5 Things To Do Before You Start A Smartsheet Implementation

JP Patino

April 21, 2022

Today’s “work from anywhere” culture is here to stay. We all know the COVID pandemic accelerated our ability and desire to work anywhere. Even as we return in a hybrid capacity we all recognize the value of collaboration software as an essential tool for working productively. We’ve witnessed first-hand over hundreds of projects how line of business leaders are embracing Smartsheet as an essential tool to improve business productivity, enable better collaboration across distributed teams, and increase shared visibility into projects and programs. A lot of companies ask us for tips and best practices as they consider their own Smartsheet implementation, so we compiled a short list of five critical lessons we’ve learned to help make you successful.

1. Articulate the business problems you’re trying to solve

First and before seeking a Smartsheet investment conversation with your program lead or department executive, invest some time to document and clearly articulate the business challenges you want to address by adopting this new technology. Be clear about: 

  • Who your primary Smartsheet users will be and the benefits to them
  • What type of information you want audiences inside and outside of your team to see and why
  • What action to you expect the users to take

This is a short list and there are likely many more that will need to be answered. This list is only intended to help you get started.

Once these questions are answered, take your planning a step further and work with your line of business leader to set up a free trial of Smartsheet for yourself. Taking the software for a test drive before requesting an additional budget for your PMO will benefit you. For example, you’ll first gain a strong sense of how the platform works. Next, the exercise will also raise a lot of questions for how you want to see, move, and manipulate data within your business processes and workflow. Finally, you’ll also learn how you may want to integrate your go-to apps with Smartsheet and gain experience mocking up dashboards and reports.  

2. Identify a product owner and review your business processes

When adopting new technology, it’s essential to identify the owner. This will be the person responsible for the success of the product and how it gets implemented with your team. The owner will also spend a great deal of time defining the roles and responsibilities for all people involved. During this phase of planning, it’s also a great time to re-evaluate your current business processes to ensure they support the growth and maturity of your team and projects. 

The Smartsheet owner or lead should ultimately understand the inner workings of the solution you’re building and be on the front lines of optimizing it over time. Beyond discussing these responsibilities, your Smartsheet leads should also consider creating performance indicators for their measurable and accountable activities. Here are a few different examples of the types of metrics we see PMO implementing across various roles.

When it comes to deploying any new technology, we’ve also found it essential for the platform owner and extended team to identify the specific roles and responsibilities for all involved. For us, a RACI matrix is a tried and trusted tool.

Ideally, the people who will be using Smartsheet should be involved in this process of integrating it into your business. Together, get clear about who the decision-makers are, what role each person on the team will play, and the involvement needed from other stakeholders. Each person on the team should have a clear sense of their role and responsibilities at the beginning, middle, and end of a project. Be wary of keeping individuals on the team without defining their responsibilities. This ambiguity will delay decisions and unnecessarily complicate what you’re trying to build. 

One of the most critical parts of your prep work is defining and refining your business processes. Start by writing down what you believe your “ideal state” business process should look like, noting any roles or actions that are currently unclear or undefined. 

At CORTAC Group, we regularly guide customers through this journey. We help customers understand where Smartsheet can add automation and efficiencies to their business process. It often takes experts who can understand your business challenges and know the software to really be able to see the efficiencies your business can gain.

3. Define the metrics and visibility for your portfolio of projects

We think of dashboards as the canvas for work in Smartsheet. They’re an ideal mechanism for getting the valuable information to the right people at the right time to make more informed decisions. Dashboards can also serve as a hub for your projects where you share status updates and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). By defining the types of insights decision-makers at different levels of your organization need, you can create impactful dashboards to drive your business forward.

An important lesson we’ve learned is that the pre-planning phase of a Smartsheet implementation is the perfect time to consider the conversations you want to have about your project. Explore questions, such as;

  • Who will need to see portfolio or project information?
  • What questions or decisions to business leaders need to make with this information?
  • What do you want your Smartsheet users to do with the information you’re presenting?
  • What are some of the resources we can move to meet our timeline?

Use this as a starting point to help understand the types of questions you’ll need to explore as a team. Answering these questions will help you create compelling reports and guards against making a collection of pretty graphs that aren’t actionable.

4. Define your approach to file sharing and apply appropriate security controls

An organized and defined approach to information sharing will help your team make the most of Smartsheet while protecting your team’s data. Decide where you’ll store information and consider whom you’ll need to share specific fields with over the project. If your company uses products like Microsoft Teams or Microsoft Sharepoint or something similar, consider where the files are stored, how many different versions exist, and how users of the Smartsheet solution will access this data.

The planning phase of your implementation should also identify a standard file naming convention to align to the existing structure you already have in place. Many companies have documents spread throughout the organization with different versions and slices of data. Wouldn’t it be great to use a platform where you can finally have one source of truth for all your relevant data and information? Smartsheet integrates widely with a lot of your favorite enterprise apps and the pre-planning phase is the best time to think through this aspect of your implementation.

As a final note on file sharing, many enterprises we work with use Smartsheet Dynamic View to manage enterprise-wide or third-party sharing. We like Smartsheet Dynamic View because it allows you to apply identity-based access control so that individuals have access only to information relevant to their role. It’s an easy way to highlight critical information for various stakeholders without providing them access to the underlying sheets you’ve created. 

5. Simplify your initial deployment

When starting with Smartsheet, we recommend keeping your initial deployment simple. Keeping your engagement straightforward – at least for the first few months as the team gets up and running – allows your team to learn and feel confident using Smartsheet functionality. Simplified deployments also enable you to address any processes that aren’t working the way you’d like. 

We’ve seen a tendency and desire to over-engineer the initial Smartsheet deployment. Give yourself some time as you’re just getting started. A simpler implementation will help create faster adoption and use of the platform. The features and functions you enable in your implementation should match the team’s maturity and what the group can realistically achieve. I always recommend to clients to keep it simple – it’s easier to add complexity later versus remove it.

Support for your Smartsheet implementation

CORTAC has deep experience with PMOs and Smartsheet. As a long-time Smartsheet partner, we can help you answer questions about implementing Smartsheet. We’d welcome a conversation with you.  Please reach out to me directly at jp.patino@cortacgroup.com with pre-implementation questions. You can also read more about our Smartsheet planning and implementation services here.