Williams creates award-winning Smartsheet template to track projects easily and more accurately
Using core Smartsheet capabilities, Williams pioneered an Earned Value Management solution that is easy to use, accurately tracks projects, and reduces manual effort for the company’s project controls group. Now available to all as a template in the Template Gallery.
“Now, using our new Smartsheet template, we have a much more accurate view of what was actually accomplished in a day or week for a given construction project because we’re tracking based on quantity. We get accurate reporting on our physical progress instead of having to go through and update a bunch of lines on a spreadsheet to update a schedule.”
Construction Engineer III, Williams
Williams is a Tulsa, Oklahoma-based energy company and one of the largest providers of energy infrastructure in North America. A Fortune 500 company, Williams handles 30 percent of the natural gas in the United States used to heat homes, cook food, and generate electricity.
The company’s construction group manages large infrastructure projects for customers throughout the United States. Like several other internal Williams departments, the construction group uses Smartsheet to manage projects and rollout construction KPI’s throughout the project lifecycle. “We had been using Smartsheet in my previous department, and I specifically joined the construction group to use Smartsheet to track all construction projects and create new efficiencies across different processes,” says Aaron Manley, Engineer III for Williams. Currently, more than 1,400 Williams employees rely on Smartsheet every day.
As Smartsheet adoption grew in the construction group, Manley sought to improve the department’s Earned Value Management (EVM) process, which was different for each team. The EVM process tracks the percent of the total project completed at a given time and measures project performance and progress. “We wanted to make EVM simpler to set up and use for our teams,” Manley says. “We historically relied heavily on manually inputting project data into spreadsheets, which was time-consuming and not customizable. We also wanted a standard, scalable platform for managing all our projects.”
Using Smartsheet to Create a Quantity-Based Earned Value Template
To help Manley design a completely new EVM solution, he took advantage of the Smartsheet Template Gallery and browsed dozens of templates to find inspiration and extract best practices.
“I download templates as a starting point to develop something that I am working on. I will start there as a base so I do not have to create something from scratch.”
Manley also looked at William’s active Blueprints in Smartsheet Control Center, a tool used to deliver project consistency, visibility, and processes at scale by automating project creation, managing change, and aggregating portfolio analytics. “We had been using a Control Center Blueprint for consistency in project tracking and reporting,” Manley says. “Everything we do in Smartsheet is based on that Blueprint. For this project, it helped us build a scalable solution that was easy to implement.”
As he worked on the EVM solution, Manley needed to ensure it used the best method for tracking earned value progress for a project.
“A lot of earned values are based on budgets or financials, but that doesn't always give you the best picture of the actual progress on site,” he says. “With this solution, we chose to track the physical quantities of milestones accomplished on site, which we thought would present a complete and accurate picture of a project’s progress.”
Using the new EVM solution, Manley helped Williams engineers, project teams, and construction managers view updated project data with greater accuracy to identify when a project is completed or how much work still needs to be done. The solution also acts as a quality management system, automating the assignment of project inspectors, their update requests, and the intake of data back into Smartsheet.
After working hard to research, build, test, and iterate his EVM solution–a concept he says “is difficult to get right” – Manley jumped at the opportunity to participate in the ENGAGE’22 Smartsheet Template Contest and help other users in the Smartsheet community differentiate how projects are planned, managed, and visualized.
As evidence of his solution’s value, template contest judges unanimously voted for Manley’s solution to take the podium for the contest’s project & process management pattern of work. One contest judge remarked "some really brilliant minds who have the full knowledge of Smartsheet could not build solutions this elegant." The Quantity-based Earned Value template is now available for all users to download in the Smartsheet Template Gallery.
A Powerful, Easy-to-Use EVM Template
When designing the EVM template, Manley benefited from the simplicity and ease of use working with Smartsheet sheets, reports, and dashboards. “Smartsheet just works, and it didn’t require a lot of effort to build something,” says Manley. Manley used these capabilities, especially dashboards, to make the EVM template user interface be as simple as possible and easy to understand. “Many of our team members at construction sites are doing field inspections and other tasks. They’re not always tech-savvy, so we’ve created a solution that works as a one-stop shop for them,” says Tanner Owens, construction engineer III at Williams. “This solution makes it easy for them to enter all their daily or weekly progress and see it displayed on a dashboard, so they can focus on their onsite work.”
While easy to use, the template is also flexible and scalable. “We’ve built the solution to be easily customizable, so people can take the concepts applied in the template and make it as big and wide-ranging as they want it to be,” Owens says.
More Accurate Tracking of Project Progress
With the EVM solution, Williams employees can accurately follow the progress of any project on a dashboard, because the template tracks projects via quantities instead of just schedules or budgets. “Now, using our Smartsheet solution, we have a much more accurate view of what was accomplished in a day or week for a given construction project because we’re tracking based on quantity,” Owens says.
“We get accurate reporting on our physical progress instead of having to go through and update a bunch of lines on a spreadsheet to update a schedule. This also helps us forecast more accurately when a project will be completed.”
Reduced Manual Work for Project Controls Group
Because the EVM solution eliminates manual processes, such as emails and hands-on reporting, the Williams project controls group spends more time working and less time entering project data into spreadsheets. “The solution saves time for our project teams because they can just plug the information in once and press a button and everything is automatically updated,” says Manley. “Instead of relying on different data sources and templates, team members have a standardized and centralized project management tool.”
Following this success, and Smartsheet naming Manley’s Quantity-based Earned Value template as the winner for their contest’s project and process management work pattern, the Williams construction group hopes to expand its use of Smartsheet to include additional project management use cases. “I’m looking forward to where we go from here,” says Manley. “Smartsheet is increasingly becoming an enterprise solution within our company, and our next step will be incorporating what we’ve done so far into the broader organization.”