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Get your projects and tasks under control with Microsoft Planner

Posted September 12, 2017
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If you are a visual person, like me, that doesn’t have time to be figuring out complex project management tools, this is the crème de la crème app to get your work organised and to be on top of tasks!

By Colin Morrison, Service Delivery Manager

Microsoft continues to develop its powerful Office 365 suite, rapidly adding new features, products and applications. Now, it’s time to introduce a tool that is not that well known, which we have trialed at Bremmar and absolutely loved! – Microsoft Planner. This app is now available to premium, business and educational Office 365 subscribers.

What is Office 365 Planner?

Planner is a lightweight workflow and task management tool that provides a centralised hub for employees to create and manage project plans, assign tasks to team members and track progress. The highly visual hub shows a snapshot of your plans, with key information displayed on one dashboard so you can quickly see which tasks have been started and completed. It also allows files to be easily uploaded and shared among the team.

If you are like me, a visual person that doesn’t have time to be figuring out complex project management tools, this is the crème de la crème app to get your work organised and be on top of tasks!

Understanding Planner and Groups

As MS Planner is closely aligned with Office 365 Groups, we need to go back a bit and explain Office 365 Groups. Microsoft defines it as: “Groups lets you choose a set of people that you wish to collaborate with and easily set up a collection of resources for those people to share. You don’t have to worry about manually assigning permissions to all those resources because adding members to the group automatically gives them the permissions they need to the tools your group provides. Additionally, groups are the new and improved experience for what we used to use distribution lists or shared mailboxes to do.”

Creating a Group will allow you to share an Inbox, a calendar, a document library, a OneNote Notebook, a SharePoint Team Site and to have the same groups in Microsoft Teams and Planner.

How to start using Planner?

As you might expect, it all starts with a plan. It’s all pretty straight forward. Just click on “+ New Plan” on the top left-hand side and you are ready to go!

When a new plan is created in Planner, a new Office 365 Group is also created automatically. You can add members to a plan by typing their name or email address, and they will be automatically added to the respective Office 365 Group, with the Group appearing in their Outlook account, along with an email welcoming them to the plan. If you have any pre-existing Groups set up then they will automatically have a plan created against them and will appear on the Planner homepage.

Planner hub

Here is where you get a high-level overview of your plans. It’s a snapshot of where you and other members are at with tasks – not started, late, in progress or completed. It’s all very visual and super easy to understand!

 

 

Tasks – The meaty part

After creating a plan and building a team, you can begin to add and assign tasks. Initially, it will require minimum information.

But after the task has been created, it can be marked with different colours and can include details such as start and due dates, attachments, comments and assigned team members. Tasks can also be grouped into ‘buckets’ based on characteristics such as the task state (planned, started or implemented) and the task type (analysis, design, development, or high priority, medium priority, etc.).

 

Viewing your tasks

There’re two ways you can view your tasks, through the Board or Charts tab. The board gives you detailed information of each task and shows which stage it’s at (in progress, completed, etc.).

Whereas the Chart gives you a high level overview of tasks in a plan and evaluate the status of a project, how many tasks are in progress, completed, etc.

Customise your views

You can add plans to favourites and check “My Tasks” tab to only see your own tasks. Within a plan, you can view tasks by members, assigned to or progress. The idea is that you find your own way to keep track of tasks and progress, so choose whatever suits you.

 

Also, to make it easier, your favourites in Planner also become part of your favourites in Outlook so you can keep track of communications and updates.

Planner integrations

Planner is fully integrated with Outlook, SharePoint and OneDrive for Business, which means organisations that already use Office 365 can benefit from an effective task management tool at no extra cost. Planner also meets the rigorous demands of Microsoft’s enterprise customers, with features including instantaneous recovery, multiple redundant backups, and HIPAA, FISMA, and ISO27001 compliance.

Comparing Planner with Microsoft Project

Compared to Microsoft Project, Planner is positioned as a simpler, ad hoc planning tool, with an interface that resembles Facebook rather than a Gantt chart. Planner’s flexible user interface is ideal for a wide range of purposes – for example, brainstorming new product ideas, preparing for a client visit, or organising a marketing event. Planner is perfect when you need to manage something that’s too complex for a simple to-do list to handle, but not complex enough to require a full-blown project management tool.

However, for large intricate projects, MS Project is still the most appropriate solution, with its more comprehensive set of resource management and planning features.

Why should you consider it?

Microsoft Planner is relatively new and one of Microsoft’s focus for the next years, as well as other Office 365 apps. The integration, functionality, and usability of these apps have been increasing significantly since the past couple of years and will only continue to increase. Even though Microsoft Planner seems currently quite basic and there are a few functionalities lacking, we recommend that businesses jump on the Office 365 bandwagon at early stages so they are part of all the developments to come while integrating it into their business and getting an in-depth understanding of all the features.

Microsoft Planner is just one more link in the chain that makes Office 365 the world’s most powerful workplace collaboration and productivity suite. To find out more about how Planner and Office 365 can benefit your business, contact Bremmar today on 1300 991 351 or email help@bremmar.com.au.

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By Colin Morrison, Service Delivery Manager

Our Service Delivery Manager has great experience in project management, process and methodology. He’s constantly looking at every area of how we deliver technology and services to clients and, together with the technical teams, finds ways for improvement. Besides ensuring we deliver the highest levels of service to our clients, he is also known as Bremmar’s first “hired staff” and resident grumpy Scotsman.

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