Smartsheet: Online Spreadsheets for Project Collaboration

With all the noise from email, texts, voicemail, in-person meetings, and other distractions, it is far from easy to get work done with technology.

Web-based applications promise to make it easier and more affordable for small business owners to get things done. Smartsheet may have cracked the code on how to get more done with its online project collaboration service.

You may be asking the same question I had: What does online project collaboration mean, really? Is it as simple as sharing a file or is there more to it and why would I, as a small business owner, want to do it?  Read on.

I usually start with an overview of the product as the above home page screenshot would imply, but this time, I’d like to suggest you click on the third tab “testimonials” to read what customers think of Smartsheet. Frankly, I often view testimonials with suspicion, but these case studies answered why and how others are using the service.

This section quickly answered my questions about how I would be able to use Smartsheet. I didn’t find  sales-speak. Customers talk about how they use Smartsheet to manage their projects and even their company operations. The examples were so well done that it motivated me to click through to the free trial. I particularly liked the one on the Virtual Assistant (VA) Networking Association with its 10,000 assistants.

Save Time (which translates equally as Save Money)

Many SaaS (software-as-a-service) applications aim to make the user experience drop-dead simple and elegant. Smartsheet does that, but they took it one step further in my book, and included these little tips boxes (which you can turn off) and pointers to help you figure out what to do.

Right after you sign up, you are sent to a sample page with little help boxes all over the screen. At first glance, this screenshot is busy, but after taking just a second to get your bearings, you’ll quickly find that most of it is static and the “next” steps happen in the “Welcome to Smartsheet” box to the right. From that one introductory screen, you are able to navigate and get started. I clicked on “See Example Templates” because I wanted to see the range of things I could do. There are 119 templates in the gallery and from there you can kickstart nearly any type of project or process.

As a quick aside, I appreciate when a company does what it says its going to do. On the sign-up page, Smartsheet promises a “60 Second Sign-up” that honestly only took 15 seconds and I was up and running.

Along with that, there is no credit card required to do the free trial. Most companies try to capture your card info.

Something else I really liked: Smartsheet enables you as the owner/manager of the “sheet” to involve contributors without ever requiring them to login to the application. During my test, my clients and friends didn’t have to sign up, although some of them might once they see it.

Managing It All

With Smartsheet, I can assign a task to someone on my team and request that they update the status of that item in Smartsheet. In part of my test, I requested a team member change the “task name”. That person received an email from me and then when they complete that item, I receive an email showing it completed and what was entered (which is highlighted in yellow). I can select to receive all these updates or not.

I can attach files to a specific row in the sheet which gives me a one-stop place to manage my project from the web and for my team to get access to it as well. If you want someone to get that document, you don’t send them the actual file and wait while they make changes. You send them a download link to Smartsheet location where the most up-to-date version resides. As you change and update the document, you store the most recent version, as well as previous versions, in this one location.

Smartsheet attach files

What it Could Do Better

No application is perfect and Smartsheet lacks a few things. There is no search function, but I have heard that this is coming very soon. It would also be ideal to see a way to collect web content via a webform into the app, from a survey, for example.

The last challenge I see is function/feature overload for the user. This is a good thing and bad thing. The application is rich with features, but it can be intimidating to use because you don’t know what to do first. The pre-built templates solve some of this, thankfully.

What you are trying to do with a service like Smartsheet is save time passing information among your employees and teams and keep it in one place instead. Conceptually, this should make business easier. As the manager, I can now set alerts that notify me when someone makes a change or adds new information or gets the job done. This could be more info and emails to manage, but they make it user-friendly and I can set how often and what I want to see in an alert.

While many compare Smartsheet to a spreadsheet, it is much more than that. It is a centralized online location to create and manage projects and processes.  Learn more about Smartsheet.






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