We started this series by defining the difference between a Smartsheet System Admin and a Solution Admin, key domains Solution Admins must master to achieve Operational Excellence, challenges they face in those domains, and practical solutions that can be implemented to overcome those obstacles.
Part 4: Access/User Management of a Smartsheet Solution
Maintaining secure and efficient user access while avoiding information overload.
Build and maintain an efficient user access management system in Smartsheet by leveraging groups, roles, and investing in tools to prevent efficiency drain as the platform expands within the organization.
The first step to ensure sufficient usage of Smartsheet is to onboard users. Once onboarded, the next step is to provide them access to sheets, reports, dashboards, workspaces, or premium apps involved in the solution architecture. Solution Admins are responsible for designing Smartsheet environments that are efficient for reporting and considerate of permissions, ensuring that users have access to the information they need and don't have access to any privileged information. If an effective workspace setup, group management system, or permissions and sharing plan is not in place, Solution Admins run the risk of inheriting a tedious and time-consuming task of manually granting permissions every time a new user needs to onboard to their Smartsheet solution.
Implement a robust but efficient user access management process. Regularly audit and update permissions to ensure the right people have the right level of access. Leverage groups and roles within Smartsheet to streamline the process and simplify user management. As Smartsheet’s use grows in your organization, there will inevitably be more assets (sheets, reports, and dashboards) that need to be managed. It’s important to invest in tools (employee access map, automated sharing rules, etc.) that ensure that the access management process doesn’t become a drain on efficiency.
Now that we have identified the roadblocks that will inevitably become a reality, let's look at some practical solutions that can be implemented to improve how Solution Admins manage users and access to Smartsheet solutions.
5-Step Action Plan for Efficient Access and User Management in Smartsheet
Step 1: Refine Your Workspace Architecture:
Consolidate and organize workspaces: Analyze your existing workspace structure and identify opportunities to merge redundant or overlapping workspaces. Aim for fewer, well-defined workspaces aligned with organizational teams, project types, or collaborator role.
Leverage blanket permissions: By consolidating assets into fewer workspaces, you can grant broad access permissions to relevant groups within those workspaces, simplifying administration and reducing individual sharing needs.
Implement folder structures: Utilize folders within workspaces to further organize sheets, reports, and dashboards, allowing targeted access control for specific objects or information categories. Organizing information through clear workspace and folder structures helps users find and understand information more easily even though folder-level sharing is not possible in Smartsheet.
Step 2: Design a Robust Group Management System:
Define user roles and groups: Establish a clear hierarchy of user roles (viewer, editor, admin) and map them to corresponding groups aligned with your organizational structure.
Utilize nested groups: Create nested groups to provide granular control within larger teams or departments. For example, a Marketing group could have subgroups for Social Media, Content Marketing, and Email Marketing, and Marketing Leadership - each with separate access needs.
Establish Group Admins: To ensure smooth management of user groups within your solution community, it is essential to identify the individuals who are most likely to know about any new or outgoing team members. You can then partner with these individuals and your System Admin to grant them "Group Admin" access, which will allow them to maintain the users in their respective groups effectively.
Step 3: Empower Users and Leverage Smartsheet Features:
Train editors and admins on effective sharing: Educate users with "editor-can-share" or higher access on proper sharing practices, emphasizing responsible permission allocation and minimizing sharing incidents that would expose data to users who should not have access to their Smartsheet objects.
Promote the benefits of groups: Explain how groups streamline access management and reduce the burden of individual sharing requests. Encourage users to utilize relevant groups for collaboration and information sharing.
Leverage Advanced Sharing Capabilities: Explore and implement sharing features available within premium apps like Control Center, Dynamic View, and Bridge to automate sharing rules based on dynamic criteria like contact columns in an intake sheet, specific domains, or team rosters. Utilize 3rd-party tools if needed for even more sophisticated automation options.
Step 4: Collaborate with System Admins and Leverage Top-Down Controls:
Partner with your Sys Admin: Understand the System Admin settings affecting your solution, including authentication methods, user access management tools, licensing options, group management controls, and security settings.
Align your solution roadmap with plan-level settings: Ensure planned changes to your workspace, group, and sharing design choices are compatible with the overall security and access governance framework established by your System Admin. System Admins are able to make changes at the Smartsheet plan level that trickle down to all other users potentially impacting how users and information can be shared.
Communicate and collaborate: Maintain open communication with your Sys Admin to discuss potential conflicts, propose solutions, and ensure your access management strategy complements the organizational IT environment.
Step 5: Monitor and Continuously Improve:
Regularly review and update access: Schedule periodic audits to identify outdated permissions, unused workspaces, and redundant groups. This can be accomplished by manually checking object activity logs across your solution, via plan insights and reporting available to your System Admin, or via the Smartsheet Event Reporting API. Adapt your access management system as user needs and the Smartsheet platform evolve.
Gather user feedback: Encourage users to share their experiences and suggest improvements to the access management system. Proactively address any concerns or identified pain points.
Stay informed and embrace new features: Monitor Smartsheet updates and adopt new tools and functionalities to optimize access management as the platform evolves.
By following these refined steps, you can achieve a well-organized, efficient, and secure access management system for your Smartsheet solution that ensures secure and effective access controls. Remember, this is an ongoing process, so continuous monitoring, collaboration, and adaptation are key to maintaining a user-friendly and scalable access ecosystem for your organization.
In Part 5 of this series we’ll dive into practical tips on Managing Feedback on a Smartsheet Solution