Collaborative project planning with Smartsheet

KollaborativeProjektplanungmitSmartsheet

We have used smartsheet for one of our projects and in this blog post we have gathered all the information for you to use as a guide for your next project.

Introduction

As a technical program manager on an international project for a mobile operator, I had to manage multiple dependencies between 6 vendors and several internal IT departments. The exchange of offline MS project files and manual synchronization are very time-consuming and can quickly lead to errors. I did a quick evaluation of web-based tools with the team and we chose smartsheet.com.

For this, you need to know that Smartsheet is a cloud-based product (SAAS) hosted in the USA.

This is a no-go criterion for some projects (especially when using NDA). For a European project, the safe harbor agreement for data protection could be accepted:

See: https://www.smartsheet.com/privacy

Project context

Smartsheet was deployed between 2014 and 2015. The project has the following main features:

  • The project team is spread over several countries (USA, Europe).
  • Multiple teams need to analyze, develop and deploy the software
  • There are more than 500 important milestones
  • The milestones have a high degree of dependency (from a solution and timeline perspective)
  • V-model and agile software methods are combined
  • The contracts with all suppliers contain the relevant milestones with corresponding contractual penalties in the event of delay

Role concept

Smartsheet allowed us to set up the following access rights concept:

  • The licensed (paying) users can create new sheets
  • Users who collaborate can edit or/and view existing sheets
  • We have formed several groups that reflect the project organization
  • Each group has been assigned at least one licensed user
  • A separate workspace with read/write permissions has been set up for each group. Other groups can have reading rights
  • The groups reflect the following project teams:
  • External suppliers (licensed user is still on customer side)
  • internal delivery units on the customer side
  • Project Management Team (PMO)

The following governance rules have been implemented:

  • each supplier and internal delivery unit has its own workspace
  • the cascading of all artifacts is subject to control by program management

The Smartsheet Approach

We created several pages that were shared independently and between groups/workspaces:

  • Project plans linked by dependencies, cascaded from low-level to high-level view
  • Low-level plans have more than 500 key milestones
  • The parent plan fits on ONE A4 page
  • Action points register
  • Problem and risk register
  • Test inventory (sim card)
  • Report form

Advantages

Compared to MS Project Server (which we used in a different context), we see the following advantages of Smartsheet:

  • Operational from day 0 of the project
  • no additional software or hardware is required
  • no costs for our employees (> 50 users) with only 3 paying users
  • sharing sheets with other participants is possible without an account
  • the dependency between all subproject plans is quite simple and provides real-time assessment of the impact of delays. The evaluation of plan scenarios can be easily performed.

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