How to Use the Smartsheet PARENT Project Management Formula

In Smartsheet project management, organizing tasks in a hierarchy can significantly enhance project clarity and efficiency. To help users do this more effectively, Smartsheet offers the PARENT formula, which allows users to reference the immediate parent row of a specified cell in the row hierarchy. In this blog post, we will explore how to use the PARENT formula by itself and in combination with other functions to create more advanced formulas.

Understanding the PARENT Formula

The PARENT formula in Smartsheet is designed to reference the immediate parent of a cell based on the row hierarchy. Unlike the ANCESTORS function that references all rows above a cell in the hierarchy, including grandparents and beyond, the PARENT function solely focuses on the immediate parent row. However, the PARENT function is versatile and can be used as a standalone formula or within other functions to perform more complex calculations.

Using the PARENT Formula as a Standalone Function

If you simply type "=PARENT()" in a column, it will return the value of the parent for the column it is in. For instance, if you use this formula in the "Task Name" column, it will automatically display the parent's task name. If you want to return the Task Name in a different column, you can still achieve that by referencing the "Task Name" field in the PARENT function. For example, you can use "=PARENT([Task Name]@row)" to display the parent's task name in another column.

Leveraging the PARENT Formula with Other Functions

The PARENT formula's true potential lies in its ability to be combined with other functions to create more sophisticated formulas based on hierarchical relationships.

IF Function

By using the PARENT formula inside an IF function, users can create conditional expressions based on the parent's value. For example, if you have a Project Plan sheet organized into phases and tasks, you may want a formula to return a value only if the parent is "Plan" (indicating that the task is a child of the "Plan" phase). In this scenario, you can use the IF function and nest the PARENT function, like this: "=IF(PARENT([Task Name]@row) = 'Plan', 'Value if True', 'Value if False')". This formula will display "Value if True" if the parent is "Plan," otherwise, it will display "Value if False."


Concatenation is the process of combining multiple strings of text into a single string. In Smartsheet, concatenation is represented by the "+" (plus) sign, rather than the "&" (ampersand) used in Excel. The PARENT formula can be used within a concatenation to build more informative output. For example, you might want to create a formula that combines the parent's task name with the child task name to form a complete task identifier. You can achieve this with the formula: "=PARENT([Task Name]@row) + ' - ' + [Task Name]@row".

Practical Examples with Project Plan Sheet

To better grasp the application of the PARENT formula and its integration with other functions, you can watch a tutorial video that demonstrates specific examples using a project plan sheet. The video showcases how the PARENT formula can be used both by itself and within more complex formulas that leverage the IF function and concatenation.

Improving Your Workflow with the Smartsheet PARENT Formula

The Smartsheet PARENT formula is a valuable tool for managing hierarchical data in project management. Whether used as a standalone formula to display the immediate parent's value or combined with other functions for more advanced calculations, the PARENT formula offers flexibility and enhances project organization. By understanding and utilizing the PARENT formula, project managers can optimize their workflow and gain clearer insights into project hierarchies.

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.