Untapped Power Blog Series
While G Suite (Google’s collection of cloud computing apps) is growing in popularity, Microsoft Office has been a business software standard since the 1990s. And Microsoft is a monster. Not in a bad or scary way, but in the sense that it is massive. It has so many programs that integrate in so many ways, it can be difficult for any professional to fully explore—and take advantage of—them all. As your trusted technology partner, we’re here to help you get more out of the tools you already have in place.
Achieve Your Goals
Whether you’re setting individual goals or you’re collaborating with a team, Microsoft Planner can help you stay on track. This project management software is more than a To-do list. It’s a productivity tool that integrates seamlessly with the rest of your O365 suite. That means you can build entire plans, break them down into tasks and steps, give them individual deadlines, and assign each piece to one or multiple people. You can send and receive updates on specific items, and you can visualize progress as it happens.
Have you ever tackled a big project, like rebuilding your company’s entire website or planning a brand new product line, and found yourself lost somewhere in the middle of it? Not lost in the sense that you don’t know what to do, but lost in regard to how much more is still left to do? And if you’re working with a team, wondering where each person’s progress stands?
Sometimes it helps to operate by lists: writing down everything that needs to get done and checking items off as they are accomplished. At other times, all items are not created equally, and the list might be better as a spreadsheet or chart to show chunks of different sizes for the longer times some items may require to complete. And sometimes, we just want a visual overview showing what percent of a project has been completed or is left. (And which members of the team may have more late or completed tasks.)
Planner offers all of these different types of views. Click on the images below to enlarge a few samples. Information has been blurred out for privacy.
Without taking you step-by-step through setup and use–which couldn’t be easier since you simply click on New Plan and name it to start–once you have a plan, you’ll immediately begin with a To do “bucket.” A bucket is a category of tasks. So if this plan is for a large project, you could name your buckets for the different departments involved or for the phases of the project. You can also rename your buckets, including the default To do.
The collaboration piece comes in with each task. This is because each task has an Assign button. And you don’t even have to worry about whether you initially set up your plan to be public or private because you can assign members who are not yet part of the plan. As long as they are members of your O365-using organization, you can assign them and add them to the plan through a task.
When members are assigned to a task or added to a plan, they will receive email notifications. If the tasks have deadlines, members will also receive upcoming deadline reminders. And within each task, you can add comments that any other member of the team can see and respond to. A word of caution about this, however: team members can miss certain updates about tasks and plan activities if they do not choose to ‘Follow in inbox’ when they receive the initial plan welcome email. If you do Follow in inbox when you join a plan or group, you will find these activities in the Groups section of Outlook, which should appear underneath your mail folders. And there are certain notifications settings that the owner of the plan can enable or disable across the board.
The caution above is simply because too many of us expect a screen popup or phone notification or alert to prompt us, and Planner is a little more subtle.
Further collaboration happens when you use Planner and Teams. In Teams, you can add a tab that directly pulls in your Plan for that team. That means your chat, meetings, files, and now your plan and tasks can all live under one roof.
Bonus De-collaboration Tip: For those times when only an Excel sheet will do (perhaps someone who needs to review the plan is resistant to new systems, or maybe you want to share the tasks with someone without adding them to the plan and giving them the ability to change things), there is an Export plan to Excel option that can come in very handy.
Since Planner is part of O365, it’s already in the cloud. As an online program, there is no worry of updates syncing differently for team members. Plus, Microsoft offers a free app version so you can stay current on your phone or tablet. Add tasks, send comments, and mark progress anywhere, anytime.
So whether you’re trying to manage a team or simply your own time more effectively, see how Planner can help. From built-in color-coding of task status (not started, in progress, late, or completed) to custom labels, and with options to organize by board, charts, schedule, and a variety of sorting by buckets, labels, and more, this tool is more powerful than it may first appear.
Then talk to your IT services provider about proper setup and implementation, or reach out to our team. We’ll be happy to help.