Smartsheet, a Bellevue, Wash.-based business software maker, has baked Azure Active Directory (AD) support into its spreadsheet-inspired project management and collaboration platform.
Azure AD is Microsoft's cloud-based identity and user management platform. The integration will help organizations leverage the platform's single sign-on capabilities, allowing organizations with investments in Microsoft's growing Office 365 software platform to manage their workforces and collaborate more seamlessly, according to Mark Mader, president and CEO of Smartsheet. A major enabler is a maturing cloud ecosystem.
"Azure Active Directory integration has made the handshake between Smartsheet and the Office tools we use most, like email and file storage, seamless and effective," said Mader in a statement. "The utility and increased adoption of Office 365, driven by its connection to Smartsheet's work management platform, is a big benefit to our customers."
Azure AD support helps users avoid having to juggle multiple logins. It also gives users access to Smartsheet directly from the Office 365 app launcher while allowing IT administrators to incorporate the solution into their centralized app management setups.
Smartsheet co-founder and Chairman Brent Frei, who worked at Microsoft in the 1980's, said the new Azure AD supports arrived during "one of the more exciting times for Smartsheet."
Despite some valiant attempts, the software industry has yet to unseat the spreadsheet as the go-to tool for information and project management. Instead of reinventing the wheel, Smartsheet used the institutionalized inertia that continues to feed the widespread use of spreadsheets, "still the dominant tool" in business, Frei told eWEEK, and built a platform that layers additional capabilities and serves as a springboard, of sorts, for other tasks.
Smartsheet has "over 55,000 paying companies" on its platform, including tech giants like Cisco and Google, said Frei. The company's foray into Azure AD environments is a sign that Microsoft's "cloud-first" product strategy has not only taken hold at the company, but is also having an influence on the software industry at large, he added.
"Microsoft was somewhat insular" in the past, Frei said. The company saw little benefit in playing well with "products that may be considered competitive." Of late, the company is more accommodating of its rivals, he said, citing the recent partnership with Salesforce as an example.
In addition to an "increased priority in integrating with Microsoft's other products," the software giant is taking a "better-together approach" to the business software and cloud markets. Microsoft's newfound willingness to try a different tack is helping drive innovation at the Redmond, Wash.-based software behemoth and its partners, added Frei.
For Microsoft, promoting Azure AD interoperability opens up new opportunities. Alex Simons, director of program management at Azure Active Directory, described Smartsheet as a "popular SaaS tool that has a strong and growing presence among our customer base."
"Simplifying access to best-of-breed apps such as Smartsheet, Concur and Salesforce is fundamental to our cloud strategy," Simons said in a statement.