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Summary:

Back in July when I originally covered the beta of Smartsheet Task Manager and Project Collaboration service, I had some reservations about adopting it. While I thought it was a strong app, I also believed it was lacking some of the core features I would need. […]

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Back in July when I originally covered the beta of Smartsheet Task Manager and Project Collaboration service, I had some reservations about adopting it. While I thought it was a strong app, I also believed it was lacking some of the core features I would need.

With their official launch of V2 today, I wanted to give it another look to see how things have changed since I last looked. I also had an opportunity to chat about Smartsheet with founder and chairman Brent Frei who shared with me some of the design philosophy behind the service and productivity in general.

According to Frei, Smartsheet is built upon 5 Foundational characteristics that define and guide the user experience, and where in the process most applications fail. From the initial first impressions through to company wide adoption, Frei claims that Smartsheet is designed to address the needs of real users through each of these phases.

One of the most intriguing of these 5 Foundations to me is their “No Adoption Required” philosophy. If you have ever tried to incorporate a project management tool into a team or collaborative environment, you understand the challenges of trying to get everyone on board. Whatever the case for the resistance, the tool ceases to be effective if the team doesn’t use it. Smartsheet and the “No Adoption Required” philosophy tries to combat this by enabling folks to be a contributor without needing to ever create an account or log in.

Smartsheet - email update

Acknowledging that email is still the primary communication tool in most organizations, Smartsheet has really beefed up notification and participation options through email. Using live secure links, users can access the area of the project that is relevant to them and incorporate their updates directly in to the Smartsheet system. These live links are also used for access to attached files.

I really can’t stress how easy and seamlessly this is done. Say I need a status update from a particular user on the line items he is responsible for, I can send them a quick update request link to just those items. They can add updates or comments, change task status, add files etc…

Smartsheet - Update RequestReporting options will allow these status update emails to be scheduled and automated making it really easy to create a nice consistent workflow process.

File attachments and threaded discussions can also be affiliated with each line item task which is really handy.

Another really thoughtful feature is full change management and recording. Track who completed what and when and highlight the changes over a particular time period.

Options for branding and customization are also nice and can be adjusted for each organization you work with. A new branded distribution program adds customized templates and workflow along with revenue sharing.

All together these improvements and refinements, along with some upcoming reporting options, make Smartsheet a much more compelling option for project and task management than it was when I reviewed them in beta. It is simple to use, easy to access, and affordable.

Even though I’m still not convinced the spreadsheet metaphor is the right one for me, there is a certain comfort and familiarity to Smartsheet that makes it easy to just jump in and start working.

Pricing for Smartsheet starts with a free 2 sheet Starter Account with additional sheets and reporting options available for the higher account levels. I really like that they don’t limit users with any of the accounts. I believe pricing models like that tend to inhibit the desire to bring folks on board. Smartsheet allows you to share with an unlimited number of people with any plan.

Are you ready to give up your spreadsheets for Smartsheet?

  1. Nozbe also has great collaboration tools in its family and team applications. However, you are correct that trying to get others to use the system you use is a major challenge. Heck, getting them to use any system is a challenge. Time and task management really is a personal choice.

    I’ve written several posts about my experiences with GTD on my blog at http://johnkendrick.wordpress.com/how-to-gtd/ John

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  2. I recently read a blog post (can’t remember where exactly) about what does a PM tool need to be a pioneer in the market. My comment (on that post and another one) was intelligence, PM tools are currently merely a way for storing your information and displaying it back on demand, they’re not really intelligent. By intelligent I don’t mean fancy reports, I mean learning from you, what you’re doing and what others are doing, seeing your mistakes (even the subtle, logical ones), etc…

    I think this should be the next big thing for such products.

    http://www.pmhut.com

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  3. So far I really like Smartsheet, except the trial policy.

    Anyway, I like it so much that I switched one of the projects from Zoho and testing it now.

    I think what we need is a software that works and works fast. Zoho is too slow and has limited number of features – smartsheet technically has no PM features, but it’s flexible.

    I would not use Smartsheet for a large project, so I would not Zoho…

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  4. [...] were hearing good things about Smartsheet back in 2007, and WebWorkerDaily’s Scott Blitstein sounds pretty impressed with the way the product integrates with email, allowing users to participate without logging [...]

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  5. I use smartsheets and I love it. When you consider things like attachments and discussions for each row, easy updating by others, total control over formatting, formulas, and now Mechanical Turk…. what you can do is almost limitless. Its a very powerful tool, yet so simple for those averse to technology.

    If you have a 60 year old field guy that doesn’t want to remember logins and such, this is the thing. It also happens to be the thing for a power geek.

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