Not Just for Numbers: The Smart Spreadsheet Takeover

History of spreadsheets

Spreadsheets aren’t just for hard data anymore. When you think about spreadsheets (and who doesn’t indulge in a spreadsheet daydream now and again), you probably imagine a static document full of yes/nos and numerical formulas. And that’s understandable. Since their inception, that’s pretty much what we’ve used spreadsheets for.

The new era of cloud-based SaaS shows us how spreadsheets need to outgrow their old definition. To succeed in today’s world of constant connectivity, they have to incorporate tools for project management, complex scheduling, and real-time comment. This gives users more control and ultimately more freedom to adapt their software to any project’s specific needs. 

The evolution of spreadsheets

Spreadsheets have come a long way since their roots in antiquity. The advent of the stone tablet led to the invention of the abacus. After that came the printing press, the slide rule, and the first battery-powered calculator. VisiCalc came along in 1979, followed by Lotus 1-2-3 in 1983. Even historically recent models like these feel really old-fashioned to any modern-day user. Within this new cloud-based era, thought leaders realized spreadsheets were capable of way more than displaying hard data. The flexibility and collaboration offered by the cloud means the spreadsheet of the future centralizes resources, allowing you to incorporate multiple  work applications without leaving the sheet. In fact, the word “spreadsheet” doesn’t quite do these highly-adaptive collaborative work management (CWM) products justice. They may look like spreadsheets, but their integrative and cloud-based capabilities go way above and beyond what we’ve come to expect.

Basically, we’ve reached the age of the cloud-based catalyst. The arrival of the smartphone merged several tools into one. Likewise, cloud-based CWM software merges every component of successful project and team management. It does so across multiple devices and with real-time accuracy. Because of the addition of these more qualitative, time-based elements, the CWM system reaches its real potential as an all-in-one productivity solution. We can now ask a good cloud-based CWM product to:

  1. Simply share experiences across internal and external collaborators without help from IT.
  2. Instantly work with anyone, anywhere — whether one-time, ad hoc or ongoing. 
  3. Provide transparency in showing all team members’ real-time activity, increasing accountability to self and team.
  4. Be a single integrated context for all work — bringing tasks, projects, and processes together into a single platform.

Merging legacy apps into a cloud-based force

One way to gauge the impact of cloud-based CWM solutions is to compare them to the first smartphones, which combined the functionality of so much technology at once. The telephone, Internet, camera, and music catalogue became mobile and ready at a moment’s notice. This mobile catalyst phase flipped our relationship to work on its head and destabilized our idea of a static office desk as the be-all work setting. We’re now experiencing a very similar transformation with what could be called the cloud catalyst phase. 

Cloud-based enterprise SaaS merges your software arsenal like smartphones did for electronic devices. File management, task management, email, and yes, good old-fashioned spreadsheets need not exist separately amid an inefficient transfer of messages among a team. Everything can be managed in one nimble, real-time system, and that system can go with you anywhere and everywhere.  

As the way we work evolves, so does the ever-changing face of the spreadsheet. The modern CWM software is mobile when we need it to be, and brings a whole host of technology into its arena. But most SaaS products on the market fall short of delivering an intuitive CWM solution for successful project management and CRM. That’s because adapting to diverse projects requires a truly integrative approach. Take a tour of Smartsheet and start a free trial today to see the CWM solution of the future in action.

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