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There was a previous post on this topic (called Losing Data), and I tried commenting on there first. However I don't think my comment was picked up by anyone as there is no obvious way to show all new comments in the forum instead of just new posts. 

 

Anyway I have come across a losing data scenario a few times in the short time I have been using Smartsheet to track projects across about 30 users.   Basically I have discovered that if a user leaves the sheet open whilst someone else is updating it and then returns to the sheet making any change and subsequently saving (auto or manually) this will overwrite the changes made in between by someone else.

 

The individual cell overwrites are tracked so you can verify it has actually happened, but obviously rolling back individual changes is not really a feasible operation and since Smartsheet at this point in time lacks versioning on a sheet-level you are effectively stuck (read screwed).

 

In my opinion this is a fairly major flaw in the app  which in a high-change collaboration environment could have massive impact. As it stands the only effective way to counteract the problem seems to be not leaving the application open if you are not using it, but this is definitely not a bulletproof solution and if someone forgets to close the app the scenario could happen.

 

Introducing sheet versioning would allow damage limitation, whilst forcing a refresh of a sheet before new changes are saved is more a risk avoider (the question is how would you merge changes from multiple parties especially if there is conflict)...

 

Any thoughts?

Functionality

Comments

I can confirm that this is a problem in a high-frequency editing environment with more than 1 user. We have done extensive testing, and have worked with Smartsheet operations on our particular problem-sheet to a pretty lengthy degree. This effect happens more readily (or perhaps only) when the row order changes. Any changes which cause row number changes is a change that is fodder for being overwritten by a user who has the sheet open, and does not refresh before making changes. Recognize that a row number change can occur on many rows, not just the row(s) you're moving or deleting. For instance, if your sheet has 800 rows, and you delete row 2, you just changed the row number for rows 3 through 800 (to 2 through 799).

 

We have been able to identify some workarounds which don't solve the problem, but can help.

  1. 1. Rely as heavily as you can on reports (which is why we have a very strong desire for editable Gantt charts in reports, but are afraid that they will be read-only when they are released, due to the nature of how reports appear to return the start and end dates for tasks)
  2. 2. Ask your users to only make changes when they do not see a refresh symbol. I'm sure you don't want to do this, but you are goign to have to if you want to reduce data overwrites...there is presently no better way based on our experiences and work with the support team at Smartsheet.
  1. 3. We have asked that users never sort the sheet, which is unfortunate, because we rely heavily on displaying tasks in a certain order. This begs to show that sorted data in a report, but we need the Gantt chart to understand the data, and make decisions on it.

 

 

Just as there is an auto-save feature, an auto-refresh feature (that doesn't save) would really alleviate this problem.

 

  1. This has easily been our biggest challenge, as there is no robust solution for this problem, as you have identified. This limitation is painful for us, but we are still leveraging Smartsheet to an extremely high degree, and with the tips above, we are able to work together as a team of 12 or so in a sheet which receives many hundreds of updates per day on over 1000 rows with over 1000 dependencies.

Thanks for confirming that it does happen although the extent of it concerns me. I had no idea about the sorting and/or row changes, but it makes sense I suppose.

 

I'm glad you guys have already involved Smartsheet in terms of finding ways to stop it or at least understand the issue, but from your description I can't say that I'm very optimistic about a proper solution anytime soon. Did they give any feedback that they are working on a solution?

 

Using reports is a good shout and it is likely to be the way I will go for those sheets where it is workable, but honestly it is completely unneccessary and increases the administration burden manyfold. Smartsheet is a collaboration tool purpose-built for multi-user editing. I'm hugely disappointed that it has a flaw of this calibre to core functionality.

 

Any comments from Smartsheet staff?

 

 

U?nder Account, Personal Settings, Settings there are two Autosave settings that may help.

Using reports, in our opinion, is not a burden. They are so easy to create, and the ability to show only the necessary columns (including columns which may normally be hidden from the source sheet) keeps users concentrated on what matters.

 

@JamesR: Auto-save could cause accidental writes of data which were never meant to be committed, so we have chosen to not go that route. We did consider it for a brief period of time, though.

@John, understood.  its always down to choices and thier consiquences.

Hi Thor, As you have seen if users keep a sheet open without saving or refreshing for extended periods of time, then make changes and save the sheet, that version can be seen as the newest version and can write over existing data. The best way to avoid this is to close a sheet when you are not using it, save often, and refresh when you are prompted to by the banner at the top of your screen. Keeping everyone on the latest version of the sheet will ensure these issues do not arise. 

 

 

Reporting is a good way for users to have personalized versions of sheets. Users can build reports to show only the data they want to see, and can sort and organize the report without affecting the underlying sheets. 

Hi Travis

 

Thanks for at least acknowledging that this is happening. 

I'm not sure if I am satisfied by your recommendation regardless of how accurate it may be however. It takes so little for someone to forget to refresh....

 

So are you working on a solution for this? Or is it being ignored?

 

Thanks

Thor

 

 

Thor - we are always working to improve the experience for our users. We understand that this behavior can cause unexpected results but if your users make it a habit to refresh when they are prompted to do so and close sheets when they are not using them, you will find that you will not experience this behavior. 

Thanks Travis!

 

I have made all  users aware of the potential for this to happen and have advised them to close sheets when they are not using them, disable both auto-save options (saving should be in the users control) and refresh the sheet when prompted. 

 

I must admit I am not entirely happy. This is tantamount to a ticking bomb and telling someone that 'you should have followed my instructions' after the fact is not going to go down terribly well if you know what I mean.

 

Smartsheet is a very flexible tool that can be used for a multitude of challenges across a business hence why I recommended we use it in my company, but I now find myself hesitating to recommend it for anything business critical with this flaw in play. This is not about user experience or functionality - this is about whether Smartsheet is enterprise worthy....

 

Sorry 

Thor Cry. Use left and right arrows to navigate.

 

I agree with @Thor and I am very disappointed.  This is a HUGE flaw that will affect whether we roll this out enterprise wide.  We found this out the hard way in the last 24 hours.  We've had people up until 3AM making changes and getting their updates in for the next morning only to have them overwritten by someone who's had the sheet open for two days.  There was no warning that someone's work would be lost or overwritten or conflicts existed.  The reason why we went with Smartsheet in the first place was so we could all work collaboratively and now I cannot have more than one person in it at a time.  I will also be hesitating on whether to use this tool going forward.  

Our organization is tight enough that we can discuss this and handle the complexities of this limitation by agreeing on best practices for using the tool. However, I can see that in a large organization, where there is often lack of user control, this would be mostly untenible.

 

Be sure you get your admin well-versed in the Smartsheet Account Backup Utility. We are so dependent on one of our sheets, that we take a backup 4 times daily. Be careful of attachment sizes, however, as you'll be downloading attachments each time you run the tool unless you make other provisions, such as deleting all attachments after the tool has run, or employing data deduplication, if you're operating systems have that capability.

I agree with Thor and Mike as well.  If this was the only tool we used and we had a dozen users we might be able to remember workarounds  but the reality it is we use dozens of tools thoughout the day and if chosen as an enterprise solution we whould have hundreds to thouasands of users.

 

This is a major flaw in the tool and addressing it with workarounds is not acceptable.  I have a hard time recomending moving forward with this tool for any kind of business critical collaboration.

I also agree with the above,that it is a senario that can quite eaily happen.  For Smartsheet to become the ultimate on-line tool a better way of contrling edits and updates is required.

 

I have always adised my clients that they should not keep thier sheets open all the time.  Many of them think of it as an inverted workbook(Tabs at the top) and I try and educate them against having thier sheet open all the time.  When you are done:

a: SAVE

b: Close it

 

If you have had it open for a while and not done anything in it yourself:

a: Refresh

b: Review (Using Highlighter Tool)

c: Procede

 

Not fool proof but helps.

We had a trainwreck this morning.  We were doing a training session/ work project this morning with twpo experienced users in the lead and about 20-30 attenddees.  The task was simply fill out a common sheet with feedback.  

Unfortunatley they all saved at about the same time and wrote over each other.  

 

It was embarrassing for the trainers who are trying to give Smartsheet a stronger foothold on site, but we minimized the disruption and used view histroy to re-create the missing data.   

 

It occurs to me that a solution might have been to have each of them fill out a form instead of the base sheet, but we are concerned because on a daily basis we have any number of people in and out of the sames sheets all the time.  We have been counting on saving and refreshing when the message pops up that others have saved.  I am hoping that this methodology will keep our data consistant.

Is this "Losing Data" still an issue?  Does switching from card view to the normal Project view? 

 

thanks

Marty

We are experiencing the same issue when multiple users add a row at the same time we lose the earlier input row.  Have there been any new developments or workarounds on this?

Just thinking out loud here about how this should work. Since every row has a unique ID then any uncommitted changes to a row should lock the row until changes are committed. Even better if this could be done at the cell level. With that in place, clicking the refresh link, on the automatic popup about edits having taken place by other collaborators, should save your work as well.