London (Credit image/PIxabay/balichaca)At Engage London, Smartsheet announced the availability of several new AI-powered and resource management features. The features are integrated into the Smartsheet platform and available to customers based on their various plans. Engage London is being held over two days and is a smaller version of the Engage event that Smartsheet holds every year in Seattle. It will be held later in the year October 7-10.

Smartsheet has not held back on its announcements as many US vendors seem to do for European conferences. The features announced are available globally. The intent of introducing these new features is to enable organisations to make better decisions using the data they already have. The new features allow users to better understand, visualise and analyse work management data. These will provide additional AI-driven insights as well.

Ben Canning, SVP of Product Experiences, Smartsheet (image credit - LinkedIn/Ben Canning)
Ben Canning, SVP of Product Experiences, Smartsheet

Ben Canning, SVP of Product Experiences Smartsheet, commented, “The way an organization manages work, the people doing the work, and the content they’re creating is the foundation for success, and Smartsheet brings these key components together on one AI-powered platform.

“With the next generation of our platform, we’re giving customers a bird’s eye view of their business and empowering them to uncover meaningful insights from their work management data so they can make smart, informed decisions and achieve their goals faster.”

Embedding AI

Smartsheet has continued to embed AI and, specifically, generative AI into its platform. The new features have been developed in line with the Smartsheet principles for responsible AI, which prioritise data protection and privacy. It adheres to four core principles:

  • Responsibility: Smartsheet takes on the responsibility for privacy and data protection
  • Transparency: Smartsheet reveals what, how and where it uses data. It does not use customer data to train models nor share that data with external AI platforms
  • Security: Security is reviewed annually and based on a defence-in-depth strategy
  • Empowerment: Tools are designed to empower users, giving users to decision to use or not use them

Smartsheet announced three new generative AI-powered features. Most are available from 14th May. Enterprise plan customers can take advantage of the new features. Enterprise Times asked Smartsheet for details on what will be available and when.

The response was, “With the exception of analyze data, the features we’re announcing are available to all eligible Smartsheet users as of May 14, depending on their plan, regardless of location. Analyze data features are currently available to all enterprise plan customers using Smartsheet.com and will be available to all Smartsheet enterprise customers using Smartsheet.eu by the end of May.

Analyse Data

Users will be able to use natural language to interrogate data within the Smartsheet platform. Questions could include:

  • How many programs were over budget last month in each department
  • How many tasks were completed in July
  • Create a chart showing the number of tasks by status
  • I want a chart of total sales by customer

Smartsheet will deliver the answer in an appropriate format, whether that is data visualisations such as bar, line, or pie charts, or respond with a single value. If the platform cannot interpret the question, it will ask for clarification.

Smartsheet will continue to develop this feature and intends to develop it to the point where the platform will derive insights from data on the thousands of customer projects to unlock portfolio-level insights. There are some other limitations at the moment; it will not summarize a sheet, nor can users download the answers.

Generate Formulas

This new feature enables users to generate complex formulas using a new AI tool. Users can describe the formula they wish to create in natural language, and the Smartsheet AI will simplify the process. The AI will assist by autocompleting field names during the process.

One example given is “Calculate allocation % for tasks using Effort, Duration and Staff”. The system will automatically create the correct formula which is

“=([Effort]@row/([Duration]@row*[Staff]@row*8))*100”

Smartsheet believes that it is the only collaborative work management platform to have created an AI formula builder. As with Data Analyse, there are currently some limitations, which will no doubt be reduced in later iterations. It will only support cell values in the current sheet and does not support cell ranges as well as a few others.

Create text and Summarise

Similar to the Generate Formula, this feature enables users to rapidly generate text within the platform. Smartsheet notes three types of content that it can create.

  • Translate text: Translate [column with source text] into [column with desired language]
  • Analyze text: Provide the sentiment Positive, Neutral, or Negative for [source column]
  • Create ad copy: Write a 140-character Twitter ad for the product [product name column] that’s currently on sale for [column with sale price value]

Note that generated content is not dynamic; therefore, if data fields change which were used to create the text, Smartsheet will not update the text.

Early adopters see benefits

One of the early adopters of these new AI-powered features is SoltechPR, a Smartsheet partner and user. Emmanuel Santiago-Ríos, President and Co-Founder of SoltechPR, commented, “Smartsheet’s AI tools have significantly boosted our productivity, proving to be an indispensable tool for many Smartsheet users, including our team. Our Smartsheet experts, who frequently develop complex solutions for clients, often grapple with intricate formulas that can be time-consuming to troubleshoot.

“Previously, we could spend countless hours each month debugging these formulas to identify and correct errors. However, the advent of the new AI tools has revolutionized this process. Now, crafting complex formulas and debugging them is almost instantaneous, freeing up precious hours for us to invest in other value-enhancing activities. These features haven’t just made our workflow smoother; it’s transformed the way we allocate our most valuable resource — time.”

Improved visibility and insights

The update also includes several features that improve how users can visualise their data and receive actionable insights to improve resource management.

Workload tracking at your fingertips

Smartsheet has revealed two new workload tracking features, Workload Heatmap and Workload Schedule. These features are available to customers with Business and Enterprise plans.

Smartsheet Heatmap
Smartsheet Heatmap

The Workload Heatmap provides a visual snapshot of team availability. Thus eliminating guesswork for managers by displaying at a glance who’s free and who’s overallocated and streamlining the decision-making process.

The Workload Schedule feature expands on the Heatmap, providing greater detail on all projects a team is working on. Users can then re-assign tasks from across multiple projects to improve productivity.

These features were launched earlier this year. They have already been used for more than 35,000 projects across the customer base.

Automating resource management data in Smartsheet

Available soon, customers on Business and Enterprise plans with Resource Management by Smartsheet will be able to easily organize their resource data in a Smartsheet report and display these insights on dashboards, improving visibility and decision-making.

Timeline View

Smartsheet Timeline View
Smartsheet Timeline View

A new Timeline view enables teams to view and manage their work in real-time. Users can see their tasks on a timeline, group components and get a view of the big picture for data based work. Key features include the ability to organise tasks on visual lanes grouped by team, region or status. Changes update in real time, so for a dynamic project, users are instantly updated on changes and task completions.

Within the new view each milestone and bar represents a task, organized by date. Users can click on an item and edit details in the context of their view.

Enterprise Times asked Smartsheet how this differs from the Gantt view.

They replied, “Timeline view is a new way to visualize date-based work in Smartsheet, and differs from Gantt by maximizing page density (i.e. putting items side-by-side when possible) and by the ability to visually group items thematically into horizontal lanes. For example, customers can group work by any single-select dropdown, contact, or symbol column, like owner, status, or phase.

“Timeline view is great for planning and managing roadmaps, portfolios, projects and communicating progress to stakeholders, while Gantt view helps break down complex projects into simple tasks, define and track dependencies, and identify critical paths.”

The new Timeline view is available to all customers.

Another customer view

Smartsheet continues to extend and enrich its platform. These updates take advantage of existing information to bring greater efficiency and insights to businesses. Thus unlocking the data organisations already hold.

The AWS Worldwide Public Sector team uses Smartsheet to standardize processes and create a central source of information. Jeff Kratz, Vice President, Worldwide Public Sector Industry Sales at AWS, commented, “Smartsheet is enabling our team to consistently scale our processes and provide more transparency to our leaders at AWS. Previously, we were using several disparate tools and our data was spread across them, making it difficult to measure our impact.

“We chose Smartsheet for its flexibility, seamless integration with Tableau dashboards, and corporate-level IT-approved status. Our team members can now enter data in one place and it automatically rolls up to Smartsheet dashboards that our leaders have visibility into. Smartsheet helps drive consistency, productivity, and collaboration, and it allows for the creation of reusable content. Now we have better visibility into team members’ workloads, allowing us to create better balance across the team.”

Enterprise Times: What does this mean

These announcements are not the usual local updates but global improvements that are or will be available shortly. For customers attending Engage, this is an exciting announcement. The event will provide them with an opportunity to see these new features in depth.

The new Timeline view will be a welcome addition for many, and the introduction of more generative AI features is welcome. However, by restricting this to just Enterprise plans, are Smartsheet missing a trick? The introduction of AI into platforms is becoming the norm, and vendors will likely need to embed these new features as standard throughout their application or risk becoming less competitive. It will be interesting to see whether Smartsheet changes its stance over the next few months.

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