I was asked to do a quick analysis and summary of an online collaboration tool called Smartsheet. Thought I'd publish it to the blog in case anyone else is looking for a way to improve team efficiency and the flow of info within their organization. I don't know if we are going to use this where I am working right now, but it's an intriguing option in my opinion.
What is Smartsheet?
What is Smartsheet?
Basically it is a cloud-based app which combines the familiarity of spreadsheets with access to templates and additional features which would make spreadsheets more useful for a variety of purposes.
Purposes of sheets might include:
- All the things we use spreadsheets for already
- Project tracking
- Marketing goals and tasks
- Sales pipeline reports
So imagine a spreadsheet for any of the above purposes, but which also has value-add features built into the spreadsheet like:
- Engage in a chat with other users about a particular row in the sheet. This is very powerful, IMHO. You can have asynchronous communication with other users assigned to the sheet at a row level -- in other words, an entire, recorded (written) conversation about that line item.
- Associate files with a row. So you could attach, for example, a .docx with a specific row to provide more information about a task (or whatever is in that row).
- See all user revisions in the sheet
- Email specific rows to others
- Reminders about approaching milestones
- Gantt view of all tasks and their dependencies.
- See the spreadsheet's contents in a calendar view (example).
- Publish spreadsheet for outsiders to see
- Branding of spreadsheets
Of course, there is a more fundamental benefit to have it be a spreadsheet in the cloud in the first place: there would be no emailing back and forth of the various version of the document. All the users go to it. The doc stays in one place.
Smartsheet offers the oft-seen "good, better, best" tiered pricing and is based on (among other more typical things like # of projects and users, etc.) on the number of "creators". If you would likely have more than 10 users creating sheets, you would need the Enterprise tier account, which is $150 per month (you could get two months free by prepaying the year). A single user account is $15.95 per month.
Basing this kind of collaborative software on something as familiar as a spreadsheet is a unique approach that could give a collaborative tool a big boost in adoption in an organization. "Learnability" is already pretty high. Google Docs also does this, of course and there there are a few others that offer basic, cloud-based spreadsheet apps. However, they lack the templates and value-add features like row-level discussions and file association, just to name two.
If larger company would entertain the idea of spending the money for it after the trial (i.e. if the pricing is not a deal breaker in and of itseelf), it looks like it could be worth engaging in the 15-day trial and I would suggest piloting it on a specific cross-departmental project of some kind--in other words engage the maximum number of departments across the greatest distance. Then do a post-mortem and decide whether all involved found it to be productive.