Did you start using Smartsheet to manage your projects? Then you’ve most likely created the schedule, shared it with your team and everyone collaborated on it. How did it work out for you? I guess it worked great! By the time the next project started, you created a template to make copies of the structure you already had and liked. Maybe you also started with playing with reports and dashboards. And then came the moment where you started realizing that you have to perform a lot of manual steps each time you setup a project in order for it to show up properly.
Well, this is where Control Center steps in. It’s a tool built specifically for Project Portfolio Management (PPM). Your team uses Smartsheet for executing the work, and you use Control Center to scale the portfolio allowing to provide visibility and implement best practices and a standardized way of working. Control Center uses a blueprint for that. It’s a collection of sheets, reports and dashboards. They are all connected with each other to provide a good environment from initiation to executing a project.
Portfolio Management Lifecycle
At the front end of the portfolio lifecycle we have demand management. All project requests go into a demand management system and are being evaluated against the strategic goals and eventually they will be approved or declined.
On the other end we have portfolio reporting. Here are all projects rolled up into reports and dashboards. Key thing is that this needs to be automated. You don’t want manual work each time a project is added to the portfolio.
Over time your process improves and your business requirements change. You always want to be in control of the structure of your projects and be able to tweak these when necessary.
Finally there is archiving. Projects will be closed and you want to archive them for various reasons. First you need to freeze them, so no historical data is being altered. Second, is that you need them to be available for future reference or audit purposes.
How does this work in practice?
Before jumping into creating new demand, let’s start with a high level overview on the portfolio. The built in reporting and dashboarding capabilities of Smartsheet offer great possibilities for this. By setting up a Portfolio Management Dashboard you are able to both gain insight in the entire portfolio as well as use it as the central hub for managing it.
Items included in the dashboard are various, but think about key metrics, budgets, key details of projects, project requests, risks, issues, etc. Another very useful item is a link to a new project request form which can be used by your organization to capture a demand. Please read this blog post if you want to know more about the possibilities of dashboarding in Smartsheet.
Once the form has been filled in, a record will be added to the Project Intake sheet, and therefor it will directly be included in the portfolio dashboard as well. Based on the governance you have in place, the new request needs to be enhanced and ultimately be approved. Smartsheet offers a lot of flexibility in this, but that is a different topic.
When the request has been approved, it’s time to convert it into a project. This is where Control Center comes into action. First action is to select the appropriate blueprint, which is the structure on how a project is executed. It contains all templates, reports and dashboards. As one size doesn’t fit all, you are able to create various blueprints for various goals such as IT Projects, NPD Projects, etc.
As a next step, you will be asked which of the optional templates you need to include. Once done, you are able to select the approved project request from a dropdown. All information from the intake sheet will be picked up and automatically filled in on the project. The last step will be granting access to the new project. After this Smartsheet will clone the blueprint, set up everything in it including the customizations required to ensure the reports and dashboards will show the correct data without any manual effort.
This process can also be automated, meaning after a project request has been approved, the project can automatically be created without any user going into the Control Center.
Now that the project has been created, the portfolio dashboard will automatically be updated to include the new project. As we use the portfolio management dashboard as the central hub, we are able to deep dive into the project. By clicking the project name, the project dashboard will be opened which allows you to see the details of the project. From the project dashboard you can click through and open the sheets where all the actual work is done.
Another great feature of Control Center is pushing changes to sheets, reports and dashboards. Examples of changes are adding a new value to an existing dropdown or pushing a new column into your sheets. Instead of opening all individual sheets themselves and apply the change manually, Control Center can apply this change in bulk for you.
A big time saver!
Now we’ve seen how a portfolio dashboard creates visibility on the project portfolio. How it can become the central hub to give you overall portfolio information, but also allows you to deep dive into details project information. How the project request form and project intake sheet allow you to capture demand. How Control Center enable you to scale your portfolio by creating projects with just one click of a button. And finally, how Control Center allows you to do global updates. All and all, control center will reduce risk of manual work and be a huge timesaver!