I read a post last week that discussed “The Unbundling Of Excel”. It went through how most business applications at a lot of different companies around the world relied on Excel for everything. But, now there’s a lot of software platforms that are replacing each of the niche use-cases of Excel. The author argues that it’s similar to how Craigslist was unbundled into Airbnb, Etsy, and any other companies.
The author says “Excel has done a phenomenal job educating hundreds of millions of people about the power of software”. Now that those professionals are educated in the power of technology, a lot of those specific tasks will be automated my niche platforms. Before spread-sheet like applications, not many people used or saw the immediate benefit of using a computer in their day-to-day. Spreadsheets changed that as people were able to organize data in a way that made sense to them.
As a company grows larger, “teams grow and specialize, collaboration becomes more important, and so does control”, and there needs to be an evolution in the company’s software chain. This “evolution in a company’s needs creates an opportunity for dedicated workflow software to replace former Excel use cases”.
Excel was a great solution for the majority of business use-cases, but as more and more manual things can be automated, it seems easier and more efficient to use web platforms to automate those tasks. The costs of developing platforms for specific use-cases were high, even 5 years ago. The same manual functions can now be replaced by platforms for lower cost, and provide more insight.
Managing Media lists in Excel format is “unwieldy and burdensome”, and over time they decrease in value unless they are maintained and kept up to date. They are easy to organize at the beginning, but hard to maintain over time as your contact lists grow. Excel doesn’t have a lot of features that are built around the PR workflow. It has a bunch of features for financial modeling, but not for integrations with social media, or to mark the contact in the list when their email bounces.
A lot of similar industries such as sales or marketing have platforms to manage their contacts. Once you have your contacts living on a web platform, there’s a lot of efficiencies that platform can automate for you. These platforms allow you to track the emails you send to these contacts, make changes across multiple lists, integrate your contacts with social media, and a lot more.
Excel used to be a great piece of software to manage all your contacts on. It was easy to make changes, and to organize. A lot of industries used to use Excel to do that function. It’s now being unbundled and that function is being replaced by CRMs. They simplify work in the long run as they start doing the heavy-lifting for all the manual work you had to do in the past.
There’s a lot of other tasks at a PR agency that rely on Excel sheets. Such as, media monitoring reports, campaign measurements, and many other internal reporting. A lot of these functions take data input from separate locations and centralize them into one Excel sheet. The idea is that it’s incredibly manual to use Excel to generate media monitoring reports.
Since the changes that are made are made by you, they’re not made by the computer for you. Media monitoring platforms allow you to take advantage of their analytics reports that are generated for you. They unbundled the clippings you had to create and put into spreadsheets to send your client. They abstracted away the manual work that went into generating these reports.
The key idea is just exploring how Excel is being unbundled in the PR industry. In the next couple years, I believe that PR agencies will have to use a lot more software. There will be a lot more companies building products for the PR industry to fill these different needs. It’ll be difficult in the beginning to adapt these pieces of software, but in the long run it’ll be a benefit in efficiency.
Furthermore, things like measurement techniques will improve as data analytics platforms will become more popular. As well as the introduction of AI techniques to data collected by PR agencies.