With 1.2 billions users worldwide and over 60 million monthly commercial users, Microsoft Office is one of the most widely used web-based business applications. It is a robust tool that facilitates collaboration and increases efficiency for countless businesses. In past posts, we have focused extensively on SharePoint and the advantages it offers to its users, but in this post, we will look at O365’s Planner tool and how that can be used for project management.
What is Planner
Microsoft Planner is a task management tool that small teams of individuals can use to manage their work and associated tasks visually and openly with the rest of the team. It is a lightweight web-based task management software that is an integral part of the Office 365 ecosystem and can be integrated with Office 365 Groups and assets like Outlook email, SharePoint and OneDrive.
When to use Planner
Planner may not be ideal for a complex project, but it can be valuable if you are managing smaller scale projects. If you’re deciding between project management tools, it’s important to consider the questions below:
- Is my project team small?
- Do I have a distributed project team?
- Do I need to access my task list from a mobile devices?
- Is my project agile?
- How much of Office 365 am I using to leverage planner?
Planner is a valuable tool when your project team is small and is completing mostly task-based work that doesn't have a lot of complexity involved (i.e. event planning, budget planning, etc.). It also works well when used as tab within Microsoft Teams, enabling all team members to collaborate more effectively by having visibility to who's working on what. For more complex projects, you may want to consider using a SharePoint site for more complex projects. You can find many articles about that in our blog, but we recommend starting here.
When to use Planner
For those projects using Microsoft Planner, teams can organize quickly and have the ability to categorize, assign and view all of the team's tasks seamlessly. An added benefit of having Planner as a tab in Microsoft Teams is that teams can work more collaboratively without any extra effort, For example, a conversation can easily be had within Teams around tasks in Planner resulting in the rest of the team having visibility to that conversation, whereas otherwise it may be in a side email or phone call.
Tasks, Buckets and Boards - oh my!
There are 3 major elements within Planner that you can use to organize your data: tasks, bucket and boards.
- Tasks - Just as you are used to with other tools, tasks are assignments of certain activities to an individual. One differentiator, however, is that the entry screen is meant to be simple and is limited to just a few choices like start and due dates, progress and status. There is also a Checklist function that allows users to create mini-tasks (subtasks) under the main task. Users can insert a file from SharePoint or OneDrive or just link to it directly. History of each task is conveniently tracked at the bottom for easy access to whoever may need it.
- Buckets - Tasks are grouped together and categorized into what are known as “buckets”. You have free reign to name your buckets however you choose. They are not automatically grouped, rather, they are meant to separate tasks into your own logical groupings (i.e. admin, marketing, to-do list, etc.)
- Boards - Once you have your tasks listed and organized into buckets, everything is grouped together into what is known as the board view. This is a simple, user-friendly way to see everything that still needs to be completed for the project.
Depending on the scope of your project, Microsoft Planner can be an effective tool for project management by empowering teams to effectively manage their tasks, and give visibility to everyone the work the team is performing.