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Smartsheet is a vendor product available through Northwestern University that empowers staff in any role to design and build custom IT solutions to support your business processes. At its most basic, Smartsheet is an online spreadsheet, but it has many additional features to facilitate data collection, collaboration, communication, project management, and more. 

The Faculty Affairs Office has adopted Smartsheet to manage many internal processes. Because we are impressed with the capabilities of Smartsheet and recognize its potential to transform and improve processes on campus, we are not only recommending it to you, but are willing to help you get started--even if your intended use is unrelated to the faculty affairs program area!  

 What is Smartsheet used for?

Smartsheet is a versatile tool that has many uses and offers many opportunities for customization to support your work. Below are some examples of how you might use Smartsheet.

  • Spreadsheets: Spreadsheets are easily migrated into Smartsheet and shared with others so that there is a single source of truth and you don't need to worry about version control. You can also upload documents to rows in the sheet.
  • Project Management: Set up a project management sheet to track project timelines and identify responsible parties; then share it with your project team. Team members can switch between four different views of the sheet: grid (i.e., spreadsheet) view, Gantt chart view, calendar view, or card view.
  • Communication and Reminders: Send communication to collaborators through Smartsheet, send update requests for particular records (i.e., rows) in your sheet, or trigger Smartsheet to send automated reminders based on dates entered in the sheet.
  • Intake Forms: Create a web-based form that includes fields for some or all of the columns in a sheet. Anyone can complete and submit the form (no Smartsheet account needed), thereby adding a record (row) to the sheet. 
  • Workflows: Set up automated workflows so that when defined actions occur in the sheet, fields are updated, automated communication is sent, or records are routed for approval, etc.
  • Reports: Create reports that combine data across multiple sheets or show subsets of columns and rows from a sheet. For example, if you have a sheet with 50 columns but need to distribute a contact list that contains only 3 of those columns (e.g., name, email, phone number), you can set up a standing report that is formatted for that purpose. Reports are bi-directional, meaning you can update data in either the source sheet or the report, and the update will take effect in both places.
  • Dashboards: Create dashboards that visualize the data in your sheets; dashboards can be published so that they are visible to anyone with the dashboard link, even if they do not have a Smartsheet account.
  • ...and much more!

 How does FAO use Smartsheet?

FAO uses Smartsheet extensively to facilitate our work. 

  • Produce reports and dashboards on the composition of the faculty that are shared with the deans and provost. View example dashboard.
  • Maintain a database of research staff appointments, which is used to generate appointment letters via mail merges
  • Create research staff dashboards to give department administrators a view into their unit's records in our research staff database
  • Obtain user feedback via the Feinberg Faculty Portal suggestion box and the FAO website suggestion form
  • Create intake forms through which department administrators submit documentation to FAO, such as requests for faculty external appointments and notices of faculty appointment non-renewal
  • Track user access for systems that FAO oversees. For example, department administrators can view a dashboard embedded in this Committee Access page to see who is assigned to committees in the Feinberg Faculty Portal. 
  • Offer a personal task list for each team member, with the sheets set to send automated reminders of approaching due dates
  • Document a calendar of FAO's annual, recurring tasks
  • Track tickets submitted to external technology vendors

 How do I obtain access and is there a cost?

Smartsheet is available to faculty, staff, and students who have an active netID and is accessed via a custom Northwestern login link:

  • Free Account: Create your free account by logging into Smartsheet with university netID and password. You won't see sheets, reports, or dashboards until you are invited to collaborate on one that has been set up by a paid license holder, but logging in once adds your account to the list of Northwestern accounts that can be selected when inviting collaborators.
  • Paid Account: To create sheets, reports, and dashboards using Smartsheet, a paid license is required. For pricing information and to request a license, visit the Northwestern Information Technology site

See the next section to understand nuances related to defining and inviting internal vs. external collaborators.

 Inviting internal and external collaborators

Individuals internal and external to Northwestern can be invited as collaborators.

  • Internal Collaborators
    Smartsheet recognizes internal collaborators as those who use Northwestern University email addresses. Internal collaborators log in with netID and password at the custom Northwestern login link:
  • External Collaborators
    Sheets can be shared with users outside of Northwestern, but they will need to create a personal Smartsheet account, meaning they log in with credentials that are not the NU netID and password. They also would not use the custom Northwestern login link, but rather would use the general Smartsheet login page (click log in in upper right  corner): 
  • Internal Collaborators who use non-Northwestern University email addresses
    If you share a sheet to a Northwestern community member by using a non-university email address (e.g., a hospital email), they will be treated as an external user. This means they will not see the sheets you shared with them if they log in with netID and password; instead they would need to establish a personal Smartsheet account connected to their non-university email and log in at the general Smartsheet login page: (If their email is connected to a different institution's Smartsheet license, they can use the Smartsheet login path for their institution.)

    As a result, it is recommended that you invite all Northwestern community members who have an active netID by using their Northwestern University email address. If they have logged in before, you can search for them in the dropdown list of Northwestern accounts. If they are not on the pre-populated list and there is uncertainty about what email address is connected to their netID, ask the user to log in to Smartsheet once at the custom Northwestern login link: This will create their account, and add their name to the dropdown list of Northwestern users you can select. However, the user won't see anything in their account until someone invites them to collaborate on a Smartsheet asset.  

 What training is available?

Smartsheet offers an excellent online learning center with resources for new and experienced users. Smartsheet also has an engaged user community, so if you have a specific question, performing a web search generally turns up solutions.

 Request a demo, consultation, or test sheet

If you would like to see a demo of Smartsheet, discuss a particular project, or obtain access to a sheet to experiment with, contact Jessica Thurk via the Smartsheet project request form.