As businesses of all stripes grow and evolve, flexible work execution platforms are developing new capabilities to streamline business collaboration and workflows.
For every business, growth brings the burden of complexity. And that makes collaboration among teams, divisions and offices more important but also more difficult. To keep so many groups, with so many different functions, pulling in the same direction, companies may choose to use collaborative work management software as a central hub. One such product is offered by collaborative work management software provider Smartsheet (NYSE: SMAR).
There are a number of trends driving the growth of collaborative work management software as a category. Companies of all stripes are moving faster, while leadership expects almost instantaneous visibility into how their teams are working. At the same time, a younger workforce is using more social and immediate platforms to communicate.
The challenges and opportunities of this new business environment were front and center at Smartsheet’s annual ENGAGE global customer conference in Bellevue, Washington. More than 2,000 attendees — double the previous year’s audience, according to Smartsheet — arrived to hear about new features and learn how to employ the software to streamline business collaboration, manage work in real time and generate better data at their organizations.
Attendees came from pizza chains, large tech companies, pharmaceuticals, retailers and beyond — more than 50 industries were represented. Even government agencies have started to use the software, said Mark Mader, president and CEO, Smartsheet, adding that Smartsheet is working toward becoming authorized for use by federal agencies through the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program.
"We want everyone to have the opportunity to manage, automate and scale work themselves," said Mader during the event's keynote speech.
Smartsheet, which held its IPO in April 2018, differs from existing platforms in that it aims to complement rather than replace other systems that a company uses, Mader explained. "More than ever, software products have to live together."
Business leaders are looking for solutions that provide automation of common tasks along with speed at scale.Gene Farrell, SVP of Product
Smartsheet's software is designed to integrate with cloud productivity suites from Google and Microsoft, the company reports, as well as more than 100 apps, including Slack and Box (NYSE: BOX), along with data visualization tools like the ones offered by Tableau (NYSE: DATA).
Mader shared the example of the North Carolina Department of Transportation, which recently used Smartsheet to compile data on power, fuel and runway status for airports during Hurricane Florence. The state was able to visualize and share the real-time data with partner agencies like Federal Emergency Management Agency, the U.S. Coast Guard and the North Carolina governor's office, all while freeing up resources from the task of regular status updates.
"Instead of worrying about the logistics on the ground, those teams could focus on citizen well-being," Mader said. "When I see a state agency working at light speed, I would call that transformation."
At ENGAGE, users of the software frequently cited the need for executive-level visibility into projects as one main reason for using collaborative work management software. While companies tend to use a dedicated platform for customer management and resource planning, they often use a range of other tools for daily operations, noted Margo Visitacion, vice president and principal analyst, Forrester. But increasingly those firms see a need for a single operational system of record, she said.
To this point, Ryan McLaughlin, senior manager in the mergers and acquisitions group at Sunoco LP (NYSE: SUN), shared his experience with Smartsheet. "Updating executive leadership was a problem," he said. "This was repetitive, it was inefficient, it was exhausting, and we needed to innovate." Sunoco used an M&A-specific solution from Smartsheet to create a consistent process from one deal to the next. "It allowed our small team to focus on more valuable activities," McLaughlin said.
Many companies echoed the time-saving benefits as a major reason for Smartsheet's popularity among their employees. Brian Vaughan, senior manager at medical-device manufacturer Beckman Coulter (NYSE: BEC), agreed. "My project managers are saying that they are getting back time in their day that they had otherwise lost," Vaughan said.
Gene Farrell, senior vice president of product, Smartsheet, said that business leaders are looking for solutions that provide automation of common tasks along with speed at scale. For example, a Today Smartsheet allows users to automate requests for updates and approvals on projects as well as create visual, multistep automated actions that unfold as certain conditions are met or deadlines approach — all with the goal of speeding up existing business processes. New integrations with a wide range of popular chat apps allow users to receive notifications from Smartsheet within each app.
The demand for collaborative work management software is at its highest at mature organizations, said Visitacion, as they are more likely to use collaborative work management tools. She added that, to remove barriers to work, companies need to expand the use of data to make more intelligent, automated decisions.
Farrell noted that Smartsheet has created specific products for use in complex processes like M&A and customer onboarding, to improve, among other things, the speed at which companies can operate, upgrade and transform ahead of their competitors.
"Transformation without speed is simply evolution," Mader said.