Smartsheet: The Next-Gen Spreadsheet

CIO VendorMark Mader, President & CEO Two days before the NFL Super Bowl, Marc Klein, a senior associate at Populous–a global sports architecture and event management firm, seems placid and organized. This is unusual considering that Klein, who works for years coordinating the global event with his team and hundreds of vendors and volunteers, needs to make sure that all the actions—both on and off the field—are executed with pin-point accuracy so the rest of the world can enjoy the high-octane football clash. Klein has a myriad of schedules to track–construction timetables, media activities, transportation facilities, signage, VIP hospitality, half-time security, tear down and so on. “Part of our role is to compile all of that information in real time, minute by minute,” reveals Klein.

Though there are numerous project management tools, Populous turned to Smartsheet to help cope with this scenario. The move to Smartsheet seems to have paid rich dividends for Klein. “From planning to onsite execution, Smartsheet has become an important tool for the collaboration and workflow solution for Populous’ event group,” notes Klein.

“Smartsheet has definitely improved our productivity, impressed our clients and vendors, and made project management for major sporting events much easier,” he adds. Based out in Bellevue, WA, Smartsheet provides collaborative work management software that takes the familiar grid interface of Microsoft Excel, and combines it with a robust cloud environment and project management capabilities on the backend. “It is a hybrid of Excel, SharePoint, Project and Access, put together into a very consumable, collaborat ive framework,” affirms Mark Mader, President and CEO, Smartsheet.

Using a Spreadsheet Model—with New Approach

Research shows 60 percent of spreadsheets used in organizations today don’t have formulas in them—they’re not used for financials or number crunching. They are used for tracking work—things like tasks lists, event plans, project assignments, sales forecasts, inventory, marketing campaigns, new hire on-boarding, and every other business function in the organization.

“Smartsheet is displacing what people have historically used spreadsheets for, giving them one centralized place to get work done,” says Mader. “Teams can now work together, viewing and updating their work across departments and time zones on their mobile devices,” he explains.

Smartsheet has taken the well-loved spreadsheet interface and coupled it with capabilities often found in team collaboration and project management tools—automated reminders, multiple ways to visualize work (Gantt charts, timelines and calendar views), resource management, file sharing, and mobile apps. In addition, it offers enterprise-scalability, enhanced security, rich integrations with leading web apps and administrative controls required by IT to deploy it throughout the organization.

The result is a tool that teams, both inside and outside the organization, use to manage projects
and operational processes in a collaborative way. Smartsheet has more than 5 million registered users and over 55,000 subscribed companies, including many of the world’s leading firms like Google, Netflix, Cisco, Bayer, and Groupon.

The familiar spreadsheet-like interface combined with file sharing and work automation features is the USP of the firm. “Everyone knows Excel,” affirms Mader. Anyone comfortable with Excel or a similar spreadsheet tool will find Smartsheet easy to set up and use. Smartsheet is not based on an existing spreadsheet, like the one from Google; from the very onset it was designed with the additional collaborative capabilities. The product is integrated with Google Drive (docs, email, or calendar) which means that, with a single sign-on, clients can attach Google Docs to the rows, or sync the project calendar with their Google Calendar.

Recently, the company also announced integration with Microsoft Office 365 and Microsoft Azure. This enables customers on the Microsoft platform to securely access and share information with Smartsheet using the company managed credentials. This is a significant ‘convenience win’ for end users and an equally significant win for IT on identity management and access control.

As the tool’s work sheets provide secure access down to the row level, it is easy to not only manage a project, but also to collaborate with other project participants. Team members can securely share worksheets, attach files (stored on their hard drives or in web apps like Box, Dropbox or Evernote) to specific fields, and create and track discussions about the projects from within Smartsheet itself. “Smartsheet lets clients keep all the documents related to a work project together so they don't have dig for information in emails, “explains Mader.

Smartsheet also allows the clients to import and export data to and from their account in a wide variety of formats, such as Microsoft Excel and Project. Additionally, with Smartsheet's mobile apps for iPhone/iPad and Android, users don’t need a computer to access and update Smartsheet–they can access them from wherever they are, over an internet connected mobile device.

Smartsheet is relevant and deployed in almost every single industry, most functional groups within those industries, and companies across 175 countries. “Today there is little that Smartsheet cannot do for a project or business,” claims Mader.The success story of Colliers Wisconsin, which is one among the largest full-service commercial and residential real estate firms in Wisconsin, is a case in point. With over 10 million square feet of real estate, thousands of tenants and hundreds of owners to manage, Smartsheet is the hub that Colliers Wisconsin uses to centralize all information including property details, client communication, vendor resources and more. With the information consolidated and easily accessible in Smartsheet, Colliers has won more business, improved communication, and created a culture of transparency. “With Smartsheet, I can pull client reports in 15 minutes. It used to take me an entire day with Google Docs or Excel,” said Kristin Komassa, team coordinator at Colliers Wisconsin. “Managers have true team workload visibility. We can compare portfolios side-by-side and also run reports across portfolios to dive into the weeds in seconds.Smartsheet has made our lives easier,” she added.

Enterprise Work Visualization

In addition to helping individual users and teams visualize and collaborate on specific projects
and processes, Smartsheet also offers provides organizations with a high level view of their usage of Smartsheet. These visualizations help identify patterns in work or team collaboration across the organization, visualize hubs of activity, and map it to corporate priorities. Mader hints that Smartsheet is a class above the rest in shedding valuable insights into how work actually gets done. "We're delivering the only comprehensive work visualization tool in the market," he explains.

What is most visually appealing about Smartsheet is its ability to show an enterprise-wide view of all user processes taking place at once. The map looks like a top-down view of a city. Clusters of groups show employees working on specific projects, and a grid on its right-hand side shows usage statistics such as the number of employees collaborating on Smartsheet and the number of discussions taking place at any given time.

Smartsheet's patent-protected algorithm also considers external contributors such as vendors and business partners who will use the software to help manage their work. The software keeps employees accountable for the work they are scheduled to complete. Through Smartsheet, relationships between individuals become visible; furthermore, relationships between groups also become visible. It shows the entire relational aspect of how work is getting done so businesses can see how they are functioning in real time.

By breaking down the traditional organizational chart view of work management, Smartsheet shows how internal employees and external contributors form work clusters around certain processes to drive work forward. Joshua Greenbaum, principal at Enterprise Applications Consulting says, “Having this level of visibility into how work gets done and how people internal and external to the enterprise collaborate is uniquely valuable to any organization.”

The company’s hosted data centers (located in TX, VA and IL) have been independently audited to ensure that client’s data is not only stored securely, but is easily available to clients worldwide. These measures help Smartsheet maintain their expected availability of 99.9 percent. In addition, the company recognizes that: “Clients retain all rights, title and interest in the content and data that they submit to Smartsheet.”

Hitting the Road, Nailing the Deliverables

Smartsheet has a unique opportunity and tremendous momentum in the marketplace and the company aims to deliver a compelling Smartsheet experience while improving the value customers see in the cloud platforms. “Our continued success is dependent on how well we listen to our customers and innovate on the new capabilities without forgetting that it all rests on how easy our solution is to use, share, and get work done,” reveals Mader. “We can’t be slightly better than an alternative solution; Smartsheet has to be an essential tool that is used every day,” he concludes.

Smartsheet is a hybrid of Excel, SharePoint, Project and Access, put together into a very consumable framework


Bellevue, WA

Mark Mader, President & CEO

Smartsheet offers an enterprise-ready cloud app for work management and collaboration. The online tool is used not only for managing projects and tasks, but also operational processes, sales pipelines, marketing campaigns and more