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Smartsheet's User Access Controls

Evgeniya Ioffe - April 7th 2024 - 7 minutes read

In the rapidly evolving landscape of project management and collaboration, the ability to meticulously manage who can see and do what within your organizational tools is not just an advantage—it's a necessity. Smartsheet, with its robust suite of features designed for optimizing team performance, presents a myriad of possibilities for customizing user access to fit every project's unique needs. This comprehensive guide will escort you through the intricate web of user permissions and access levels that Smartsheet offers, from the foundational understanding to the sophisticated manipulation of advanced access controls. We'll explore the strategic formation of user groups for enhanced collaboration, delve into the realm of custom permissions for a tailored experience, and anchor down with best practices to ensure your Smartsheet environment remains both secure and agile. Whether you're enhancing existing projects or embarking on new ventures, this guide promises insights that could revolutionize your approach to team management and leadership within Smartsheet.

Understanding User Permissions and Access Levels

In the realm of Smartsheet, understanding user permissions and access levels is pivotal for maintaining data integrity and streamlining workflow management. At the core, user roles are divided into several key categories: licensed user, admin, editor, and viewer. Each role carries distinct capabilities and restrictions that directly influence how individuals can interact with Smartsheet's features. For instance, a licensed user is endowed with full access permissions, enabling them to create sheets, manage reports, and drive projects or processes. This contrasts with viewers and editors, where viewers have read-only access, and editors can modify cell data but may not have the capacity to alter sheet settings or manage the broader aspects of a project.

The admin role further bifurcates into System Admins, Plan Asset Admins, and Group Admins, each tasked with different levels of oversight and management capabilities within Smartsheet. System Admins possess the authority to manage users and adjust plan-level settings across the board, a responsibility that underscores the need for a careful and considered approach to assigning this role. Plan Asset Admins, on the other hand, handle access requests in instances where no other user has Owner or Admin permissions, playing a crucial function in controlling asset access at a granular level. Group Admins manage groups based on contacts, providing a streamlined way to organize users for efficient collaboration and access management.

The significance of assigning the correct permissions cannot be understated. Doing so not only ensures that sensitive information remains secure but also that each team member is equipped with the right tools and access levels to contribute effectively to their roles. As such, a clear understanding and thoughtful implementation of Smartsheet's user permissions and access levels are foundational in leveraging the platform's capabilities to enhance productivity and safeguard critical data. This approach fosters a controlled environment where workflow management is optimized, and data integrity is uncompromised, allowing teams to focus on their core objectives with the assurance that their operational framework is both efficient and secure.

Setting Up and Managing User Groups for Efficient Collaboration

Creating and managing user groups in Smartsheet is pivotal for optimizing team collaboration and project management. Initially, setting up groups involves logging into your Smartsheet account, navigating to the “Admin Center,” and selecting “Users & Groups.” From here, creating a group requires a name, description, and the addition of members through their emails or from your contacts list. The crucial step is assigning specific permissions to each group, which can range from read-only to edit access for sheets and reports. This process not only simplifies permission management but also ensures that only relevant team members have access to specific data, enhancing security and reducing the risk of unauthorized changes.

Once the groups are established, managing them becomes a regular activity that involves overseeing member roles and permissions. This task is facilitated by selecting a group from the list and clicking on the “Manage Group” button, where you can add or remove members, adjust permissions, and if necessary, delete the group. Efficient management of user groups is instrumental in maintaining data integrity and ensuring that each project or department within the organization has tailored access. This flexibility allows for seamless collaboration, as team members can easily share insights, update project statuses, and communicate within a controlled environment.

The benefits of using groups for project management and team collaboration in Smartsheet cannot be overstated. It streamlines access controls, making it easier to modify permissions as the project evolves or as team members' roles change. Additionally, by grouping team members based on departments or project needs, communication becomes more focused, and project management more efficient. The establishment of groups encourages a culture of collaboration and accountability, as team members clearly understand their roles and contributions to the project. Ultimately, this structured approach to user access and permissions fosters a more productive and secure working environment.

Integrating Advanced Access Controls and Custom Permissions

Integrating advanced access controls and custom permissions in Smartsheet involves implementing conditional sharing and setting up custom roles for added security and project management efficiency. Conditional access allows for the enforcement of specific criteria before users can access certain sheets or workspaces, ensuring that sensitive information is only accessible to those who genuinely need it. By tailoring access based on roles, project stages, or data sensitivity, teams can prevent unauthorized changes and maintain data integrity. This approach not only improves security but also ensures that project collaboration is streamlined, with team members having the precise level of access needed for their contributions.

Custom roles in Smartsheet enable the creation of bespoke permission levels beyond the standard viewer, editor, and admin classifications. This flexibility is critical for projects that require nuanced involvement from various stakeholders. For instance, a custom role may allow a user to add and edit rows but restrict them from deleting rows or changing column properties. This granular control over permissions ensures team members can perform their tasks without risking the integrity of the project’s data or the overall workflow stability. Additionally, integrating these roles with external identity management solutions like Microsoft Entra ID can further bolster security and streamline access management across an organization's entire IT ecosystem.

Integration-specific permissions refer to the ability to set access controls that apply when Smartsheet is connected with other tools and platforms. This not only reinforces security but also enhances collaboration by ensuring data consistency across applications. For example, when Smartsheet is integrated with a project management tool, permissions can be configured so that updates made in one platform are appropriately reflected in the other, without compromising on the control each team has over their respective data. Such integration-specific permissions necessitate a deeper understanding of both Smartsheet's capabilities and the functionalities of the third-party platforms, but when properly executed, they can significantly enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of project management and team collaboration.

Best Practices for Securely Managing User Access in Smartsheet

One of the foundational steps in securely managing user access in Smartsheet involves the regular review and auditing of user permissions. This ensures that only authorized individuals have the appropriate level of access to sensitive information. Implementing a schedule for routine checks can help maintain a secure collaborative environment by promptly identifying and rectifying any permissions that may have been incorrectly assigned or are no longer necessary due to changes in team roles or project requirements. Furthermore, leveraging Smartsheet's activity log can provide valuable insights into user actions, enabling managers to spot any unusual or unauthorized activities that could signal security breaches.

Maintaining a secure collaborative environment also entails educating users on best practices for data security. This includes the importance of strong password policies and the benefits of enabling two-factor authentication. Smartsheet users should be encouraged to encrypt files and use secure connections when accessing the platform remotely. Regular communication of updates or changes to security protocols plays a crucial role in ensuring that all team members are aware of their responsibilities in keeping the workspace secure. Additionally, setting up conditional sharing and access controls based on specific criteria can help prevent unauthorized access and minimize the risk of data breaches.

To further leverage Smartsheet’s features for protecting sensitive information while boosting productivity, implementing data backup and disaster recovery measures is critical. This not only safeguards against data loss in the event of unforeseen circumstances but also ensures that the workspace can be quickly restored with minimal disruption to ongoing projects. Creating backup schedules and testing disaster recovery plans regularly can instill confidence in the team's ability to handle potential data-related emergencies. By adhering to these best practices, companies can effectively manage user access in Smartsheet, fostering a secure and efficient collaborative workspace that drives project success.


In this article, the author explores Smartsheet's user access controls and how they can benefit team management and leadership. The article covers topics such as understanding user permissions and access levels, setting up and managing user groups for efficient collaboration, integrating advanced access controls and custom permissions, and best practices for securely managing user access in Smartsheet. Key takeaways from the article include the importance of assigning the correct permissions to ensure data security and effective collaboration, the benefits of using user groups for streamlined access control and communication, the value of conditional sharing and custom roles for tailored access, and the significance of regular review and auditing of user permissions for maintaining a secure collaborative environment. Overall, this comprehensive guide provides insights that can revolutionize the approach to team management and leadership within Smartsheet.