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gdpr compliance and stakeholders data
5 min read

Stakeholder Management in Spreadsheets Can Hinder Your GDPR Compliance

You might be thinking that you're doing stakeholder management perfectly fine in spreadsheets. After all, spreadsheets are commonly used for a wide range of business activities, and even for our personal lives.

However, there may be a weak link in your chain of security in the form of spreadsheets.
If you need to store and manage stakeholders' data, spreadsheets aren't the best way to go about it. 


Because when it comes to data safety and GDPR compliance, there are significant risks in using spreadsheets to manage stakeholder information. Here are a few reasons why stakeholder management shouldn’t be done through spreadsheets:

Errors in every 20 cells

A mistyped name, an update or a change that's not saved. There can be little room for error in stakeholder management, unfortunately, using spreadsheets increases the risk of data errors, duplication and mislaying information. 

A University study on corporate use of spreadsheets found that 94% of spreadsheets have errors and that on average there is an error in one out of every 20 cells within a spreadsheet!

That’s a compelling figure and quite frightening if you think of the important work you do now that could potentially have troublesome errors lying in wait.

Lack of user controls

Because spreadsheets lack controls, it is very easy for stakeholders’ views and feedback to be altered, even deleted permanently.

This sort of activity could easily go undetected and creates a window for fraudulent behaviour both from within the business and from outside forces.

Whilst you might now be the only person managing stakeholders, if your team expanded, this could be something you no longer have sight of.

Data mining takes time

It is estimated that approximately 50% of stakeholder engagement management time is wasted on repetitive tasks such as data mining and gathering reports.

If you’ve ever got stuck with pivot tables and somehow your formulas have all broken – you know when something goes wrong, it can go very wrong.

In contrast, specific stakeholder management software allows you to pull insights and reports out in seconds – or even to have them delivered by email across the company on demand.

Difficulty in keeping up with changes

Stakeholder engagement is not a static process; it is highly dynamic and evolves over time as requirements, perceptions and attitudes change.

Spreadsheets, on the other hand, are very one-dimensional and rigid. As they become more complex to keep up with changing demands, they also become harder to manage, and more likely to break down.

Time and money are wasted trying to keep the process afloat and when you add multiple teams or agencies into the mix, it becomes very hard to get a real sense of what is happening.

Stunted future growth

Spreadsheets are not always easily understood, especially when there's a large number of them being used at the same time.

Alongside this, there are email folders, files on desktops and drives, meeting notes and printed reports.

If you needed to show someone how to work in your role, would a new employee be able to quickly take all this information?

As projects and businesses grow, it’s never too early to have a proper tool to manage stakeholders, whether you are a business of 10 or 10,000.

Falling foul of Data Privacy

By relying on spreadsheets, word documents and various communication tools to meet data privacy regulations, it is virtually impossible to maintain this information and be compliant.

In the case of spreadsheets, for example, the file needs to be updated in every instance where the document exists.

And sharing data via spreadsheet files means that there will often be several versions of the same file, residing on different machines across departments.

To make updates, all of these versions need to be revised with the same information or else they will be out of sync (which also represents an administrative burden).

This will degrade the level of accuracy of the data, and therefore the confidence and trust in that data will be lost.

The real security risks

Whilst storing marketing data and other opt-in information has been tackled by most companies to meet GDPR regulations, managing stakeholder data gathered from various channels can end up fragmented across the organisation without the necessary security protocols in place.

Excel protection isn’t a security feature. Protection is meant to prevent well-meaning users from accidentally damaging your work.

However, it won’t protect sensitive and confidential data from falling into the wrong hands.  Anyone can copy data from a protected Excel sheet into another workbook or even Google Sheets to access protected data.

And Excel protection is lost once data is copied somewhere else. Data breach costs were more than USD 4 million in 2021, the highest average cost in 17 years, according to the Cost of a Data Breach Report.

Do you need to change?

If any of the issues mentioned above made you think about how you currently manage your stakeholder data, it might be time to consider a proper stakeholder management system.

Here are some questions to ask the business:

  • How many employees does the business have?
  • Does the existing method of stakeholder management always sync with other business processes and tools?
  • Does the existing method of stakeholder management provide actionable, and insightful reports?
  • Does the existing method of stakeholder management supercharge your processes?
  • Does the existing method of stakeholder management allow for easy and open transparency and communication across the whole business?

This is a good starting point for analysing if you have a problem.

No business should really find it acceptable for stakeholder interactions to be filed and maintained by way of a loose assortment of shared drives, personal computers, filing cabinets and desk drawers alongside spreadsheets.

The solution

Moving to stakeholder management software is the next logical step to keeping your data safe and GDPR-compliant.

With a proper system like Tractivity, multiple team members are no problem and everyone works on the live, freshest information. In fact, anyone can pull out reports.

Tractivity offers real value not only by removing the time spent on laborious manual tasks but also by helping ensure you aren’t at risk of legal ramifications from mislaid data or issues arising from contacting someone in error.

It not only takes all the pain away from your daily workload but also provides ways to engage with stakeholders – including emails, newsletters, event management and much more.

We’d love to show you how Tractivity can help you. Click here to get in touch.

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