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Thought Leaders in Cloud Computing: Mark Mader, CEO of Smartsheet (Part 3)

Posted on Sunday, Mar 30th 2014

Mark Mader: The second piece is a fundamental shift away from how Google Spreadsheets and Excel store their data. When we think about work and tracking items, we don’t think about it as a collection of cells as you have in a spreadsheet. We think about it as a unit of work. A row within our world represents a unit of work whether it’s a task, contact, or candidate. These are all things that exist within our applications. We’ve found that while people like the simplicity and flexibility of spreadsheets, what very often happens was when they shared those with others, people would make changes that were very unpredictable.

One of the things that we did is having defined columns. Instead of having a sales process with a column called stage where someone might say, “I’m in step one or I’m nearly finished”, you take a pick from a very specific set of values. By having that type of structure experience, the people with whom you collaborate have a much higher degree of confidence as to what you’re asking them to do. One of the big themes that is challenging right now is that people are starting to figure out how to effectively work in a collaborative setting. Long gone are the days of having the security of your file attachment, which was only controlled by you and you had to send that out to many people who would then make subsequent changes. In a collaborative world, you’re working very often in real time with people. If the change is not well coordinated, it can create a tremendous amount of work for the person initiating that process.

Sramana Mitra: First point is regarding the difference between just sales representing sales as opposed to representing some sort of a workflow. Is that a correct summary of what you said?

Mark Mader: Think about it more in the case of a database. If you had a certain row in a list, the row might have my name on it. The value next to my name might be the source of how I came to this company. The next might be my job title. The next might be my contact information. That entire row – that collection of information – is a unit of work as opposed to a spreadsheet where my cell may have my name. Another cell may have my phone number. What happens if, down the road, you want to ask this service a question? How many people are at this certain stage in this process?

Sramana Mitra: But that’s a fundamental difference between query-able database and a spreadsheet.

Mark Mader: Precisely. If you can marry the power of that database structure with a form factor which is known by a billion people, that’s a heck of a combination.

This segment is part 3 in the series : Thought Leaders in Cloud Computing: Mark Mader, CEO of Smartsheet
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