Managers Are Being Left Behind. No-Code Solutions Can Help.

Visibility is the way forward.

two men working
Moyo Studio

At many organizations, managers of people, projects, processes, and programs haven’t benefited much from the last three decades of rapid technological innovation. To gain visibility into workflows and progress on work being done across their teams, they often resort to age-old tools like spreadsheets, email, and virtual meetings. 

This approach is inefficient, as it causes unnecessary overheads and fatigue — especially during the pandemic. It creates lasting misalignments between the individual contributors doing the work and the managers responsible for guiding and reporting on the accomplishments of their teams. Managers and teams need a flexible and collaborative work management platform that enables them to build solutions at scale without burdening their overworked IT team. 

At Smartsheet, we believe that these managers are experts at what they do — whether they’re managing people, projects, programs, or processes. Marketing managers excel at marketing. Sales managers excel at sales. IT managers excel at driving projects and programs. Requiring them to know how to code just to make them more effective at managing their teams and work — that’s asking for too much and detracts from their areas of expertise.

If you’re an IT leader, you probably read this article’s headline and cringed when you saw “no-code.” To be honest, every time I read no-code and low-code in the same sentence, I cringe. Between no-code and low-code, there is a huge difference in the level of sophistication and skill required to develop solutions. 

When you are programming, you need to have specific skills and knowledge of loops, data structures, program logic, and variables. You will also need to learn about APIs for integrating your systems of record. This is all to say that no-code has to be no-code in order to enable business users to build the solutions that give managers visibility into work — so they can help their specialists focus on the work they were hired to do. 

So, how do you improve process innovation, achieve higher levels of visibility for managers, and empower solution-building at scale? WorkApps, a core component of Smartsheet’s no-code solutions, helps you do all that and then some — all while maintaining your organization’s compliance and security needs.

Quick primer on Smartsheet and WorkApps

Within the Smartsheet platform, we have higher-level asset types like sheets, forms, workflow rules, reports, and dashboards that are easy to configure and customize without writing any code. The platform was built from the ground up with security requirements and protocols to secure your data and give you control of user access to safely share information inside and outside of your organization. 

We also have WorkApps, which goes a step further to democratize app building and empower business users to make a visible impact. WorkApps allow anyone to package Smartsheet items — such as sheets and reports — and external online content such as Microsoft 365 or Google documents, Tableau and Lucidchart dashboards, Domo visualizations, Adobe XD Creative Cloud assets, Prezi presentations, and more into a single app.

The app experience can also be tailored to an individual's role so people can see and access only the information they need to, whether the user is a vendor or an employee, which can be very helpful in product and engineering.

How no-code helps our engineers 

Our engineering team uses WorkApps to manage our Agile sprints, which gives engineering managers the ability to easily manage the backlog for their team in one place and can see if anyone is blocked. When sprints are loaded using Smartsheet card view (similar to a Kanban board), managers know exactly what work is in process, who’s working on those workstreams, time estimates, and capacity.  

With this added visibility, managers no longer need to track down every engineer and ask them how their work is progressing. Instead, they can use the app to stay informed about the progress being made and let their engineers focus on their work. If one of the Kanban cards hasn't moved, and a specific engineer was supposed to work on it, they can engage with that engineer to understand how they can help.

With this level of efficiency and the fact that we can comment directly in Smartsheet, managers don't even have to set up a meeting. They can mention a colleague in a comment on the card to request an update, which allows them to drive asynchronous work forward. The beauty of our system is that it gives the entire engineering team visibility into this digital conversation — so team members can help out whenever needed.

Having visibility into the tickets and team workloads simplifies how we assess our progress, sprint over sprint. I’ve witnessed engineering managers proudly report how the team velocity has incrementally improved — from 30 points to 35 points to 40 points — because they're able to, as a team, get visibility and drive that work. This is just one example of how we use WorkApps at Smartsheet. Our customers are constantly showing us innovative ways that they’re using WorkApps as well.

Empowering IT, end users, and organizations

In the era of the no-code enterprise, organizations need technology that brings out the best in their employees, that accentuates their inherent strengths. Here’s an example of what I mean, in terms of Smartsheet and WorkApps. 

At Smartsheet, we have a director for enterprise systems in our IT department, and his team is responsible for managing our back-end systems like Workday and NetSuite. Three of his team members are essentially Smartsheet experts who focus exclusively on building internal solutions.

For example, they own a Smartsheet-based solution that pulls data out of Salesforce (using our built-in Salesforce Connector) and helps our sales leaders understand how the sales organization is performing, which is vital for forecasting. This innovative team quickly packaged this solution into a dashboard in order to create role-based views that limited the ability to edit sheets and dashboards to just the asset owners. 

This simple change elevated the performance of that particular sales team. Managers can see the status of work and unblock any challenges to reaching their sales goals. And, of course, hitting those targets is beneficial to the individual, manager, and the entire company. 

They manage multiple recurring processes and projects through WorkApps: departmental budgeting, weekly operations management meetings, and other enterprise systems work management processes. With WorkApps, IT managers have clearer visibility into everything their teams have in flight, all in one place.

And it doesn’t stop there. In addition, the enterprise systems team has quickly created several other WorkApps to support end users in all areas of Smartsheet — so non-technical teams no longer have to deal with the complexities of the underlying systems of record.

Integrating with systems of record

Teams use all kinds of systems of record to get work done. Many salespeople practically live in Salesforce to capture opportunities, customer conversations, and confidence level — so they can be better prepared to speak with customers and prospects on the phone or via email. This is where a no-code solution like WorkApps can help provide even more visibility to managers. 

If your sales leadership team uses a WorkApp, they can track how the team performs relative to monthly, weekly, or quarterly performance goals without relying on someone pulling the data out of Salesforce and then manually populating another platform. No one needs to perform the manual chore of data entry or worry that the information will be inaccurate. They can just connect those systems directly.

Here’s one last example of how integrations can work with WorkApps. When we are designing new features for the Smartsheet platform, we write an aspirational press release and FAQ for the potential features. As those documents are reviewed, leaders weigh in with comments to align to the original plan. We link to this document from a WorkApp in order to track progression and capture decision-making as it evolves via comments, so that we have an easy-to-parse point of reference.  

This is critical, as there’s always a chance that product plans will need to pivot. When product leaders have visibility into that document, the product plan sheet, and any other assets relevant to that potential launch in a single place, it eliminates the need for superfluous meetings, which is most welcome. And the Smartsheet platform integrates with literally hundreds of systems through UiPath, Boomi, PowerAutomate, and so many more. 

Visibility is the way forward

We need to strive toward a future where managers gain the visibility they need to empower teams and individuals to build solutions that simplify collaboration and streamline complicated workflows. No-code solutions aren’t a fad; they’re gaining momentum at enterprise organizations around the world. 

And no matter where managers sit in an organization, they can use Smartsheet and WorkApps to track progress and see the status of great work being done by their teams without setting up yet another virtual meeting. This also reduces the burden on IT teams — that are already maxed out — to build complex solutions. Instead, business users can embrace WorkApps to package together the sheets, dashboards, reports, and external systems of record they need to share with managers. 

With consistent visibility, program, process, and people managers can greatly elevate productivity and dramatically change how teams are run to make greater impact — across their organization. 

The Smartsheet platform is built for the enterprise with the flexibility teams need and the security IT expects. Smartsheet Advance builds on the power of the platform to arm both the business and IT with powerful capabilities to scale innovation across the enterprise.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.