How to Use the Smartsheet ANCESTORS Project Management Formula

Project management in Smartsheet is all about organizing and tracking tasks, timelines, and resources to ensure successful project completion. As projects grow in complexity, managing hierarchical relationships becomes crucial to maintain clarity and efficiency.

Smartsheet offers a powerful ANCESTORS formula that allows users to reference and utilize all the parent cells in a hierarchy. In this blog post, we will explore the ANCESTORS formula and its various applications when used in tandem with other functions like COUNT, SUM, INDEX, and JOIN.

Understanding the Smartsheet ANCESTORS Formula

The ANCESTORS formula in Smartsheet is designed to help users reference all ancestors in a cell's hierarchy. While the PARENT function only references the direct parent cell, ANCESTORS goes a step further and includes all parent cells, including grandparents and so on. This feature is particularly useful when dealing with multi-level hierarchies, such as phases, tasks, and subtasks in project management.

Visualizing Hierarchies in Smartsheet

Before delving into the ANCESTORS formula, let's understand how Smartsheet helps visualize hierarchical relationships. By right-clicking on the primary column, you can easily expand or collapse rows to see which rows are indented under others. Additionally, the plus and minus icons in the primary column cells allow you to expand and collapse rows conveniently.

Utilizing Hierarchy in Project Management

Many project management sheets benefit from leveraging hierarchical structures. For instance, project plans often have phases and tasks associated with them, where tasks can further have subtasks. In an agile project management context, epics would sit at the top of the hierarchy, followed by stories, and then tasks. Here, epics and stories would serve as ancestors to the tasks.

Smartsheet ANCESTORS Formula in Combination with Other Functions

The real power of the ANCESTORS formula lies in its ability to work in tandem with other functions, allowing users to perform various operations based on hierarchical relationships.

COUNT Function

With the COUNT function, you can determine the number of ancestors a row has. This information can be invaluable for automating row formatting, where specific formatting is applied based on the number of ancestors a row possesses. For example, epic rows might have distinct background and font colors, while stories have their own formatting, and so on.

SUM Function

The SUM function, when used with ANCESTORS, can aggregate numerical values from ancestor rows to the child row. This aggregate value can then be employed for filtering, conditional formatting, decision making, and more. For instance, you can use the SUM function to combine dollar amounts from all ancestor rows to a particular task or subtask, making it easier to manage budgets and resource allocations.

INDEX Function

When combined with ANCESTORS, the INDEX function becomes a powerful tool to extract specific information from ancestor rows. For example, you could use INDEX to pull the phase name corresponding to each row. This information could stand alone or be concatenated with another value to create a unique identifier, which can then be used in reports or other parts of the project management process.

JOIN Function

The JOIN function, when used with ANCESTORS, allows you to collect all ancestor values and combine them into a single field, separated by a delimiter of your choosing. This can be particularly helpful when you want to capture "breadcrumbs" or a trail that gives insights into the hierarchical position of a particular task or item. Having this information readily available in the row itself enhances understanding and navigation within the project management sheet.

Practical Examples with Project Plan Sheet

To better grasp the potential of the ANCESTORS formula and its collaboration with other functions, you can watch our tutorial video demonstration where specific examples are shown using a project plan sheet. The video will walk you through scenarios of applying the SUM, INDEX, and COUNT functions to leverage hierarchical relationships and streamline project management processes.

Improving Your Workflow with the Smartsheet ANCESTORS Formula

The Smartsheet ANCESTORS formula is a powerful feature that simplifies project management when working with hierarchical data structures. By combining ANCESTORS with functions like COUNT, SUM, INDEX, and JOIN, users can automate formatting, perform calculations, extract specific information, and create meaningful views that enhance their project management experience. Whether you are managing simple tasks or complex projects, understanding and utilizing the ANCESTORS formula can significantly improve your efficiency and organization.

Smartsheet Project Management Solutions from CloudWave

If you’re considering Smartsheet for project management and data analysis, look for a Smartsheet Platinum Partner like CloudWave who understands the technology best practices and prioritizes your unique business needs.

Through Smartsheet integration, we deliver cross-platform functionality​ that helps you bring your system together for an end-to-end solution within Smartsheet​. Using automation, we reduce tedious manual processes to save time and improve productivity.

CloudWave also provides Smartsheet support throughout the entire project lifecycle - defining scope, architecture, design, development and deployment.​ As your data environment constantly changes, we offer continued support beyond the project in an ever-shifting digital landscape.

To learn more about some of our successful Smartsheet projects, check out our case studies.

If you are looking for an experienced Smartsheet partner, reach out to our experts at CloudWave today.