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The great thing about Office 365 (and SaaS solutions in general) is that they’re based in the cloud and upgraded with new cool new features without you having to lift a finger. All these added pieces of functionality come without you having to go through the kerfuffle of writing change requests, planning delivery schedules and all the other fun you’ve become accustomed to as a seasoned veteran of IT projects.
Unfortunately, sometimes you’ll receive these upgrades and not even know they exist! Microsoft have recently added the “Planner” experience to their Office 365 suite, offering users a simple and visual way to organize teamwork. Many of our clients have noticed the tile on their Office 365 dashboards but are either unaware of how to use it, or plain just don’t know what to use it for, so let’s talk you through it…

The Scenario

Let’s say you have a big event coming up, you’ve found yourself volunteering to organise it again this year, but you still remember all-too-well the nightmare it was last year. Drafts, catch-up meetings, reviews, emails, tracking shared documents, phone calls, more emails…you could use massive bloaty software (that not everyone on the planning committee can access) to organise the event and somehow it would still all get out of hand.

Well, throw away the planning spreadsheet you forged in the fires of Mount Excel. Microsoft Planner is a visual, online tool to easily create plans, organise and assign tasks, share files, communicate with your team and always have a clear idea of how are things going, all with a cool and easy-to-use app interface.

The Demo
Planner 1

 

Once you open Planner, click on New Plan and fill in the basic details. Since we want this event to be a surprise for your colleagues, we'll create it as a private plan.

Planner 2


Now that you've got your plan created, it's time you bring on-board all the members of your planning committee team. To do this, use the Add Members link on the upper right side of the page.

 

Planner 3

 

Easy so far, right? Now we will create the task buckets. You can group them as you prefer but in this case we will follow the hint on screen and create just a few more buckets to have tasks properly grouped.

Using the Add new bucket link, we will create the buckets “People”, “Money” and “Logistics”.

 

Planner 4

 

Now we will create some tasks by clicking on the blue + signs you find under the bucket names. Making a task can be as simple as setting a name for the task. Additionally, you can also set a due date, once you’ve completed adding in all the metadata, click Add task. We will later assign them to team members.


Planner 5


So how do you assign tasks to members? Easiest way is just dragging and dropping the circle of the chosen member on to the task (found in the top right). After assigning tasks to members you'll see them like this:

 

Planner 6

Now you're ready to start the actual work!

I'll start working on one of my assigned tasks, “Find venue”, and so I’ll edit it and mark it as “In progress”. You will see why in a bit. Also, I'll drag and drop the task from the “To-do” bucket to the “Logistics” one. 

 

Planner 7


As finding a venue is not a trivial task nowadays, I'll put some more info in the task. I click on the task to create my checklist and I put a link to the document containing all the details of the venues:

 

Planner 8


What's the added value of uploading the document here? It is added to OneDrive and so any member of the team can collaborate online and modify its contents.

While I was working on my task, some of the members of the team have also started working on some of their tasks and so you can see the plan is working!

 

Planner 9

In our example it is more convenient to have a global picture but in case you had a bigger team and many tasks, you could also visually see who’s working on what by grouping tasks by member. 

 

Choose Assigned to on the top, right-hand side drop-down list:

 

Planner 10


After doing that you’d see that you had left one task unassigned, and also check how balanced teamwork is.

 

Planner 11

And of course, if you want to focus on getting things done, you can group tasks by their progress.

 

Planner 1


But as we saw above, one of the tasks was still unassigned. Who should do it in the team? We can use Charts to see how things are going on with the current distribution of workload.

 

Planner 13


Once you click on Charts you’ll see the following charts showing the status of the tasks and how members are doing. Moreover, to the right you will be able to directly access the tasks, which you can group by different criteria: No grouping, assigned to, due date, progress and buckets.

 

Planner 14


Please note that if you click on a member, you’ll see the list of tasks assigned to him/her.

 

Planner 15

Taking into account all the information obtained through the charts, we will identify Faizan as a good candidate for the Fundraising task as he seems to have less workload.

 

You’ll never walk alone

Perhaps you may be thinking that the tool looks great to have snapshots of the progress of your plan, but how about being always on top of things, no matter if you’re at the office or on the go? Not to worry, as Planner works on plenty of different devices such as tablets and mobiles, etc.

Moreover, if you subscribe to email notifications, you can receive messages for you to be aware of updates such as being assigned to a task, or receiving comments on your tasks.

 

Planner 16

If you open the above message in your Outlook, clicking on the View group conversations link will allow you to interact with other team members straight away:


Planner 17


And of course, you will be able to see it all together in Planner:

 

Planner 18


We hope this has been an informative look at the Planner experience, and helps you use this tool to a fuller capacity. To read more you can check out the following blog from Microsoft.

 

If you don't have the subscription necessary to enable the Planner tile, you could always get in touch and explore the options available to get this and many other cool features of office 365 enabled.

Until next time, happy planning!

Author bio

cplogo
Hector Rubio
Technical Support Manager
Hector is a Technical Support Manager

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