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.
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:
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
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
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.