Editor's Note: Tom Hippensteel is the Vice President for LiquidConcrete, a medium-sized Seattle-based manufacturer of high-performance concrete coatings and flooring systems for industrial and transportation markets. LiquidConcrete relies on Google Apps for email, calendar, and document collaboration, and on Smartsheet, an integrated app from the Google Apps Marketplace, for online project management, general work management, and team collaboration.

Smartsheet's integration with Google Apps enables businesses to transform the work they routinely track in spreadsheets into a complete solution for managing business operations. Smartsheet currently offers three versions in the Google Apps Marketplace: online project management, sales pipeline management, and crowdsourcing.

Below, Tom explains a bit about LiquidConcrete and the steps they took to get the entire business – from the front office to the warehouse – to operate in the cloud.

To learn more about LiquidConcrete's success with Google Apps and Smartsheet, please join us for a webinar on Tuesday, May 11 at 11:00 a.m. PDT.

We win business because we have great products, and because we run a lean operation that differentiates on quick turnaround of custom jobs with high levels of customer service. Everything about our operation is focused on efficiency, so we’re always looking for software solutions that fit that model. We’ve had successes and setbacks in getting our operations into the cloud in a way that works for all of our employees. We needed tools that "just work the way that we work."

We use Quickbooks for accounting and have had great success with Google Apps for email and calendar, but had trouble finding a tool that combined the ease of use, power and flexibility we needed to manage the rest of our operations. We tried various CRM, ERP and manufacturing solutions but they made us work in a certain way and were difficult to use – people just went back to how they were doing it before.

Then we found Smartsheet, a cloud-based project management tool. It was already integrated with Google Apps, and as we began deploying it more broadly, made Google Docs much more useful. Smartsheet and Google Apps are the only tools that have been readily adopted across our whole company, all the way out to the guys on the warehouse floor.

Here’s how we use them:

Project & task management We started tracking various projects and shared task lists in Smartsheet. User adoption was not a problem and the ability to launch Smartsheet from Gmail (the first app we open every morning) might sound simple, but it was a big win. Most of us check into Smartsheet dozens of times per day and we all have it added to the first screen on our iPhones.

Order-to-ship process We then realized that Smartsheet and Gmail could help with our order entry and shipping process. It was easy to set up and quickly adopted by reps on the phones with customers as well as people in the factory and at the warehouse. Here's our new streamlined process:

1. New orders are entered in a Smartsheet with the packing slip attached to the order and special instructions added as discussion notes

2. The people at the warehouse are automatically notified by Smartsheet (via Gmail on their iPhone) that a new order needs to be shipped

3. They access Smartsheet from their email, download the packing slip and prep the order

4. Once the order is shipped, they fill out the "tracking number" field for that order in Smartsheet and change the dropdown status from "waiting" to "shipped"

5. The right people receive a Smartsheet notification that a new order has been shipped with the tracking number available

Inventory tracking We also track raw and finished goods inventory in Smartsheet, giving salespeople instant access to the latest information online or via their iPhone.

Sales pipeline We have recently started using Smartsheet to manage the sales pipeline. It's been great to have all of our client projects and potential leads tracked in one place with their relevant documents attached to their record. We have instant status updates, forecast amounts and recent call notes at our fingertips and use reminders to make sure follow up happens.

Specification document management Since we are able to easily attach Google Docs to our Smartsheets, we decided to go forward with converting hundreds of specification documents into Google Docs. Google Docs gives us collaborative writing and review to get the specifications right, and Smartsheet organizes them conveniently right inside the project workflow. Accessing files directly from our sales, inventory and order processing sheets has been a big productivity win.

Smartsheet and Google Apps are changing the way our company communicates. Our CEO loves it because he gets an update on order status or a key customer in real time. Our reps love it because they can quickly pull up an order while on the phone with a customer and give an instant answer without waiting for someone at the warehouse to call them back. This saves us a tremendous amount of time.

The two keys for us are ease of use and the flexibility, and we've yet to come across a type of work that can't be managed in Smartsheet and Google Apps. We also love that it's a fraction of the cost of many of the other solutions we've looked at and we don't have to hire expensive consultants to customize it.

Bottom line is that we serve our customers better than bigger competitors because we're nimble and agile, and we feel the same way about Smartsheet and Google Apps.

Tom Hippensteel, VP, LiquidConcrete

Join Tom and the Smartsheet team for a webinar to learn more about this customer success story. This online discussion will include a question and answer session.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010
11:00 a.m. PDT / 2:00 p.m. EDT / 6:00 p.m. GMT

You can watch it at work here:

To learn more about Smartsheet's experience selling their app in the Google Apps Marketplace, please read their post on the Google Apps Developer Blog. To learn even more about Smartsheet, check out their Google Apps Marketplace listing.

Posted by Chris Kelly, Google Apps Marketplace team