SmartSuite, a new work management platform geared to serve the latest generation of Gen Z & Millennial professionals launched recently after two years of development and an $11 million initial investment. Initially available in 15 different languages to connect employees who are oceans apart, SmartSuite is an all-in-one collaborative solution, helping remote workforces feel connected while planning, tracking, and managing workflows for one-time projects, routine tasks, and ongoing business processes. The founding executives at SmartSuite will be telling us more in this interview with TechBullion.
Please tell us a little more about yourself.
My name is Jon Darbyshire and I am founder and CEO of SmartSuite. I’m here with my co-founder and CTO Peter Novosel and we’re both very excited to talk to you about SmartSuite and the capabilities it brings to the market. Our third co-founder Jeff Glasco focuses on partnerships and building our collection of templates – something we’ll certainly discuss here.
What is SmartSuite and when did you officially launch?
SmartSuite is a work management platform that unites the essential elements that are used in getting work done: databases, spreadsheets, documents, collaboration tools, file management products and automation capabilities — into one platform.
The product was officially launched in 15 languages on January 3, 2022. We have been working with around 200 users in a closed beta program over the last 12 months as we refined the platform and gathered hands-on user feedback.
Before SmartSuite, what problems were the traditional work management software platforms facing, and what specific solutions is SmartSuite providing?
Previous systems were predominantly aimed at specific tasks or were purpose-built to manage a particular type of workflow like project management. Many of these tools became popular because they were better at that task than more traditional systems and were easily accessible via the web.
SmartSuite provides a work management operating system (WorkOS) that enables organizations to plan, track and manage any type of business workflow. Whether you’re managing a project, an ongoing process or handling routine everyday tasks, our single platform has every tool and capability you need.
The platform has been designed to enable people, teams and departments to easily implement workflows that support the way they want and need to work, using a visual user interface that takes only minutes to learn. Every workflow can be access-controlled according to your needs to ensure all data remains secure.
Why is SmartSuite in demand now and what major characteristics or features make it unique from other current work management platforms?
Today’s workers face a variety of challenges, from adapting to remote work conditions to figuring out how to navigate an array of communications channels, information platforms and software systems. An explosion of SaaS services in the last number of years has resulted in people using purpose build tools for project management, scheduling, data storage, analysis and more – which ultimately reduces efficiency and increases friction in business workflows.
SmartSuite is different because we think that everyone deserves to use enterprise-class software that is as easy to use as the consumer tools and services they’re used to. We pull together all the information you need to get things done, support ways to easily communicate with your team about your work and scale right along with your business.
We offer simple and intuitive interfaces that remove complexity while maintaining all the power and flexibility businesses need to accommodate the different types of work they do. You can easily link SmartSuite apps together, sharing data and reducing duplication. We let you connect to existing systems that you’ve invested in, providing a unified view that’s both a pleasure to use as well as a window into all the information you need to make great data-driven decisions.
Could you give us a walkthrough of the SmartSuite work management platform and how it works?
Everything starts with an app. SmartSuite’s Apps capture data and can be used to manage any process. They form the core of the platform’s work operating system and can be easily customized to build powerful workflows.
You interact with the contents of an app through a view, which is a flexible way to visualize and manipulate your data. SmartSuite users can choose from a variety of view types, selecting one that fits the type of work they’re doing.
Most of our users start with workflow templates that support the needs of specific business functions, with pre-configured apps and views. Choose from our library of around 200 templates, click to install and you’re up and ready to go in seconds. You can then customize things to meet specific needs, adding fields (we have over 40 different types to support different kinds of data) or modifying the ones that we give you by default.
One of our most powerful features comes into play when you use SmartSuite for multiple different workflows, as you can connect them together. Use a single customer account app that contains records that are used by sales, marketing and support – no more out-of-date spreadsheets or duplicate data. You can also automate routine tasks to eliminate manual work and improve efficiency, and our integration capabilities let you get data in and out of other systems that you use.
With remote workforces on the rise, how could businesses use SmartSuite to maximize efficiency and returns?
There are several ways that SmartSuite helps teams who are physically distant. We’ve made connecting to the work they do easy, in an environment that promotes transparency, collaboration and empowerment across the organization. With standardized templates it’s easy to normalize procedures, capture and share data to keep everything aligned. Data can be access-controlled, allowing you to publish important information while carefully managing updates.
We also reduce the need for continual context-shifting, which is something that we’ve heard a lot of complaints about. People are tired of sorting through emails and spreadsheets, instant messages and dozens of online platforms to find what they’re looking for. With everything available in one place, you’re more efficient and not wasting time. You can also collaborate right there in the context of your work, as we’ve integrated real-time commenting, notifications and live editing features directly within the same user interface you’re using to get your work done.
You offer an affiliate program. Can you tell us how that works?
I’m glad you asked about our affiliate program, as we see it playing a key role in SmartSuite’s success. We’re looking to our partners – both affiliates as well as solution providers – to spread the word about the platform and what it can do for organizations across different industries and verticals, as well as across geographies.
The affiliate program allows partners to introduce SmartSuite to their clients, customers and partners, and are compensated when those introductions lead to new subscriptions. Our solution provider program is aimed at integrators and consulting organizations that make SmartSuite a part of the solutions they deliver to their clients. Our partnership team has been extremely busy this week getting our initial partners up and running, and we’re in active discussions with potential partners of all sizes.
The SmartSuite platform is available in 15 languages, and our partner programs are available internationally. This is really a key part of our strategy, as we see significant opportunities in regions that have not been addressed by other vendors in the space. We’ve built SmartSuite to be natively international and will continue to invest and further expand our reach and potential markets.
It’s easy for potential partners to get started. We’ve got links on the website that allow them to fill out an application. Once approved, the partner can get started creating and sharing links to our free trial – and the referring affiliate gets a 50% commission on everything net-new customers generate for their first year with SmartSuite. That includes upgrades and isn’t capped. We think that this approach to partner relationships sets us apart and creates a mutually beneficial ecosystem.
In this new year, what other work trends should businesses look out for in 2022 and beyond?
We believe that many of the trends that have taken hold as our workplaces have changed will continue and even accelerate. Workers want flexibility to work wherever they are, using devices that they control, and software will need to accommodate their needs. Requiring the use of systems that are not adaptable, do not feature consumer-style, easy to use interfaces are factors that increasingly influence worker productivity, their job satisfaction and even their choice of employer.
Our team anticipates that there will be increasing pressure in businesses of all sizes and types to be efficient, spend IT budgets carefully and consolidate systems. This is a trend that bodes well for SmartSuite, as our platform can handle a large number of tasks and workflows that have been previously powered by a patchwork of independent and disconnected SaaS applications.
Finally, we think that businesses of all sizes will see a silver lining in our remote work reality – that there are few geographic boundaries to their growth. It’s an increasingly small world, and organizations are engaging with partners, contractors and even hiring employees based on the skills and capabilities they bring to the table, not on their physical location. Platforms that support sharing, collaboration and engagement of diverse teams will be in demand for the foreseeable future.
Software executives invested $11 million in this collaborative all-in-one platform, tell us more about this investment and how it will be used?
We’ve invested virtually all of that initial capital into creating the best work management platform we can, and nearly all of our associates are developers, quality assurance analysts or product managers. We believe that our focus on our partner community will allow this trend to continue, giving us the ability to continue to invest heavily in the platform’s development.
Do you have more available opportunities for investors or partners at SmartSuite?
We will likely raise additional outside capital in early 2022 to further accelerate our growth and expand our opportunities. With an international customer footprint, we can put funds to good use promoting our new approach to work in markets that have been underserved by SaaS work management offerings, as well as supporting our partners’ efforts to bring SmartSuite into new verticals.
What is next on your roadmap at SmartSuite, do you have more information for our readers today?
There are so many exciting things in the works that it’s hard to narrow down the list, but I’ll touch on a few that I feel are most important for our customers.
We learn continuously from our customers and partners, and we use that knowledge to continually enhance and add to our template library. We’re always looking to collaborate with thought leaders and industry experts to enhance what you get out of the box and further reducing the amount of customization needed. Expect to see many new offerings here.
We’re also busy adding additional features to our dashboards that will help you visualize any type of data. From advanced metrics widgets to new charting options and record display formats, you’ll be able to see status or analyze any type of data at a glance.
We’re also adding native integrations at a rapid pace, enhancing our Automation Engine to allow customers to seamlessly connect their existing systems. We have spent quite a bit of time making this as easy to use as possible, letting even non-technical people configure these workflows.
To make it even easier to interact with customers and partners from SmartSuite, we’re adding new functionality to our sharing features. We’ll be enhancing the way that reports can be shared to people outside of a customer’s SmartSuite environment, as well as adding more streamlined ways that data can be collected from those external sources.
Finally, we will be addressing more of our Enterprise customers’ needs with additional features centered around advanced permissions configuration and sophisticated workflow processes that control read/write access to specific pieces of information.
More information can be found at www.smartsuite.com.