Do you need a task app, or a work execution platform?

by Stephen Danos


A worker accesses a customer implementation portfolio using Smartsheet

In the marketplace for work execution platforms and collaboration apps, there are a lot of colorful advertisements and user interfaces floating around.

But when you’re looking for a secure, flexible, and deeply useful web-based software as a service (SaaS) platform, be sure you look beyond the shiny exterior interface to see what’s “under the hood.”

  • Does the platform have a functional backend database? This will enable you to switch between visualizations of the same data — say, from a standard “spreadsheet” view to a card view, Gantt chart view, or a view of a calendar.

  • Does it have robust global security controls that scale at the enterprise level and allow you to invite anyone to collaborate, for free?

  • Does it provide for rich integration with the other apps you use every day, including customer relationship management systems (CRM) and messaging apps?

When you’re shopping for collaboration tools, it’s tough to find a software platform that is enterprise-ready in terms of security, consistency, and scalability. While most platforms claim to be up for these unique and evolving challenges, your decision boils down to a simple question:

Are you looking for a task tracking application or a work execution platform, and what’s the difference?

When you need more than task management

A male office workers uses a basic project management application

Task management apps can be handy tools for individuals and small teams to use to manage projects. Many of these solutions are effective for planning smaller scale projects or organizing events, such as potlucks and book clubs.

Also, not all of these platforms integrate or connect with other popular platforms you rely on, such as Microsoft Office 365, Slack, Salesforce, and Google Suite.


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Best-in-class work execution platforms, such as Smartsheet, help organize and regularly execute on work at the team, divisional, and enterprise levels. Smartsheet empowers teams to streamline workflows, reporting, and work through automation, data collection through custom forms, cross-project rollups, dashboard customization, multiple project view modes, and a synchronous mobile app experience — all while improving visibility to anyone who needs it, whether inside or outside of an organization.

So, what does a best-in-class work execution platform offer? Here are three characteristics your platform needs in order to increase efficiency and speed around work execution.

Multiple views to match your team’s process

Examples of Gantt view and card view using Smartsheet

Your work execution platform should meet you where you are, aligning with how your team functions within the broader organization.  

Task tracker apps often default to a to-do list or basic timeline display. At the team level, this functionality might lead to a “check-box” mentality, which can potentially hamstring innovation.

The ability to access the same information in multiple views is a key to staying competitive and innovative in business. Exceptional work execution platforms will allow you to customize your work view to help move teams from idea to impact, fast.


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Smartsheet, for example, uses grid view as a foundation. The interface is instantly recognizable for people who have worked in spreadsheets, but simplified to support workers in their day-to-day tasks.

In Smartsheet, teams can also view tasks in card view, calendar view, and Gantt View so they can determine the project’s critical path and plan accordingly. These visual options provide greater flexibility, based on how your team works.

Connect teams through cross-project rollups

Office workers look at a Smartsheet report on a laptop

It’s all too common that departments and teams operate in silos, which can hamper workflows and be a constant barrier to getting work done. You might think your task management app has everything you need, but they typically lack the functionality to effectively connect teams at midsize and large companies.

Smartsheet offers an ecosystem of solutions for cross-project rollups. With Smartsheet, you can link cells from sheets and add reports to dashboards, connecting teams that are working together on a sporadic or continuous basis. For example, if a ticket number appears in a report, you can drill down and engage with the source sheet for more information or to request status updates.


Killer time saver: Automate weekly status reports

Consider investing in a platform that empowers portfolio reporting through operational controls and automated actions — such as status requests, approvals, reminders, and notifications. As a work execution platform, Smartsheet offers these solutions to help change the way you work, so you can get back time, and move faster without sacrificing quality.

Teams can also collect information and data using Smartsheet forms via the Smartsheet mobile app. Whether you send to internal stakeholders, customers, or vendors, participants can fill out forms from their preferred device.


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For example, a software engineering department can use forms for internal bug tracking. Users submit bugs using forms, which are then populate a sheet, which can then be surfaced on a dashboard.

More visibility with custom dashboards and portals

A graphic shows an example of a multi-project dashboard in Smartsheet

Business is increasingly data-driven. Your task tracker app may have a beautiful user interface and design, but does it empower you to surface data and information that your team needs to execute, in a customizable format that is easy to understand at a glance?  

Once you collect the right data, you need a way to surface key performance indicators (KPIs), reports, and goals (targets versus actuals) in an accessible format. This is another area where run-of-the-mill task management apps fall short. You might be able to see tasks, task owners, due dates, and other basic information, but how can you surface key details to your executive VP?

With Smartsheet, you can quickly build dashboards and portals for all sorts of uses, whether strategic, analytical, or operational, and visually surface key metrics to business leaders and executives. You can augment the data with helpful widgets such as Smartsheet reports, support documents, embedded web content, URLs, hyperlinked images, metrics, and more.

Increased visibility into key metrics, data, and information cuts back on time spent in meetings and sorting through email threads, and generally improves the way you work.

Whether you’re trying to fix inefficient work processes with stakeholders or jumpstart a brand new innovation department, Smartsheet helps eliminate additional administrative work so you have more time to focus on what matters most to you.

Interested in learning more about the Smartsheet platform? Check out our feature overview page.