Customizing SmartSuite's User Permissions and Collaboration Features
SmartSuite allows users to organize and manage data in a visually appealing and easy-to-use way. With a range of features and automation options it helps teams optimize their work. With the addition of properly-configured permissions as well as the thoughtful use of SmartSuite collaboration features you can take these Solutions to the next level. In this blog post, we'll explore how you can use these features to create a streamlined environment that ensures that users have the data that they need, can edit the things they are responsible for, and can easily collaborate with teammates as they work on their tasks and projects.
First, let's look at permissions. There are two types of “permissions” available to you: roles and Solution permissions. Roles define what the user (what we refer to as Members) can do at a fundamental level. There are four role types:
- Guest. Assigning a Guest role allows the user to view only the records that are assigned to them in a view-only state. No changes to the content can be made. Guest users do have the ability to comment on records assigned to them, and will (in the very near future!) be able to change the status of assigned records in My Work.
- General access. The most common user role - General - provides users access to SmartSuite and its content. Users can see and interact with content that is assigned to the default Everyone Team, and also Solutions they are specifically added to by Solution Managers or Administrators. General users can be made Solution Managers for specific Solutions by another Solution Manager or an Administrator.
- Solution Creator. Assigning the Solution Creator role tells SmartSuite that the user is allowed to create new Solutions, either from Solution Templates or from scratch. Just like General users, Solution Creators can be added as Solution Managers for Solutions created by other users, but they do not have these permissions by default (like Administrators do).
- Administrator. SmartSuite’s highest level of permission is granted to users assigned the Administrator role. These users have access to all SmartSuite workspace settings - even billing and plan configuration - and can view, create, modify, or delete any Solution (or its data).
Ultimately you will want to have the majority of your users to be either General users (for everyone who needs interactive access to records) or Guests. During the development and testing phase of a SmartSuite rollout, you’ll likely have a number of Solution Creators, giving your “power users” the ability to add Solution Templates and modifying them to meet their specific needs - or even creating their own Solutions from scratch.
Next, let’s look at Solution permissions. These are the settings that really power your workflows, granting users the ability to create, read, update and delete records. They control visibility to individual Apps, and can even be used to restrict access to view or edit the contents of individual fields. Certain permissions allow access to records where the user has either created the record or is an assignee (i.e. selected in an Assigned To field, either as an individual user or as a member of a Team).
SmartSuite user interfaces and functions are focused on making work easier, information more transparent and easily accessed, and every user experience intuitive. For the majority of the collaborative work teams do, the default All Access permission level works great. Individual users can make the updates they need to without complex approval processes that slow you down, while still having accountability through the changes tracked in history log, notifications that alert other users and real-time visibility to user edits.
Of course, when the work you're doing becomes more sensitive or privileged, it's easy to restrict access to just the people who need it.
Let’s talk about the levels of permission that can be granted at the Solution and App levels. It is important to understand that permissions start at the top - i.e. the Solution level. New Solutions default to allow any SmartSuite Member to have full access to their Apps and records. This is great for casual collaboration, but when you need to have a specific workflow in place it’s probably not your preferred mode of operation.
Here is an overview of the available Solution / App level permissions:
- Solution Manager. This is a special permission that allows you to grant limited administrative permissions to users (who can have any role other than Guest), giving them full control over that specific App, its structure and data.
- Full Access. Users with Full Access can create, read, update, and delete all records in the solution.
- Editor. The user can create and edit their own records, but only view records created by other users
- Contributor. The user can create and edit their own records, but only edit other records if they are mentioned in an Assigned To field.
- Assignee. The user can view and edit content they have been assigned, but cannot create, view, or edit any other content.
- Commenter. The user can view and comment on all content but cannot create or edit any content.
- Viewer. The user can view the content but cannot create or edit it.
When assigning permissions, you can easily grant full access to a limited number of Teams. Teams are a great feature for organizing and managing permissions, and whether you’re using this Teams-level assignment or not, I highly recommend using them.
Consider changes to people’s positions, reassignments and other organizational shifts. If you assign individual members particular permissions in Solutions or Apps, you’ll have to adjust those each time their role in the organization changes. With Team assignments - even if it’s a “team of one” - you can just swap out team member(s) and everything continues to work as configured. Much easier, and much less prone to configuration error or overlooking permissions settings that are relatively hidden at the App or Field level.
Speaking of App and Field level permissions, these can be used to further streamline user access to information. Let’s consider a scenario where an HR team wants to use a Solution to manage employee profiles and reviews.
In this scenario, you might want to grant full access by default to the Solution, as your employees will need some level of access to their own (and possibly their reports’) information. You can then use Team-level permissions to provide full access to the HR Team to all of their internal Apps, while making sure that the Profiles and Reviews apps set Assignee permissions for the Everyone group.
This configuration will allow you to have HR staff interact with any portion of those HR records, but individual (non-HR) employees will only have access to the records they are assigned to. You can further refine this access scheme to hide very sensitive information, such as social security numbers, home addresses or other information that shouldn’t be publicly shared. Those fields could be set to “Nobody” for View permissions, so that only Solution Managers (presumably the heads of the HR department) can see and edit those values.
With permissions in place, it’s time to explore the collaboration capabilities that round out the system’s ability to share and capture information.
With SmartSuite, multiple team members can work on the same Solution at the same time, which can significantly increase productivity. You can use the record comment feature to discuss specific records or fields with your team, and you can also use the @mention feature to notify team members of updates or changes. If you enable Communications Center you also have the option of emailing comments to users, opening up yet another channel of communication.
To take collaboration a step further, SmartSuite also allows you to share your Grid Views and even entire Solutions with people outside of your organization. You can set options for how this data is displayed so they only see the information they need. This is a great additional tool that can be used in conjunction with permissions settings to control access to information stored in SmartSuite.
For example, you might want to use a Shared Grid View to let a customer see the status of their project. Since you can protect the view with a passcode, only share certain fields and can choose whether to allow downloading of the information, you’re in control of what gets shared externally.
Form View is another powerful tool, allowing you to capture information from external users who are not members of your SmartSuite Workspace. The captured data is inserted into new records, allowing your team to see the information and take appropriate actions.
Finally, Shared Solutions allow you the broadest ability to share information outside of SmartSuite. You can “publish” an entire solution in read-only mode, allowing you to create information portals that could be used to let customers see your progress, publish information that third parties might need to fulfill their side of a business arrangement, or even allow Members of other SmartSuite Workspaces to install the Solution and use the data in their environment.
This last capability opens up tremendous opportunities for service providers, consultants and others who may want to configure a Solution for their client and then share that structure with them in their own SmartSuite environment. SmartSuite is continuing to enhance this capability to offer even more power and flexibility in the future (automatic configuration of automations is on the roadmap here!)
With all of these tips in mind, let’s review a few tips for using SmartSuite's permissions and collaboration features to optimize your work:
- Set clear permissions for each user: Before inviting team members to your Workspace, make sure you've set the appropriate permissions for each user. This will ensure that everyone has access to the information they need without compromising the integrity of the data.
- Use commenting and @mentioning to collaborate: Use SmartSuite's commenting feature to discuss specific records or fields with your team, and use the @mention feature to notify team members of updates or changes.
- Customize views for external collaborators: If you're sharing your View with people outside of your organization, customize the views they see so they only see the information they need. You can choose to allow the external users to open record detail, or restrict access to just what is shown in the grid.
- Be judicious with the Administrator role. This role is powerful, allowing users who have it to change anything in the Workspace. You should only have a small number of users with this level of authority, and in larger organizations we recommend that those users also have a regular user account that they use for non-administrative activities.
- Use SmartSuite for project management: SmartSuite is an excellent tool for project management, and its permissions and collaboration features make it even better. Use SmartSuite to track tasks, assign responsibilities, and collaborate with your team.
I hope that this post gives you a sense for how SmartSuite's permissions and collaboration features can significantly optimize your work and increase productivity. By setting clear permissions for each user, using commenting and @mentioning to collaborate, customizing views for external collaborators, and using SmartSuite for project management, you can take full advantage of SmartSuite’s workflow capabilities and get things done more efficiently.