There’s no “RI” in “spreadsheet”: how you can make your relationship data smarter

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Spreadsheets aren’t designed to be intelligent, adaptive platforms in the same way relationship intelligence CRM platforms are. The first version of the digital spreadsheet was released in the early 1960s. In 1979, the Apple II helped propel spreadsheets from an experiment to a household tool. 

Then, in September 1985, Microsoft released the first version of Excel for the Macintosh, which quickly swept the market for personal computers. Over the next decade, the Microsoft Office suite—of which Excel was a key component—became the gold standard for personal and professional productivity applications. 

While the spreadsheet interface has evolved considerably over the last three decades, its core capabilities haven’t changed all that much, and most investment bankers are familiar with, and capable of, using one. But while experts with careers worth of experience have figured out how to manipulate, manage, process, import, export, and analyze the data in spreadsheets, few people are armed with more than rudimentary knowledge of a spreadsheet’s potential. Many use it more or less like digital graph paper.

The generalist solution begins to fall apart, however, when it’s being used for unique types of data. For investment teams whose datasets include vast networks of professional contacts and industry news, hiring trends, and important account details related to those contacts, the numeric foundation of the spreadsheet begins to fall apart. 

“Most Excel users never enter a formula,” admits a former member of the original Excel development team. “They use Excel when they need a table. The gridlines are the most important feature of Excel.”


Why spreadsheets are spread too thin

Excel has evolved to serve the needs of countless users and industries. It is a jack-of-all-trades, and has still been able to become a master of some. According to Excel’s own Quick Start training course, it’s “a tool that makes it easy to crunch numbers.” Spreadsheet cells are a flexible system for managing everything a wide range of complex financial calculations for accounts payable, revenue forecasting, and budgeting and for turning these financial calculations into standard data visualizations. 

Simple, inefficient systems yield to more technologically advanced and more easily navigated solutions. In the world of consumer products, jumbled video store shelves have turned into streaming platforms and brick-and-mortar storefronts struggle to keep pace with online ordering. In the M&A world, disruption comes in the form of platforms that help teams work more efficiently and close more mandates.

Put the “relationship” back into your “relationship data”

Platforms purpose-built for managing complex relationship networks are supported by relationship intelligence—insights into your team’s collective network, business relationships, and client interactions that help you find, manage, and close more mandates. The interconnectedness of your relationship network is difficult to quantify with financial information.

Relationship intelligence platforms help quantify the quality of your relationships with relationship scores. These scores are derived from the recency, frequency, and cadence of your team’s communications and extracted from “data exhaust”—details that are automatically captured from email communications, meetings, and contact information—to determine not only who you know but how well you know them. 

With these scores and comprehensive account history captured automatically in one place, you can more easily identify the most direct path to a potential introduction—and a potential opportunity. Excel may be “a virtual playground for accountants,” but it doesn’t give relationship-oriented dealmakers the tools they need to be successful.

Choosing a platform built for business development

Instead of making a change to a platform focused on relationships, many firms continue to push Excel and other spreadsheets to their limits. “In most cases, Excel is not up to the demands put on it—but that doesn’t stop us,” notes the founder of a platform that supports software development. “There are other tools out there that might be more appropriate, but we don’t use them.” 

Firms that are turning away from spreadsheets and toward relationship intelligence platforms are better equipped to find, manage, and close more deals faster. Affinity is a relationship intelligence CRM platform designed with a spreadsheet’s familiar interface and usability at its core for investment bankers who value the people behind their deals.

Talk to our team today to learn how Affinity can make the difference between a dearth of data spread across sheets and an automatically captured and enriched relationship network.


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