Everyone is a project manager nowadays. You can either be a certified project manager managing a big project, or a team member managing a work process as needed. Today I will focus on the second group. Those people who aren’t fully certified project managers but have started a small project to improve their work.
Starting up a new project sounds like fun but can also be a little overwhelming. For example, you need to determine what work needs to be done, when, by whom and in what order. Next to that, a project is never done alone and solely for yourself. You must communicate with team members and other stakeholders such as your sponsor. So, you might need a little help when starting the project in order to accelerate when you are executing it. Smartsheet can help you with that!
Smartsheet for Project Management
Smartsheet is a cloud-based work-execution platform that project managers around the world use to successfully deliver projects. It’s Solution Center comes with several free pre-built templates to quickly get a project up and running.
Let’s start with the Project with Gantt Timeline. When created you will get a Smartsheet which is pre-set with both configuration and content. Isn’t that’s convenient?! The configuration consists of a basic set of columns such as Status, Start Date, End Date, Assigned To and % Complete. Some of these columns are set to roll-up, when used in hierarchy. The content is a pre-defined structure of hierarchical tasks. This can be used to distinguish phases and their related tasks.
Creating the project schedule
With this starting point available it’s time to schedule the project. Determine the work breakdown structure and provide names to the phases and tasks. You can simply add more tasks with a click of a button. Next is to determine the start and finish dates of your tasks and assign them to team members.
If you want to have a little more functionality, Smartsheet has a lot to offer. Examples are:
- Enabling a column for duration which allows you to calculate the task end date based on the duration.
- Working with dependencies which allow you to distinguish which tasks are related to each other.
- Adding more columns (and/or reshuffle them) if you want to provide a little more information on task level.
So, lots of things you can do with your schedule, but remember you want to keep it as simple as possible. Don’t lose yourself in unnecessary details. Once complete, your plan is ready to be executed!
Executing the project
Okay, the execution of the project has to be done by you and your project team. Smartsheet won’t do that for you, but it has a lot of things to offer to help you track and communicate project progress.
First, you need to communicate your schedule to the project team. This can be done in various ways and with various visualizations. We have already seen the Gantt Chart which visualizes timelines and dependencies. Another visualization I’d like to highlight is the Card View. This displays the tasks in lanes which can be viewed on any column which has a predefined list. Using drag and drop, you can easily move tasks between the lanes in order to change the status or assign it to someone else.
Most of the communication takes place during the execution of the project. In the old days we were all located in the same office, but as times are changing and work is becoming place and time undependable, conversations should take place digitally more often. Smartsheet has a collaboration feature where team members can start conversation on both project level as well as task level. In order to make conversations visible, the tasks which will be highlighted if a conversation is added to it. On top of this, if a team member gets mentioned, he or she will get a notification of this as well. It's also possible to add attachments, allowing you to store all project related information in one place.
Lastly, you need to know the status of the work you have assigned to your team members. With the pre-built automation capabilities of Smartsheet you can send out update requests to the assignee of a task. He or she will then receive an email containing a link to a Smartsheet Form in which the required update can be provided. A nice feature is that the person who receives the update request doesn’t require access to your project schedule or even a license for Smartsheet. Off course, you as the project manager can always adjust the updates provided by your team members.
Other cool stuff
Hopefully you are not yet completely satisfied with the possibilities of managing your project in Smartsheet. There is a lot more to offer! Without going into details, Smartsheet can help you:
- Create project summary fields where you can store relevant project information.
- Create filters and highlight to easily focus on those tasks which require attention.
- Create reports and dashboards to communicate project status to key stakeholders.
- Use automation to create workflows, get or send notifications, reminders and ask for status updates.
- Link information to other sheets in order to share key information without having to update it in multiple locations.
- Integrate your project schedule in a Microsoft Teams environment which enables you to communicate the schedule in the environment you might already be using for collaboration on the project.
We have now seen that setting up and keeping track off your project doesn’t have to be that hard. Just a little push in the right direction combined with some technology can help you kick start setting up the project and after that keeping track of it. Smartsheet is one of those pieces of technology which does this trick. With its extensive scheduling capabilities, its automation capabilities and pre-built solutions it will provide any project manager with the right toolset which simplifies the administrative part of project management.