The Problems with Free Meeting Agenda and Minutes Software

Lena Eisenstein

Have you ever gotten a freebie as a promotional gift and practically as soon as you received it, you tossed it in the trash can on your way out the door? The item may have been colorful and personalized with the company name and logo, but in the end, it was of no value to you. Have you ever signed up for a free class and then thought, “Great class, but I didn’t learn a thing,” and walked away from it wishing you’d paid for the class you really wanted to take? Those are the kinds of sentiments that most people experience after they’ve used free meeting agenda and minutes software.

Technology is a wonderful thing for municipal governments as long as it’s efficient, does the job that it’s expected to do and delivers on all the promises it makes. Municipal government meetings and the practices and protocols that staff implement every day are unique from those of other types of business meetings.

Council members and staff need tools that work for their needs as well as tools that integrate with each other. They need tools that support citizen engagement, accountability and transparency. In addition, they need digital tools that are intuitive, convenient and that have a high level of security built right into the program. These are many of the benefits that council members get with iCompass software that they won’t get with free meeting agenda and minutes software.

Can We Get By with Free Meeting Agenda and Minutes Software in a Pinch?

You might be asking yourself, “What about those free trials?” You have to remember that a “free trial” is merely a marketing ploy. You won’t get the program long enough to give it a solid try. It’s not going to give you all the best features unless you agree to pay for them.

With free meeting agenda and minutes software, you’re bound to realize that you can’t get enough users on the program to make it worthwhile, even for a trial period. A free trial may come with little or no capacity to store files, and that’s an important feature for municipal governments due to the large numbers of documents that they manage every day.

The meeting agenda and minutes for municipal governments are highly important official records. Council members are bound by the duty of care to put the interests of their constituents before their own. Part of that responsibility includes taking great care with storing meeting agendas and meeting minutes so that they can be retrieved for legal reasons or any other valid purpose.

Cybersecurity issues are on the rise because hackers are finding that large companies are investing more time and money in bolstering the security of their electronic systems. Municipal governments often lack the funds and expertise to protect their systems as securely as needed. Cybercriminals have found that local governments are often “low-hanging fruit” and lack the security to fend off data breaches and malware incidents. By testing the waters with what you believe is an innocent free electronic application, you could be placing your entire community’s confidentiality and the council’s business at risk.

Have you considered the benefits of customer service and support? Meeting agenda and minutes software should offer your staff efficiency as well as accuracy. If they can’t use the program because they’re waiting days to have a support ticket answered or to get a return call from a tech who can fix the problem, it’s of no use and the word “free” suddenly becomes meaningless. While some local community departments work 365 days a year, you won’t get that kind of customer service from a company that gives you a little something for free.

Overall, board management software companies won’t give you much value for free. They’re certainly not going to provide you with qualified IT staff that can ensure the safety of your municipality’s confidential documents.

There are lots of useful software programs available for municipal councils, including email accounts, document storage apps, file-sharing apps, scheduling apps and voting software. However, you’ll quickly find that free electronic applications don’t always work well together. Each program has its own level of security and some programs have no security at all. This means that programs that connect can spread malware and viruses between systems. That’s a risk your municipality won’t want to take. This is the point at which not only is free software not helpful, it wastes time, causes staff problems and puts your government’s information at unnecessary risk.

Free Meeting Agenda and Minutes Software Sacrifices Costs in Other Ways

Free meeting agenda and minutes software may not cost you money up front but consider these other ways that your municipality will pay.

The lack of efficiency costs your employees time in their day. Your staff may be subject to downtime during which the system doesn’t allow them to do business at all. Cybersecurity risks and lawsuits can cost your municipality tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees and damages. There will be a cost in switching programs when you must buy the right program for your needs, as you’ll have to get a new system up and running and train staff on how to use it. Your council members may be frustrated that a free program won’t allow them to access documents using various electronic devices. Of course, there’s no amount of money that can replace the loss of your municipality’s good reputation.

Local Governments Need Meeting Agenda and Minutes Software That Was Designed for Their Needs

The reality is that you’ll pay far more for a free meeting agenda and minutes program than you’ll pay for a system by iCompass that was designed with the needs of local governments in mind.

The Meeting Manager program automates much of the work of preparing for council meetings, preparing the agenda, streamlining workflows and managing records. Citizens can access agendas, board minutes and other documents as soon as they’re approved for public viewing through the Civic Web Portal.

Citizens can hear or view council meetings in real time or watch the recorded versions later. Council members will appreciate having the convenience of 24/7 access to reports and documents.

Most importantly, there are no worries about security or the lack of customer service, which could cost your local government money and reputation.

iCompass is the modern approach to creating efficiency and cost-effectiveness to support your council members and citizens every day.

Related Insights
Lena Eisenstein
Lena Eisenstein is a former Manager at Diligent. Her expertise in mission-driven organizations, including nonprofits, school boards and local governments, centers on how technology and modern governance best practices empower leaders at these organizations to serve their communities with efficiency and purpose.