Smartsheet for Rollout Development, Part 2

This series covers how architecture professionals managing the rollout of multiple locations at a time for chain concepts can manage that process through Smartsheet, the web-based tool based on internet-connected spreadsheets.

In Part 1 we reviewed why I like Smartsheet as a tool for tracking project delivery for chain concepts doing rollout development, and we saw the basics of what I’ve built. Here in Part 2, we’ll take a close look at the various trackers and Dashboards that power this Development Hub.

Development Hub Dashboard

This is the heart of the beast: an outward-facing Dashboard that gets used by the organization’s C suite and other departments/teams outside of the real estate, architecture, and construction professionals on the development team. The Development Hub Dashboard aggregates all of the data from all of the other trackers we’ll look at here in Part 2.

Before we look at all of the things in the Dashboard an important concept to understand about Smartsheet is that its Dashboards are like scrapbook pages for other sheets’ data. With the Control Center plugin we discussed in Part 1, a feature you get is the ability to have a sheet aggregate data from columns in other sheets that you specify. That aggregated data can then become a Report that gets pasted into the Dashboard and live updates. The Reported data is focused and abbreviated for the intended audience, which in our case are busy executives that want to see that shit’s getting built on time and on budget. With that in mind, let’s take a look at this big, centralized Dashboard…

Sample Development Hub Dashboard


Next, we’ll look at all the various tracking sheets that our Control Center Blueprint (explained in Part 1) spins up for us when it’s time to start a new project.

Schedule Tracker

This is the main tracking sheet. Smartsheet can automatically create Gantt charts and has you use a special sheet template to start them. This is the sheet template that was used to create our Schedule Tracker, which in turn becomes a template in our Control Center Blueprint. This is important to mention because Smartsheet’s Gantt chart sheets have the built in ability to recognize predecessors (in columns) as you assign them, which lets you connect milestones (in rows) to each other, something that has obvious benefits for scheduling project delivery. Let’s take a look…

Sample Schedule Tracker

Budget Tracker

You’ve got to track both time and money, so the Budget Tracker follows the money for us. The planning for this sheet requires coordination and buy-in from the organization’s accounting folks, as the goal here is to report on budget relative to schedule. Smartsheet has APIs that could be useful in connecting the budget numbers to accounting software, though I haven’t gone there yet with my work. There’s a whole conversation to be had during the planning stage as to how many line items you want to follow and how you want to track it all in Smartsheet. This Budget Tracker captures the original budget established by the development team and then compares it to the running total once the project goes live. Here’s a look…

Sample Budget Tracker

Vendor Trackers

Every chain has vendors they work with to supply fixtures, furnishings, equipment, and finishes to their construction sites. All of these vendors need to be able to forecast orders from the chain and receive live updates on delivery dates, so this tracker uses links to the Schedule Tracker discussed earlier to do its work. Smartsheet has the ability to push notify users of changes to sheets, and we use that feature here to send an email update to any vendor whose delivery dates have changed. It’s important to note that there are multiple versions of this tracker tailored to each vendor and I use Smartsheet’s Groups feature to grant read access for each vendor to the appropriate tracker. A typical vendor tracker looks like this…

Vendor Tracker Sample

Project Assessment Summary

This sheet is used during the Project Planning phase at the beginning of new projects to capture any issues or concerns identified from the regulatory and premises assessments. It also becomes the place where follow up on those issues or concerns to make sure they all get addressed. Like the Vendor Tracker, I use push notifications to send out requests for follow up action to the appropriate team members. Here’s the setup for this sheet…

Project Summary Image

File Organizer

The File Organizer’s name says it all. As Smartsheet allows you to attach files to rows in sheets and even to version track them, I leverage that feature to provide a place to organize the deliverables and other documents that the organization needs to collect and archive for each project like so…

File Organizer Sample

Inspections & Licenses Tracker

This tracker performs two functions. First, it establishes a list of all the inspections and licenses a project requires (so it’s customized from the template for each specific project), and then it reports on the status of those inspections and licenses. As with some of the other trackers and sheets, we can push notify team members any time an issue pops up that needs special attention.

Inspections & Licenses Tracker Sample

Franchisee Project Dashboard

When a project is franchisee-owned, this Dashboard aggregates data from the sheets discussed above to produce a concise high-level view of the project’s development details for the franchisee. The Dashboard is organized like this…

Project Dashboard Sample

Setting Up Who Sees What

Smartsheet’s Groups allow admins to create groups of users and set their read/write privileges. I create Groups for each department in the organization as well as for the contacts at each consultant and vendor firm. These Groups get assigned access to all the sheets one time in the Control Center Blueprint so that as new projects get spun up, the appropriate people are already connected to them, plus you can tweak those assignments on a project by project basis if needed. Each franchisee is a Group too.

Other Parts of Development Hub

Smartsheet’s Dashboards can also provide links to other sheets, and I use this feature to provide links to development-related resources that other departments in the organization might need. It all ends up being very specific to the organization in terms of content.

One piece that becomes a resource for every organization is the Design Criteria. I’ll be writing a more detailed article another time about disseminating Design Criteria through Smartsheet, but for now, know that all of the stuff I wrote about here a few years back gets organized and distributed through Smartsheet and linked back on the Development Hub Dashboard, among other places. These resources are shown in the Development Hub Dashboard image near the top of the article.

Coming Up in Part 3

Next time, we’ll wrap up our look at Smartsheet as a development tracking tool. We’ll discuss how the building of all this works and look at what else I use Smartsheet for.

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