Excel for Engagement Management: When it's Time to Break Up

Spreadsheets (primarily Excel or Google sheets) are used by millions of people globally on a daily basis for a multitude of purposes. Building on its ‘no-code’ legacy, we have seen tremendous growth in SaaS solutions helping to develop new ways of doing business across industries. Case in point, Esgaia and the focus on improving ESG engagement management.


In this blog we look at some of the key benefits and challenges of using spreadsheets for engagement tracking. It should help investors better assess the adequacy of their current capabilities.



Advantages of using spreadsheets


Low-cost: Already used across most organisations, spreadsheets offer a cost-efficient solution for investors with small budgets and limited engagement activity.

Ease of use: Spreadsheets offer a platform where non-technical users can record, manage, and derive insights from data using zero code.

Flexibility: Spreadsheets are inherently flexible in terms of format and structure. You can use text, numbers, links, formulas, and graphs to record and monitor engagements, and as input to stakeholder reporting.

Versatility: Excel wizards can do a lot with spreadsheets. Providing it does not become too complex, or you become overly reliant on such skills, you can quickly expand the scope to fulfill evolving needs across the organisation.


Do we need to say more? I don’t think so. We all agree on the phenomenal success of spreadsheets, and how it’s universally loved across industries and companies of all sizes.


Challenges of using spreadsheets

Version control: Good luck we say! - did someone work in a separate file instead of using the online version? Were modifications not agreed beforehand? Has information suddenly gone missing? From what we hear, the story goes on..

Siloed data: When using spreadsheets, you will probably lack some of the system integrations that can help improve engagement workflow and data management. The downside is that you might be faced with fragmented and unstructured data, which in turn risk leading to incomplete records of interactions and a lack of information access.

Complexity: While the aforementioned flexibility and versatility have its benefits, spreadsheets for engagement management can become really complex (trust us on this, we’ve seen plenty). Aside from the apparent business continuity risks in terms of know-how and institutional memory here, managing an increasing level of engagement data and activities tends to devour resources.


Task management: How do you keep track of when you should be following up, or take the next steps? Perhaps some of your more structured staff would actually put reminders in the calendar, but we doubt this is generally the case. This is a real problem as research shows that corporates perceive investors to e.g. lack quality and continuity in interactions.


When It’s Time

The larger and more complex your engagement program/efforts become, the less likely it is for spreadsheets to be the answer. When this realisation comes, it will most likely have something to do with the above in combination with a sense of not keeping up with market best practices, growing stakeholder scrutiny, and so forth.

Hopefully, the points raised can help you assess if spreadsheets still gets the job done (in a credible manner), or if acquiring a purpose-built solution would make sense. To help further guide your evaluation, we have developed a generic checklist covering primary functionality needs such as:

  • Recording & monitoring, including dialogue information and oversight, both on engagement and activity level

  • Stakeholder reporting across entity, product and engagement level

  • Data & operational requirements covering e.g. information access, user experience, and innovation commitments

Please access the file here.

If you would like more information and market context on the role of software like ours, have a look at this article via ESG Investor.

//The Esgaia Team