Smartsheet Review: Introduction
Well known for the being the biggest online Gantt solution, Smartsheet appears a little over the top. Seven or eight years ago it was enough to move MS Project to the web and come up with a SaaS solution. But today this entire Gantt based solution looks old fashioned and outdated. It even has the need to click “save” in some instances – it really takes me back to the 90’s.
Smartsheet, as implied by its name, is doing good work using sheets (tables). Arranging the work in tables gives a spreadsheet like experience, along with some collaboration and online options. I almost titled this review “Smartsheet: Excel By Another Name” – that is how much of a spreadsheet experience it has.
Another SmartSheet advantage is with its ability to be implemented in large organizations, with the implications such an implementation could have for IT environment, audit requirements and so on. However, this scale does not play to the benefit of project teams or even small to medium size organizations.
Besides the use of tables, there is nothing much to brag about here. Using a Gantt chart comes with a set of pros and cons. It is accurate and enables all kinds of task hierarchies and task networks. However, at the end of the day, it is still a long unreadable chart that people like to avoid.
Smartsheet is not even the best online Gantt solution out there. We reviewed TeamGANTT and LiquidPlanner to name two, and liked them both more. They had better features, were more intuitive, and had better visuals.
Pro Tip: The “card view” can help you avoid the unwieldy Gantt chart at the expense of the timeline.
Smartsheet has an entire section of the website devoted to task management. It can be integrated into a Gantt chart, though this is a backwards approach to both task management and project management – a classic example of how trying to do everything leaves you with nothing. The task management view allows you to group tasks by priority, which is helpful. It also allows for customized columns – though, to be fair, this gives it an Excel like feel. The project management view, and the task management view, both come with an Excel-like toolbar. It seems strange to use software that is almost entirely Excel-like minus the Gantt chart generation.
Pro Tip: Incredibly, tasks marked as completed do not migrate into the completed category on the spreadsheet on their own. Be on top of your spreadsheet!
Project Portfolio Management
Here, too, there is a separate section of the website. Here, too, is an Excel-like feel. It has same multiple view options. It is serviceable, like a used car – it will drive from place to place, but it will also barely work and have zero features.
Ease of Use and Clarity
SmartSheet is easy to use, because it is so similar to Excel. The buttons are similar, the tools are similar, and the user experience is intuitive to anyone who has used Excel. That said, it doesn’t quite have clarity – many functions are hidden behind multiple clicks, in hard to find places.
Pro Tip: You will need to update both the progress bars AND the project status – one does not automatically fill the other. A ridiculously unnecessary extra step.
SmartSheet isn’t really the best productivity tool out there. It’s more about generating Gantt chart reports than being on top of things. The communication tool is straight out of Excel, too – a clunky and inefficient way of being in contact with people. Small things missing start to add up – the color assigned in card view doesn’t show up in grid view, for example. Whatever your reason was for assigning a color to a card, it isn’t there when you’re looking at the grid. Even the activity log is more about tracking spreadsheet changes than actually tracking progress.
Pro Tip: Hit save often. I can’t believe I need to type this. I lost so much work using SmartSheet because I have grown unaccustomed to clicking save on web based work tools. Even if this happens just one time, you’ll waste an inordinate amount of time re-entering it all.
Smartsheet Review: Summary
Overall score: 7.6
Compared to other Gantt chart project management tools like TeamGantt, Smartsheet just lags behind. If you’re a spreadsheet maven, you might like it. Otherwise, stay away!