data synchronisation issues

Robin Herrick
edited 05/07/22 in Smartsheet Basics

Context: I have recently started testing Smartsheet, though the organisation I have joined has some established uses. So I am in a familiarisation and test phase.

  1. Talking to another user recently, he expressed concern about the Smartsheet user experience and data integrity / synchronisation. He had updated a cell in a shared project sheet. Later, someone asked him why he had not updated the cell. When he checked the sheet, his content had been overwritten by another team member asking for an update.
  2. I have been experimenting with inviting myself under a different email address to a sheet, so I am interacting with the sheet as two different users on three different platforms: Edge (user2), Chrome (user1), and Android app (user1).
  3. I have noticed that conversations do not synchronise to the app unless I force close and reopen the app. However conversations do synchronise between Edge and Chrome in real time.
  4. Then I tried renaming a task in Chrome. This did not synchronise from Chrome to Edge or Android initially. It took 2 minutes to register the change. I refreshed Edge regularly during that wait time, but the change actually occurred without a refresh. The Android app required a force close to refresh.
  5. Then I tried renaming the details of a task. I added text to the end of the existing text thus: first Chrome: blah blah blah, then Edge: yada yada yada. I watched both instances over a few minutes and nothing changed until I refreshed Chrome. The first edit blah blah blah was overwritten by the later edit yada yada yada. This lack of synchronisation and integrity explains my colleague's experience.

Does Smartsheet have a response to this? Isn't the whole point of Smartsheet to share data? If there's no sharing integrity then what's the point? Take a look at Google Sheets to see real time collaboration in a worksheet environment, and Slack, WhatsApp, etc. for real time collaboration in a conversation environment. Smartsheet claims to combine the two, but from my testing doesn't seem to do either well.

Is there a setting that I haven't found to get real time synchronisation?

Comments

  • I (re)found the save button which addresses the synchronisation of cell updates between browser instances. Interestingly, adding to the conversation doesn't require (or allow) a save. Which makes one wonder what updates need saving and which don't, and why "save" is even a thing. Instead of "1 minute" being the minimum autosave time, why not have an option to save changes in real time? Or have an option to save on exit of a cell rather than exit of a sheet? As per Google Sheets, it would be good to see the activity of another user, i.e. which cell they are in / editing.

    Saving doesn't push updates to the app though, so I think the app is a fail unless someone can explain how to get it to sync.

  • Final thought on this for the moment is that even when users correctly use the save button, there is a credible risk that cells get updated by two users at almost the same time and one user's input is overwritten. While the overwritten data is accessible in the cell history, there is no warning to either user that there is a conflict. Which is odd, because Smartsheet is smart enough to alert you to changes in a cell by highlighting it with a background color, so why not alert you to a simultaneous update conflict?

    I'm interested to hear other people's thoughts on this, not just my own! 😛

  • The other trick seems to be that saving a sheet doesn't refresh its inputs. So in a roll-up sheet you need to click refresh to pull through changes from its parent(s). It would be good to at least have a feature like in Autodesk Inventor which has a refresh button that lights up when there are changes to pull through, even if you need to manually click it to pull them.

  • Here's another synchronisation trick. If you refresh a dashboard, it refreshes the underlying roll-up sheet from the parent sheet. But what refreshing doesn't do is update the data source inside the widget editor. To do that you have to refresh the browser page! 😮

  • Same for the notification badge on the bell. It can still be there even after you've selected mark all as read. And that command doesn't sync to a different browser tab. Refresh the tabs and it goes away. This feels weird in 2022 to have this lack of sync between instances of SaaS.

  • There's some useful information here: https://help.smartsheet.com/articles/1872955-saving-refreshing-sheets#toc-refresh-a-sheet-to-see-the-most-current-version

    One thing I noticed today was that automations do not refresh the sheet they are running in. This has to be done manually. Very confusing for new users.

  • Eva
    Eva ✭✭✭✭✭

    @Robin Herrick There are a couple of things you can do to limit the amount of overriding issues you have, but I haven't found anything that works perfectly. We actually stay off of all source sheets and only use reports due to this reason. The problem is, every time you do a search, it searches for the information on the source sheets, so it's a bit difficult to keep everyone off the source.


    Additionally, we limit as many users as much as we can so that less changes can be made and it has made a huge difference. It does put more work on the users that can do more, but overall we've seen a huge change.


    According to the last time I've spoken to Smartsheet about this, they actually claim that when you do a search and a name comes up twice (both are the same thing), it happens because there is the original version being searched and the version after the override. When you click on both searches, you'll end up in the same place, but the search picks up that there is two different versions that happened.


    As the company grows, and more users get added to our account, it does make it much harder to upkeep what happens. We implement new notifications and new procedures to help with this, but it does get difficult the bigger the company gets.


    One more very important thing that does help, is to make sure ALL Smartsheet tabs are closed when you leave for the day. The updates don't always kick in if you don't refresh and restarting the program every day helps tremendously.


    I believe that WorkApps might help with this by keeping everyone off the source sheets and less changes happening while two users are on the same sheet but still with proper editing, but unfortunately, this only works with licensed users. You would have to make your entire company licensed users in order for this to work.


    Good luck!

    Eva