure that you’re picking a solution that can deliver what you need? How secure is it? Does it give your directors the information and access they want?

Here we look at the 8 questions you should ask a potential portal provider.

  • What is the provider’s history?

There are many portal providers in the market, with a wide range of backgrounds. You will want to know that the provider you choose has strong credentials when it comes to dealing with corporate confidential data. Any providers without a background of handling this type of information may lack the understanding of the inherent constraints and demands.

Are they able to evidence that they can discreetly and securely handle your sensitive strategic documents? The best portals will store all documents and data in data centres certified to ISO27001 (security management) and ISO9001 (quality management).

  • What is their reputation when it comes to security?

Security is obviously an essential element when it come to a provider’s ability to handle your documents. Does the provider host the portal – or are you expected to? Outsourced hosting is recognised as the more secure option; find out why:  board portals – the in-house/outsourced debate.

What log-in requirements does the portal have: does it demand two-factor authentication (it should). Can you set additional restrictions, limiting the information users can see to ensure only appropriate access and editing rights?

What business continuity and disaster recovery planning does the provider carry out? Systems should be regularly security checked and tested by independent security experts to make sure the portal isn’t vulnerable to cyber or other risks. Ask potential providers about their practices here.

  • How does the portal support your corporate governance?

The best portals allow you to easily access previous board papers and minutes, alongside other corporate documentation. Check that the one you’re considering creates this type of audit trail, which will help you to comply with your governance obligations.

If your firm is regulated by an external regulator, such as the Financial Conduct Authority, this sort of audit trail is even more essential, as it might form part of the regulatory compliance requirements you need to meet.

  • How user-friendly is it?

There’s no point investing in a portal if it doesn’t deliver a solution that your directors can easily get to grips with. The portal you choose needs to be user-friendly, intuitive and straightforward to access.

Your board members are likely to be an eclectic bunch, with varying preferences when it comes to receiving and reading information. A good portal will give your directors a choice about how they view board documentation; read more here about how a portal can help your board members all read from the same page.

  • Do they have good client feedback?

A provider with a strong track record will be proactive about sharing client stories and testimonials. Can your preferred provider give you case studies and endorsements from current clients? And are they happy for you to contact current and past clients to ask about their experiences?

  • What ongoing customer support do they offer?

All too often, the Software as a Service (SAAS) model encourages providers to move on once the sale has been made. You need a provider focused on building long-term relationships.

Will you have access to ongoing support, on the phone, via email or online? All new systems, however intuitive, require a level of hand-holding in the early days of adoption. You need to know you have experts available to support you when you need it. Read more about why quality customer support is a vital ingredient for any board portal.

  • How much does it cost?

Always an important question when making a big investment. With board portals, it’s important to consider things like: the number of users you will have, their locations, the likelihood of you having to increase or reduce the number of users or the amount of information you want to host on the portal.

Ask about any additional costs, which may not be included in the headline price. Are training and ongoing support, for instance, included in the fee you’ve been quoted? Is it economical to scale the solution up or down if your requirements change? Find out if you risk paying too much for your board portal.

  • How experienced is the provider at transitioning clients from another portal?

If you’re not totally new to the world of portals, and already use one but are looking to change provider for whatever reason, transitioning is a vital topic to cover. Some providers are experienced at onboarding new clients, but less skilled when it comes to moving organisations from another portal to their own.

Make sure the provider you’re considering has experience of helping clients to make the transition from one provider to another, to ensure a seamless transition when changing portals.

Make sure you choose the most suitable portal provider

Hopefully this has armed you with some key questions to help with your search for the ideal portal provider.

If you want to know more about portals, their benefits and things to consider in the decision and onboarding processes, you can download a copy of these Board Portal FAQs. The FAQs are free, and you find them here.

Source: Simplifie

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