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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.
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…
Reporting 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?