Thursday, October 14, 2010

Timeraiser and Smartsheet

Learn how philanthropy coordination firm Timeraiser uses Smartsheet and Google Apps for operational and strategic planning, reporting and online project management.

Timeraiser is a non-profit organization based in Toronto, Canada. Timeraiser’s mission is to engage the next generation philanthropist, encouraging them connect to the causes they care about by donating volunteer hours in exchange for original works of art. Timeraiser is unique as they aim to match young professionals to non-profits for a longer term engagement with a tangible incentive, thus creating a lifelong connection and partnership. Timeraiser has 5 full-time staff members that engage with a large network of corporate partners, artists, volunteers and philanthropists. Getting and keeping everyone on the ‘same page’ is an on-going challenge.

Timeraiser needed to find easy to use online solutions to support their distributed team. Their motto? Create information once, distribute it widely and make it accessible anywhere. Single sign-on was an absolute necessity, as well as tools which required very little in terms of training.

“Trying to convince people to login to another tool is nearly impossible,” says Anil Patel, co-founder, Timeraiser. “We have tried nearly every collaboration tool out there, however people don’t want to use micro-blogging to follow threads on projects -- they want to use e-ma il because it is familiar and easy. But we could not continue to collaborate the old way: sending spreadsheets around via e-mail is a version control nightmare.”

“We rely heavily on our external partners, many of whom are volunteers or other like-minded nonprofits,” says Patel. “We have to be very thoughtful on which tools are going to do the best job of keeping everyone on the same page and that means selecting tools people will actually use. And because people are becoming more mobile, receiving information and updates on their BlackBerrys, iPhone or Android devices versus a desktop application are really important considerations.”

To ensure information is readily accessible, Timeraiser embeds Smartsheet into Google Sites. To solve the problem of adoption and engagement, Timeraiser deployed SmartSheet in a three point strategy. First, Timeraiser embeds Smartsheet into Google Sites and other partner websites using the HTML publishing code. Second, they include links to the Smartsheet in various e-mail campaigns (powered by so partners and volunteers can work via e-mail and take advantage of other Google Apps Market place partners such as’s file sharing services. This eliminates the inefficiencies of multiple versions and provides one version of the truth. Thirdly, Timeraiser envisioned how to use SmartSheet as a foundational piece of technology to enable its governance, including strategic plan reporting.

Says Patel, “SmartSheet allows us to articulate a clear strategic plan and develop an agile business plan that actually simplifies a variety of best practices including Risk Management, HR Management, Budgeting, ITC, Marketing, Reporting, etc as we scale our operations.”

Timeraiser also uses Google Apps and Smartsheet for:

* Real time updates to the competitive landscape: different staff members and colleagues can add insights and the changes cascade across the organization.
* Online Project management: attach files, tasks, discussions and share with external partners. See an example of a Timeraiser online project management sheet.
* Task management: website planning, daily action reports, shared task lists
* Governance tracking: good governance reporting and tracking for funding partners
* Reporting: web statistics and partner metrics tracked and accessible.

With Google Apps, Smartsheet and the host of other cloud-based applications in the Timeraiser portfolio, Timeraiser is able to collaborate with people inside and outside the company. They have eliminated the inefficiencies caused by multiple versions of documents and are now able to get real-time updates and feedback from partners and volunteers in half the time.

Says Patel, “With Smartsheet and Google Apps, we can work the way our partners want to, but we still get the information in a timely and up-to-date way.”