Last week, a potential customer inquired about how users calculate the cost reductions their organizations see as a result of utilizing our software. This is a rather typical question, which is understandable considering that almost every business nowadays operates on a budget.
Calculating the Cost Benefits of a Board Portal vs. In-House Development
However, this common and seemingly easy request raises a slew of related concerns, all of which revolve around assessing Return on Investment (ROI). I’ve divided my response into two parts in order to address your topic thoroughly yet succinctly. The first section lays out a framework for assessing and justifying the overall cost of adopting a board portal in comparison to the most prevalent “free” alternatives. This second essay lays forth a framework for weighing the expense of commercial off-the-shelf software against the possibility of building one’s own bespoke board portal solution.
Building a solution in-house to manage board information is a more challenging, but appealing, alternative for firms with in-house development resources with time and expertise. This route offers the advantage of allowing your company to customize the solution to your needs while also having in-house assistance for training, implementation, and continuing maintenance. Using an existing structure as a basis, such as your organization’s website or SharePoint, can also make this method less scary and easier to implement. This may then be taken advantage of by having your in-house IT staff tailor it to your specific requirements. For some businesses, this may appear to be an appealing and cost-effective approach to obtain a board portal solution that meets their needs.
However, we’ve noticed that many businesses are abandoning this method in favor of commercial services. The main reason we hear for this change is that the in-house development option rapidly becomes too expensive. This is why:
Maintenance: Updating homemade software on a regular basis is rarely a priority. Many homemade systems are “one and done,” meaning they are constructed once and then not updated on a regular basis (as internal project teams move onto the next pressing and exciting project). Because boards are not static – the governance landscape changes swiftly, board members change, and organizational demands change over time – this is an issue for board information management.
Expertise: Building in-house means foregoing the advantage of industry expertise and experience from organizations that specialize in board management software. The skillsets of in-house IT teams capable of completing these types of projects are fundamentally and remarkably wide. However, they are unlikely to have the same degree of understanding on topics like board member application usability, legal complexities of utilizing board management software, and best practices for board member training. They will also not contribute techniques for using board management software in typical governance circumstances including handling conflicts of interest declarations, access to feedback, and insight from hundreds of other boards and board members.
Protection: Your in-house IT staff may not be able to give the same degree of security on your board papers as board portal providers. This may appear contradictory, because having data stored on your own servers implies you have complete control over where it goes and what happens to it. It does, however, imply that you maintain all duty and obligation for data security. Security standards such as NIST 2014, HIPAA compliance, SSAE16, and others cost board portal providers hundreds of thousands of dollars per year to maintain.