How Smartsheet Overachiever Rebecca Wilhelm transformed the City of Detroit’s legal department processes

by Alison Clancy

Editor’s note: This year we launched a new program for our most passionate Smartsheet ambassadors: the Smartsheet Overachievers. This elite group of customers aren’t just product experts; they are innovators, changemakers, and the ultimate Can-Doers. This is the first in a series of blog posts introducing you to our inaugural cohort of Overachievers as they share their Smartsheet wins, challenges, and tips.

Meet Overachiever Rebecca Wilhelm, project manager and business analytics specialist for the City of Detroit. She manages legal projects, focusing on process improvement. Being in the legal department, efficiency and effectiveness are key — both to ensure processes are successful for the attorneys she supports, and to improve the experience for clients.

“To me, a successful process means making sure that it’s documented. It sounds basic, but it really helps ensure that guidelines are being followed and when they’re not, quickly finding out why. Have we left something out? Does it take too long? Once we’ve established metrics, the implementation phase does the solving.”

You’re about to quickly see why she inspires us and the rest of the can-do community so much.

How Smartsheet solved Rebecca’s challenge

“One of our most successful process improvements involved information requests. We regularly get asked in the law department to obtain information from the city. For example, there could be a lawsuit, we’ll receive a discovery request and then need to contact the city department. In the past, we had no way of tracking things like how many requests we had in progress or how long it was taking to get them completed because each attorney would manage requests siloed in their own inboxes.”

Photo courtesy of the City of Detroit 

“Four years ago, we took our largest department — the police department — and had them use Smartsheet for information requests. The attorney would complete a form, then we’d have a point of contact in each sub-department. With this process, we could see exactly how many requests were going out and even how various department sections were responding. Over the four years, we’ve rolled out this process to fifteen different departments, and have since developed dashboards, too.”

Rebecca admits it was a challenge to roll out a new process initially. But the key to their success was securing the support of each department head. As they met opposition and pushback from others, they educated them on the process and gave feedback for how to proceed.

“Now we’ve bloomed into an enterprise account. It was easy once we started showing the results of using Smartsheet, because anything can be done with it.”

Rebecca’s advice for Smartsheet newbies

Rebecca has three tips for new Smartsheet customers:

  1. “Play around as much as you can. If there’s a problem, you can find a solution within Smartsheet.” The best way to learn Smartsheet is to use Smartsheet. Don’t be afraid of breaking anything you create — you can always undo or start over.
  2. “Ask the Smartsheet Community.” Odds are, you’re not the only one asking the question you have. A quick search might yield a response that’s already been offered. Or as Rebecca notes, “Even if you don’t find anything, post the question and within 24 hours someone will probably answer it.”
  3. “Solve real problems so people can relate.” As a product expert, Rebecca has trained hundreds of people on using Smartsheet. And she always uses a real example or problem for modeling a solution. For example, “If they’re in a church group, or they want to manage their personal budget, I help them learn Smartsheet through those real experiences they can understand.”

How Rebecca became an Overachiever

Her participation in the Smartsheet community began in the Early Adopter Program (EAP), as well as in the private beta testing. “I like to be ‘in’ on things when new products are coming out — I want to help shape them.” Additionally, Rebecca is a part of the Mobilizer program.

Woman and husband stand together with two small children in the foreground

When Rebecca isn’t creating sheets, building workflows, and designing dashboards, she does have a few hobbies. “I stay pretty busy with my little ones! I have a two-year-old and a nine-month-old. In my limited free time, I’m a big reader and enjoy my book club.”

Meet the rest of the Smartsheet Overachievers, and make sure you join the Smartsheet Community.