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Dec 4, 2023

Managing awards with spreadsheets — mission (im)possible? (free template included) 

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For decades, managers everywhere have been relying on spreadsheets to record, filter, and track data, which makes them a natural first choice if you are suddenly faced with the prospect of awards management. But given the specifics and complexity of an awards program, with all its registration, application, and evaluation phases, how do you use spreadsheets to manage all these processes? We have the answer. 

Managing awards with spreadsheets 

If you do want to give spreadsheets a try as a contest management tool, we have a list of handy tips to give you a head start, especially if this is your first awards management experience. 

1. Find the right platform  

Not all spreadsheets are created equal and it’s important to find the one platform that will accommodate as much of the complexity of the process as possible. Below we’ve listed several popular options and what they can do for you: 

  • Good ol’ Excel — both revered and hated, Excel has become a synonym for spreadsheets for a reason. Chances are, your company already uses Excel, so among the benefits of this platform are (relative) familiarity and easy access. Also, Excel, well, excels at math, so if you need to set the budget for your awards program, this is certainly a tool to trust with this job. 
  • Google Sheets for the win — Google’s alternative to Excel, and like pretty much all things Google, Sheets are intuitive and user-friendly. You can also benefit from their conditional formatting, data validation, and pivot tables to manage the entries for your awards program. 
  • Airtable, the new kid on the block — while not a spreadsheet as such, Airtable is a platform that lets you create and manage relational databases, which could prove handy for online award program management. It can help you organize large swathes of information, in addition to running calculations. 

As you can see, all of these options have their own benefits, and each can contribute something to the successful management of your awards program. 

2. Define your workflow 

Once you have a platform in place, you need to, well, work on your workflow. Here are some things to consider: 

  • Who has access to what — depending on how many people within your organization will manage the awards program, you need to make sure that the right person has access to the right spreadsheet; 
  • The optimum number of spreadsheets — whether they will be separate tabs in the same spreadsheet or different sheets altogether, consider that you will need a sheet to keep track of registrations with contact information and payments (if your program is paid), another one with entries information sorted by evaluation round (along with categories, possibly with links to photos, videos, abstracts, etc., depending on your program), and another sheet with information about your awards jury; and talking about the jury, don’t forget that you would need a separate spreadsheet to send to each member; 
  • Keep track of deadlines — you should have a separate calendar, keeping track of all the deadlines of your awards program is a must, including registration, application, judge invitations, evaluations, etc. Naturally, this should be accompanied by relevant email communication to applicants as well as judges. 

3. Make sure you have a reliable platform to store entries. 

While you can add links to each entry in the relevant cell in the spreadsheet, you need to plan for space to store the actual entries. Ideally, it should be cloud-based, safe and reliable, and shareable so that judges can access it too to evaluate the entries they have been assigned. 

4. Have someone double-check the information 

Whether you would put an extra member of your team in charge or have to resort to a temporary hire, you would need another party to regularly go over and verify the information in the spreadsheets. This will help you minimize mistakes that could jeopardize the reputation of your awards program. 

5. Keep track of email communication with entrants and judges

Devote at least one extra sheet to keep track of email communication with entrants and judges. Depending on how big your awards are, you and your team might need to send a massive amount of emails, making it essential to always be on top of who has been contacted about which stage of your awards program. 

6. Make extra time for evaluation  

Make sure to plan for extra time for evaluation, regardless of whether you leave the final calculations to a program like Excel or not, to ensure there are absolutely no mistakes before announcing the winners.    

7. Plan on how to announce the winners

Since spreadsheets don’t look very festive and celebratory, if you do use them for organizing your awards, consider a platform where you can showcase the winners. Even if you hold an awards ceremony, in this day and age, having an online hall of fame with results and achievements is a must. 

Obvious challenges 

Given the above, it’s easy to see that while technically you can manage awards with spreadsheets, too much manual work will be involved, and it will be increasing exponentially as your program grows. Some of the issues that often crop up when managing awards with spreadsheets include: 

  • Too many spreadsheets — as noted above, chances are you will need multiple spreadsheets for managing registrations, applications, and evaluations; 
  • Hard to see the big picture — a direct consequence of having too many spreadsheets is that your information is scattered all over the place, making it hard to keep track of both individual applicant journeys or judging progress and your overall program as you need to constantly jump back and forth between different spreadsheets and tools; 
  • Mistakes are very likely — the bigger the influx of information and data, the bigger the likelihood of mistakes, including accidental loss of data given the vast number of cells; 
  • Collaboration is tricky — spreadsheets might pose a challenge to collaboration, especially if you opt to work in Excel; 
  • Email communication is its own challenge — similarly, spreadsheets don’t support any way for effective email communication, at best, you can use them to note what emails you have sent but the more emails you need to send, the harder keeping track of all will get;
  • Not suitable for external evaluation — while you might get away with messy spreadsheets within your organization when you send entries for evaluation to a panel of experts, spreadsheets won’t cut it — they simply lack the vibe of a reputable awards program. Additionally, they make the logistics of evaluation very difficult, especially in the cases where a judge decides to alter their grade within the allocated evaluation period;
  • Only suitable for simple voting methods — since spreadsheets don’t support voting functionalities as such, you will have to go with a basic voting method, such as simple review, to keep your awards management process efficient. Anything more complicated such as criteria-based systems, positional voting, or single transferrable vote, while not impossible to organize with spreadsheets, will also need you to prepare your own scorecards, ballots, etc.
  • They make it hard to calculate results — even if you work with Excel, you might find its math capabilities lacking if you need to calculate results for multiple entries and judges, not to mention reconcile data from different rounds. While not impossible, it leaves room for error, which risks the reputation of your program and your organization; 
  • They don’t scale well — while spreadsheets might prove sufficient for the inaugural edition of your program if you intend to include more categories, evaluation rounds, and aim at attracting more entrants going forward, you will find it difficult to scale your program relying on spreadsheets alone;  
  • They lack good security features — awards do involve the handling of personal data and other potentially sensitive information which won’t be adequately protected if you rely on spreadsheets to keep it safe.  
  • Require additional solutions and resources — spreadsheets can’t get the job done on their own, meaning, that you would need to use additional software solutions, as well as storage space to host your entries. You need to additionally plan on how to secure the manhours needed — either ask your employees to abandon other tasks to manage the awards, have them over overtime, or hire temporary help which could prove costly and unreliable.  
  • They don’t look professional — even if you don’t mind the extra work and resources involved, keep in mind that you will need to share relevant parts of your program with applicants, judges, and sponsors. Spreadsheets don’t exactly scream “professional awards”, meaning that you risk your program’s success by not making a good enough impression.  

All of the above implies a waste of time and resources, a loss of potential entries and revenue, possible employee burnout, and in some cases — even harm to your reputation. 

The spreadsheets alternative  

While spreadsheets might have been the best choice for managing awards 10 or 15 years ago, imperfect as they are, that is no longer the case. Nowadays, you can effectively substitute all your spreadsheets and complementing solutions with all-in-one awards management software that: 

  • Streamlines all your processes — these solutions cover all your program’s phases from beginning to end, including registration, entry submission, evaluation, and winners announcement; 
  • Saves you time, effort, and resources — given the above, you no longer need to waste time and effort on manual work but can instead devote your team’s efforts to more meaningful tasks; 
  • Makes scaling effortless — if you want to grow your program, including adding more categories, voting rounds, etc., awards management solutions have no trouble handling the increased volume of work;   
  • Looks professional — you no longer will have to worry about the impression your awards program will make on your applicants, jurors, or partners. While there might be different variations, depending on the software, any of the awards management solutions will make your program look more professional than a spreadsheet. 
  • Minimizes errors — this type of software is equipped to handle large amounts of data, along with calculating results, making any potential errors or accidental loss of data much less likely. 

How it works 

Sounds too good to be true? These solutions get the job done with:

  • Registration & payments — this type of software can help you easily collect entries, and track registrations and payments without lifting a finger; 
  • Applications collection and management — you will no longer need to insert information in the spreadsheet about who has submitted their application, nor will you have to copy-paste links to different elements of said application; 
  • Managing the evaluation process  — the contest management solution will also take care of all evaluation processes from A to Z including setting up judging methods and  rounds, as well as inviting judges who will then have the option to effortlessly evaluate submissions online; 
  • Showcasing results — you won’t have to worry about any mistakes with calculations of judge votes since the software will calculate them automatically but will enjoy an error-free winner announcement. 

This is just a broad outline of the processes that a specialized awards management solution can help you with, saving you the time and effort associated with juggling multiple spreadsheets. 

Why Evalato? 

While pretty much any awards management software out there would be superior to using spreadsheets, Evalato is a cut above the rest. Let’s see why:  

  • Quick set-up — even if it’s your first time organizing awards, Evalato’s intuitive interface and customizable templates enable you to get started in a snap;  
  • Embeddable registration form — you can get people to register for your awards directly from your website courtesy of Evalato’s embeddable registration form which boosts conversions; 
  • Completely customizable submission form — you can add any elements to the submission form, depending on your program’s requirements, providing your applicants with just the right framework for their entries; 
  • Next-gen applicant portal — your applicants get their own space to work on their entries and can submit everything you need them to, be it photos, HD videos, or other materials;  
  • Judging and public voting portal — regardless of whether you have an expert jury to evaluate applications, a public voting round, or both, Evalato has you covered with professional-looking and easily accessible portals to keep your evaluators happy
  • Email automation — Evalato takes care of the bulk of communication with applicants and judges, including deadline reminders;  
  • Real-time results — you always stay on top of your evaluation process and results, enjoying unrivaled control over your program at a single glance;
  • Announcing the winners — Evalato has you covered with a webpage where you can showcase program applications, results, and judge comments;
  • Analytics — you get all the data you need to improve your program; 
  • Compliance — Evalato is fast, secure, and fully GDPR / PCI DSS / Privacy Shield compliant, giving you and your team peace of mind. 
  • 24/7 live support — should anything go wrong, you need help, or you just have a simple question, Evalato’s 5-star customer service will come to the rescue.  

Given the above, it’s no wonder that Evalato’s customers save 40+ hours monthly, get 58% more entries on average, and are able to launch 1 more program per season thanks to the resources freed up.  

At the end of the day 

While technically it is possible to manage awards with spreadsheets, their multiple limitations mean that they are no match for submission management software like Evalato, which streamlines an awards program from end to end. As a result, Evalato can quickly replace spreadsheets as the awards manager’s best friend. 

Still want to give spreadsheets the old college try? We’d like to lend you a hand with a free template

Or do you want to see why spreadsheets are no longer awards managers’ top choice? Try Evalato out for free or book a demo to have all your questions answered. 

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