I covet more time: more time for important work, more time with my spouse and kids, more time with friends, more time to work out and get healthy.
I used to hate creating weekly status reports. While important, they felt like a waste of time. Often, my status reports were simply a manual process of collecting data that already exists elsewhere mixed with tracking down people for further clarification.
So I started playing around with ways to simplify the process and save time using Smartsheet.
Automated actions are simple solutions that save me and my team time, reduce the number of status meetings, create more consistency in the frequency of our reports, and improve data quality.
And these benefits free us up to focus on more rewarding projects and less on manual, repetitive tasks.
Save Time With Status Updates in Smartsheet
Building a team or department status update sheet is tremendously valuable. Once you set up the sheet from scratch or from a template, make it goal-oriented. This makes your team’s progress more visible, so you don’t need to waste meeting time going over the basics. Contributors can report using the sheet and access the progress of all project tasks.
First, create a top row section for Goals. Next, you will want to rename and set the properties for the first five columns:
1. Name the first column “ Status,” set the column type to “Symbols,” and choose the Red, Yellow, and Green (RYG) balls.
2. Name the second column “Goal/Initiative” (i.e. Provide training to 100,000 people).
3. Name the third column the “Goal Metric/Owner” (i.e. 100,000).
4. Name the fourth column “Progress,” and use it for tracking the actual value toward your final goal (i.e. 40,000).
To make this automatic, create other sheets for the owners of each metric to track the current values. Use cell linking to automatically bring in the current values.
5. Name your fifth column “Comments,” reserving it for notes that provide context and clarity.
6. Repeat this process for your top three goals.
Once you’ve set up your main goals and values in a sheet, create a section lower in the sheet for Key Initiatives. This complementary section is invaluable for managers and individual contributors, as it’s where you track task ownership, visual progress, and how well your team executes against goal targets.
Creating the new sub-section in the sheet for key initiatives can be executed in five simple steps:
1. Use the first column to track the status of initiatives using the same symbols — the Red, Yellow, and Green (RYG) balls.
2. In the second column, summarize each initiative in its respective cell.
3. In the third column, list the person who owns the initiative. If you’ve already imported your team’s contact information, select the column type“Contact List” for the third column.
4. The progress column will track how much of the initiative has been completed, so set the column type to “Symbol,”scroll down to the “Status” section, and choose Harvey Balls.
5. Again use the fifth column for notes that provide context and clarity around the initiative.
Ideally, you can simply cell link all of this data from the sheets where these projects are already being tracked.
Automating Your Report
Now that you’ve set all the parameters for your status report, you’ll want to automate to make it easier to maintain and give you even more time for higher value (and more productive) tasks that move the needle.
Once your team sets up Smartsheet automated actions, unproductive status meetings will be a distant memory. Here are the key steps to automating your status report:
You (or someone on your team) can pull all applicable data from other sheets that are already being used to track progress using cell linking, which is an easy way to connect different sheets and automate your processes.
1. Set up automatic, scheduled update requests for the owner of each goal or initiative to update the status and comments of their project (Example: Send Weekly, on Thursdays at 3 pm).
2. Set up the sheet to automatically “Send as Attachment” to your email inbox before it’s sent to others (Example: Send sheet as attachment Fridays at 11 am). This gives you time to double-check the report and make any necessary modifications before it goes out to a larger group.
3. Set up the sheet to automatically send as an attachment to everyone who should receive the status update (Example: Send sheet as attachment Fridays at 3 pm).
Impress Your Team
Now that your status report is up and running, show your team how it works, and let them know the importance of keeping their data up-to-date by showing them who will automatically receive the report and when it will go out.
In addition, you can download the Smartsheet mobile app — available for iOS and Android devices — to receive timely notifications and alerts, from anywhere. This helps your team maintain a higher level of visibility into when someone completes an initiative.
Following this process will take a little time upfront. But after you set up your report and train your team on the process, you will save time every single week. Additionally, you’re sure to stand out from your peers by providing an always on-time and always up-to-date report.
To learn more about Smartsheet automated actions, watch the video below: