Questions about Bridge from a potential newbie

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Julie Fortney
Julie Fortney Overachievers
edited 04/24/23 in Add Ons and Integrations

We are considering upgrading to Advance, and I have questions about Bridge capabilities:

  1. Our project blueprint includes multiple reports that pull entries from master logs based on the job number. This means that our admins have to add the job number to every single new report filter when they set up a project. Can Bridge automatically update report filters?
  2. Has anyone used Bridge to improve performance of cross-sheet references? We have some very complex sheets that sometimes error out, even if we haven't exceeded the established reference limits. I know this is a broad question, but I'm curious if anyone has a use case where they used Bridge to help solve problems like this.
  3. Can you use Bridge to automatically update embedded forms on dashboards? Let's say I want to embed a project-specific form each time I create a new project in SCC. SCC creates a new copy of the source sheet, and unique url for the sheet's form. Could Bridge update the embed code that displays the form on the project's dashboard?
  4. Can you update auto-update dropdowns across all sheets created using a blueprint? If I want to add something to a dropdown on all sheets we've created in a blueprint, I have to run a global update manually, or have set up a Data Shuttle workflow to every single sheet.
  5. What are you favorite Bridge solutions?
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Best Answers

  • Kelly Moore
    Kelly Moore ✭✭✭✭✭✭
    Answer ✓
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    Hey @Julie Fortney

    I'll answer what I can and shout out to @Brian_Richardson for back up.

    #1 Report Filters- To my knowledge there isn't a direct Report Filter update however I wondered if the column was a dropdown list - if so, Bridge can update dropdown lists and if the filter was set to select all it made me wonder if the filter would pick it up new selections. (Datashuttle also updates dropdown lists if this method works)

    #2 I've had problems with a slow sheet erroring out in Bridge. The sheet was massive and Bridge would time-out. Bridge did not help this sheet (it might have been too large for anything to help)

    #3 -I don't have any experience with Control Center, so sorry, I can't answer those questions

    My fav Bridge solutions?

    -Capturing Approver Names in approval workflows

    -Adding rows - same sheet, different sheets, Child rows to Parents, On a weekly cadence, Adding New rows of acquired data to a status update sheet which feeds into a dashboard report

    -Translating Employee Ideas from their native tongue to English

    -Checking FedEx Tracking Status on a sheet's worth of shipments

    I hope this helps

    Kelly

  • Samuel Mueller
    Samuel Mueller Overachievers
    Answer ✓
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    Hey @Julie Fortney !

    1. In general you cannot update reports with bridge or the API, you can only get report information and details. So unless you are able to come up with a different solution you may be out of luck. Although, if this is a control center program, you may be able to use "Dynamic Reports" which adds new sheets to reports every time a project is provisioned (and removes as projects are archived).
    2. Maybe using JavaScript in bridge would help, hard to say.
    3. Unfortunately not.. You can not programmatically retrieve a form link (Big functionality gap in my opinion). We have begged Smartsheet to dynamically update forms with control center. Also you can not update the contents of widgets in dashboards with bridge or the api.
    4. You could definitely set up a solution to achieve this. It would involve using a summary sheet in your blueprint where the link to your template sheets is profile data on your summary sheet. From there you can get the sheet id for each project in bridge, loop through them and make updates.
  • Brian_Richardson
    Brian_Richardson Overachievers
    edited 04/26/23 Answer ✓
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    @Kelly Moore thanks for the shout out :-) but I'm not sure I can help more than what's already been posted.

    @Julie Fortney in general Bridge is an API tool. You can setup multi-branched workflows in Bridge with pre-set API calls and utilities. You can also do custom HTTP calls to any API that you have access to in the cloud. So anything you can do with API calls you can do with Bridge. It also, importantly, allows you to run Javascript code using the results of your API calls, and to trigger workflows on changes to Smartsheet content or on any other webhook that you can receive from other tools.

    There's a fair amount of Smartsheet API methods that are prebuilt into Bridge, but not all of them. So if you're looking at the Bridge documentation for Smartsheet integrations and not finding what you need, you can also look at the Smartsheet API documentation to see if there's something there to help you out. If you find an API method to use that's not already pre-built as an integration, then you can use the Custom HTTP Call step to directly call the API. You just have to provide the Smartsheet API with an API token, which you can assign to yourself in your Personal Settings.

    It looks like your specific questions were answered pretty comprehensively by Kelly and Samuel but here's my 2c:

    1. Because you cannot adjust report filters using the Smartsheet API, you cannot do this with Bridge. Here's the Reports methods. You might want to consider a workaround for the process of having reports hand-updated with new job numbers. Perhaps leverage a creation date or flag new items with a checkbox that's cleared once the conditions are met that would cause the project to fall back off the report? You can also explore the "contact has any of current user" filter to pick up specific jobs for the viewer?
    2. You could definitely use Bridge to read one sheet on a schedule or trigger, perform calculations using Javascript or the included utilities, and post the results. It may be faster and more stable than a huge number of formulas in Smartsheet, but I'm not 100% sure it would be. I would probably first explore using Data Mesh, which is setup to do this in a much more friendly way. If you don't already use Data Mesh, it's basically a batch index/match tool.
    3. As Samuel said, there's no API for updating widgets on a dashboard or retrieving a form URL. Also, I tested copying a dashboard and sheet in a common folder, where the form link was embedded in the dash, and unfortunately it does not update the form link. Seems like a gap and would be a good enhancement request. You could potentially work around this by having a common sheet with the form to capture entries, have a dropdown in that form for the project name that you can keep updated with Bridge, do a lookup to the sheet ID that the entry should go to on a sheet that Bridge maintains, and then copy the form responses into the individual project sheets using Bridge. I know that's pretty roundabout.
    4. As Samuel and Kelly said, you can push dropdown updates through Bridge, it works better than Data Shuttle. You wouldn't need to maintain a separate lookup sheet though, if you create a report that contains the dropdown columns across your various created sheets, and then read that report with Bridge, the return from the API includes the source sheet ID and column ID for each report row. You can then leverage that to point Bridge at the right columns across your sheets without having to maintain a separate lookup.

    At Iron Mountain we use Bridge for a variety of use cases, here's the most effective ones:

    • Dropdown updates. These happen instantly with Bridge, rather than waiting for Data Shuttle to do this on a schedule. We have a handful of dropdowns on different sheets that use Bridge. I'm also working on a workflow that reads three different lists from three different sheets, and combines them into a single dropdown.
    • Clear a sheet on a schedule, or as part of another Bridge workflow
    • Integrate with Smartsheet Resource Management: We use SRM to capture project assignments and do billing. Using Bridge I read assignment, project, and user data into Smartsheet sheets for monthly analysis, which triggers Smartsheet to run Pivots, Data Meshes, and put it all together into a dashboard. I also push new projects into RM when approved and provisioned by Control Center. (note - we do this with Bridge rather than with CC because CC links the project for task synchronization, which we're not doing). And we archive RM users when they are flagged by managers.
    • Integrate with ServiceNow: We run approvals and tracking for Procurement through Smartsheet, then push new catalog Requests into ServiceNow for the Finance team to complete their pieces. We then read back variable data to Smartsheet to track status of the procurement in one spot...Smartsheet.
    • Integrate with Gitlab: Project Managers identify epic IDs on task rows in the project schedules. Bridge then reads the dates and labels from Gitlab and posts the content into the project schedules on those rows to be used in formulas that drive the task status and dates. We also push project status commentary from Smartsheet to matching epics in Gitlab so that PMs don't have to enter status twice.
    • Batch read from Gitlab: Currently we export Gitlab data to a Google Sheet and then Data Shuttle it into Smartsheet. Which works ok but is prone to issues with multiple "hops" and getting out of sync with column names etc. Plan is to use Bridge instead to directly read the data from Gitlab and post to Smartsheet in one workflow. I'll use a "control sheet" that people can post into using a form and indicate which groups and projects they need data from Gitlab.

    Hope that helps (a little). If you're trying to figure out whether you'll find Bridge useful, my best advice would be to decide how much integration you want to do. That's really what Bridge is for IMHO. You can use Bridge to do more advanced workflows in Smartsheet but it can be a little tricky, often it's easier to leverage the prebuilt addons like Data Mesh and Data Shuttle in combination with automations to achieve what you're looking for. That said, Bridge is quite powerful and can certainly take your Smartsheet setup to the next level.

    BRIAN RICHARDSON | PMO TOOLS AND RESOURCES | HE|HIM

    SEATTLE WA, USA

    IRON MOUNTAIN

Answers

  • Kelly Moore
    Kelly Moore ✭✭✭✭✭✭
    Answer ✓
    Options

    Hey @Julie Fortney

    I'll answer what I can and shout out to @Brian_Richardson for back up.

    #1 Report Filters- To my knowledge there isn't a direct Report Filter update however I wondered if the column was a dropdown list - if so, Bridge can update dropdown lists and if the filter was set to select all it made me wonder if the filter would pick it up new selections. (Datashuttle also updates dropdown lists if this method works)

    #2 I've had problems with a slow sheet erroring out in Bridge. The sheet was massive and Bridge would time-out. Bridge did not help this sheet (it might have been too large for anything to help)

    #3 -I don't have any experience with Control Center, so sorry, I can't answer those questions

    My fav Bridge solutions?

    -Capturing Approver Names in approval workflows

    -Adding rows - same sheet, different sheets, Child rows to Parents, On a weekly cadence, Adding New rows of acquired data to a status update sheet which feeds into a dashboard report

    -Translating Employee Ideas from their native tongue to English

    -Checking FedEx Tracking Status on a sheet's worth of shipments

    I hope this helps

    Kelly

  • Samuel Mueller
    Samuel Mueller Overachievers
    Answer ✓
    Options

    Hey @Julie Fortney !

    1. In general you cannot update reports with bridge or the API, you can only get report information and details. So unless you are able to come up with a different solution you may be out of luck. Although, if this is a control center program, you may be able to use "Dynamic Reports" which adds new sheets to reports every time a project is provisioned (and removes as projects are archived).
    2. Maybe using JavaScript in bridge would help, hard to say.
    3. Unfortunately not.. You can not programmatically retrieve a form link (Big functionality gap in my opinion). We have begged Smartsheet to dynamically update forms with control center. Also you can not update the contents of widgets in dashboards with bridge or the api.
    4. You could definitely set up a solution to achieve this. It would involve using a summary sheet in your blueprint where the link to your template sheets is profile data on your summary sheet. From there you can get the sheet id for each project in bridge, loop through them and make updates.
  • Julie Fortney
    Julie Fortney Overachievers
    Options

    @Kelly Moore and @Samuel Mueller, thank you so much for your insight! This helps me get a better idea of Bridge's capabilities and limitations.

  • Brian_Richardson
    Brian_Richardson Overachievers
    edited 04/26/23 Answer ✓
    Options

    @Kelly Moore thanks for the shout out :-) but I'm not sure I can help more than what's already been posted.

    @Julie Fortney in general Bridge is an API tool. You can setup multi-branched workflows in Bridge with pre-set API calls and utilities. You can also do custom HTTP calls to any API that you have access to in the cloud. So anything you can do with API calls you can do with Bridge. It also, importantly, allows you to run Javascript code using the results of your API calls, and to trigger workflows on changes to Smartsheet content or on any other webhook that you can receive from other tools.

    There's a fair amount of Smartsheet API methods that are prebuilt into Bridge, but not all of them. So if you're looking at the Bridge documentation for Smartsheet integrations and not finding what you need, you can also look at the Smartsheet API documentation to see if there's something there to help you out. If you find an API method to use that's not already pre-built as an integration, then you can use the Custom HTTP Call step to directly call the API. You just have to provide the Smartsheet API with an API token, which you can assign to yourself in your Personal Settings.

    It looks like your specific questions were answered pretty comprehensively by Kelly and Samuel but here's my 2c:

    1. Because you cannot adjust report filters using the Smartsheet API, you cannot do this with Bridge. Here's the Reports methods. You might want to consider a workaround for the process of having reports hand-updated with new job numbers. Perhaps leverage a creation date or flag new items with a checkbox that's cleared once the conditions are met that would cause the project to fall back off the report? You can also explore the "contact has any of current user" filter to pick up specific jobs for the viewer?
    2. You could definitely use Bridge to read one sheet on a schedule or trigger, perform calculations using Javascript or the included utilities, and post the results. It may be faster and more stable than a huge number of formulas in Smartsheet, but I'm not 100% sure it would be. I would probably first explore using Data Mesh, which is setup to do this in a much more friendly way. If you don't already use Data Mesh, it's basically a batch index/match tool.
    3. As Samuel said, there's no API for updating widgets on a dashboard or retrieving a form URL. Also, I tested copying a dashboard and sheet in a common folder, where the form link was embedded in the dash, and unfortunately it does not update the form link. Seems like a gap and would be a good enhancement request. You could potentially work around this by having a common sheet with the form to capture entries, have a dropdown in that form for the project name that you can keep updated with Bridge, do a lookup to the sheet ID that the entry should go to on a sheet that Bridge maintains, and then copy the form responses into the individual project sheets using Bridge. I know that's pretty roundabout.
    4. As Samuel and Kelly said, you can push dropdown updates through Bridge, it works better than Data Shuttle. You wouldn't need to maintain a separate lookup sheet though, if you create a report that contains the dropdown columns across your various created sheets, and then read that report with Bridge, the return from the API includes the source sheet ID and column ID for each report row. You can then leverage that to point Bridge at the right columns across your sheets without having to maintain a separate lookup.

    At Iron Mountain we use Bridge for a variety of use cases, here's the most effective ones:

    • Dropdown updates. These happen instantly with Bridge, rather than waiting for Data Shuttle to do this on a schedule. We have a handful of dropdowns on different sheets that use Bridge. I'm also working on a workflow that reads three different lists from three different sheets, and combines them into a single dropdown.
    • Clear a sheet on a schedule, or as part of another Bridge workflow
    • Integrate with Smartsheet Resource Management: We use SRM to capture project assignments and do billing. Using Bridge I read assignment, project, and user data into Smartsheet sheets for monthly analysis, which triggers Smartsheet to run Pivots, Data Meshes, and put it all together into a dashboard. I also push new projects into RM when approved and provisioned by Control Center. (note - we do this with Bridge rather than with CC because CC links the project for task synchronization, which we're not doing). And we archive RM users when they are flagged by managers.
    • Integrate with ServiceNow: We run approvals and tracking for Procurement through Smartsheet, then push new catalog Requests into ServiceNow for the Finance team to complete their pieces. We then read back variable data to Smartsheet to track status of the procurement in one spot...Smartsheet.
    • Integrate with Gitlab: Project Managers identify epic IDs on task rows in the project schedules. Bridge then reads the dates and labels from Gitlab and posts the content into the project schedules on those rows to be used in formulas that drive the task status and dates. We also push project status commentary from Smartsheet to matching epics in Gitlab so that PMs don't have to enter status twice.
    • Batch read from Gitlab: Currently we export Gitlab data to a Google Sheet and then Data Shuttle it into Smartsheet. Which works ok but is prone to issues with multiple "hops" and getting out of sync with column names etc. Plan is to use Bridge instead to directly read the data from Gitlab and post to Smartsheet in one workflow. I'll use a "control sheet" that people can post into using a form and indicate which groups and projects they need data from Gitlab.

    Hope that helps (a little). If you're trying to figure out whether you'll find Bridge useful, my best advice would be to decide how much integration you want to do. That's really what Bridge is for IMHO. You can use Bridge to do more advanced workflows in Smartsheet but it can be a little tricky, often it's easier to leverage the prebuilt addons like Data Mesh and Data Shuttle in combination with automations to achieve what you're looking for. That said, Bridge is quite powerful and can certainly take your Smartsheet setup to the next level.

    BRIAN RICHARDSON | PMO TOOLS AND RESOURCES | HE|HIM

    SEATTLE WA, USA

    IRON MOUNTAIN

  • Brian_Richardson
    Brian_Richardson Overachievers
    Options

    Just one other comment - if you're considering Advance then I would go for it personally! Advance brings many addons that we find critical to our Smartsheet success. While Bridge is great, it's actually the other addons that are more widely used. In particular Dynamic View, Data Shuttle, Calendar, and Pivot have proved to be extremely useful.

    Dynamic Views are fantastic for giving users a place to edit and update their data without having to give them edit rights to the underlying entire sheets and reports. You can Dynamic View from a Report, which makes it very flexible. For example, you could explore using Dynamic View instead of the individual Project forms that you mentioned above if you wanted to give people a place to edit their tasks etc. You can also use Dynamic View in place of a form and allow people to submit new content. Note, though, that if you are using a Report as the source for a Dynamic View, you have to specific which underlying sheet the submissions will go to.

    We use Data Shuttle a lot for "poor man's integration"... where we don't or can't use APIs or Bridge, we use Data Shuttle to pick up exports from other tools.

    Calendar gives us relatively nice timelines, which are difficult to get out of Gantt chart views. This has proven to be great traction with our executives. When Smartsheet releases the new "Roadmap view", I expect we won't use this as much though.

    Pivot is generally useful for many items... I mean, you have to pivot stuff in life :-). That said, you can do "poor man's pivots" by building reports that group and summarize and start collapsed. I use Pivot a lot to collapse data from multiple large sheets into a smaller set that can be reported or leveraged. One great thing with Pivot is that the results are in a sheet...meaning you can then add more columns and formulas etc to do something with the results.

    Bridge of course is great for integrating with other tools, and some advanced capabilities through API.

    BRIAN RICHARDSON | PMO TOOLS AND RESOURCES | HE|HIM

    SEATTLE WA, USA

    IRON MOUNTAIN

  • joaolima
    joaolima ✭✭✭
    Options

    Hi @Brian_Richardson , I was reading about your Bridge Integration with Resource Management. I would love to pick your brains out regarding how you're using it and any limitations.


    Kind Regards


    Joao Lima

  • Brian_Richardson
    Brian_Richardson Overachievers
    Options

    Hi @joaolima , sure...ask away!

    BRIAN RICHARDSON | PMO TOOLS AND RESOURCES | HE|HIM

    SEATTLE WA, USA

    IRON MOUNTAIN

  • James_PCG
    Options
    1. Our project blueprint includes multiple reports that pull entries from master logs based on the job number. This means that our admins have to add the job number to every single new report filter when they set up a project. Can Bridge automatically update report filters?

    Yes, bridge can automate this action. We have done this with multiple customers.

    1. Has anyone used Bridge to improve performance of cross-sheet references? We have some very complex sheets that sometimes error out, even if we haven't exceeded the established reference limits. I know this is a broad question, but I'm curious if anyone has a use case where they used Bridge to help solve problems like this.

    Yes, we have done this on a number of customers. We have built full solution using Bridge to do all references throughout the platform.

    1. Can you use Bridge to automatically update embedded forms on dashboards? Let's say I want to embed a project-specific form each time I create a new project in SCC. SCC creates a new copy of the source sheet, and unique url for the sheet's form. Could Bridge update the embed code that displays the form on the project's dashboard?

    Yes, there is a way to do this.

    1. Can you update auto-update dropdowns across all sheets created using a blueprint? If I want to add something to a dropdown on all sheets we've created in a blueprint, I have to run a global update manually, or have set up a Data Shuttle workflow to every single sheet.

    Yes, this is simple solution.


    We build Smartsheet solutions everyday using bridge. On average we implement around 150-200 unique Smartsheet solutions a year and most of them have a component of Bridge. We currently have 68 bridge templates that have been built to connect to a multitude of third-party platforms from Quickbooks, Sage, Slack, Oracle, NetSuite, Onedrive, harvest, Hubspot, Paylocity... to name a few.

    We just won Smartsheet Partner of the Year 2023 and Bridge Partner of the Year 2023.



  • Samuel Mueller
    Samuel Mueller Overachievers
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    @James_PCG Any chance you can expand on updating report filters and the form links?

  • Amy Flores C
    Options

    @James_PCG What might that solution cost for you guys to set it up?