Microsoft has released Planner to all O365 users and it has already rolled out or it will be rolling out soon also to your O365 environment. You can find it look following icon from O365 global navigation. If you can’t find it, you can always go to direct site https://tasks.office.com/. Planner is created on top of the O365 Groups. It gives end user really nice and familiar look and feel especially for people who has worked in iterative projects. It uses similar way of showing and organizing tasks. You can move tasks from one bucket (group of tasks) to another just dragging and dropping. You can assign tasks to users in similar way. Overall the easiness is the main feeling when you work with Planner. It’s meant for different users and the adaption doesn’t take long. This may lead to a problem, because it’s really easy to create plans, buckets and tasks.
Planner and Groups
Planner uses Groups behind its task management pages. This probably makes sense, but it’s also a big drawback. Jumping between Planner and Groups functionalities seems to be afterthought. You can easily go from Planner to Groups (Conversations, Calendar, Members and Files) as we can see from picture on the right. I have highlighted Planner features in red and Groups features in blue. If I for example go to Conversations, I will get new browser window with Outlook. This was not actually the expected behavior. The second problem is that there is no way of going back from Conversations to my plan and the tasks I created there.
Image 1 Planner user interface
Image 2 Groups user interface
Creating a new plan
Creating a new plan is really easy task. All you have to do is to give a name and that is. Well… Not exactly. There are couple things you need to decide before creating a new plan.
- Do you want to a private (accessible for only those invited) or public (accessible for all users) plan?
- Private plan creates private group, but private groups are still visible for all users even private plan is not.
- If you want to make public plan to private, you need to delete existing plan and then recreate it again.
- Email is global in your O365 tenant.
- This means that you should consider using some kind of naming scheme like country code + department or something similar. For example FI_IT_PlanName (for Finland, IT department and then PlanName)
- Email uses tenant.onmicrosoft.com domain for all email addresses so this is not same as your company’s normal email address.
- What kind of plans you want to create?
- If you create one plan for the project, it makes sense, because project has exact ending date.
- If you have a reoccurring meeting, you need to think if you want to create a plan for each (weekly, monthly) meeting or do you want to create one plan and then organize tasks inside that plan.
If you create multiple plans, you need to invite users to the plan every time you create a new plan. At the moment there is no way of using one plan as a template for new one.
Image 3 New plan form
Now we have created successfully a new plan and we can start working with tasks. The easiest way is to type new task name and then hit enter key. It will create a new task and you don’t need to touch mouse during entering tasks. After you have created your tasks (task names), you can make changes to those like assigning them to different people or setting due date. These all are optional steps, so they are not anything required. Actually the task name is the only required information. The main view you are using is Board. It allows you to manage tasks. Default bucket (To do in English) can be renamed. You can also create new buckets for different types of tasks like for Sales, Marketing or stages of your project delivery model. You can easily move a task from one bucket to another by dragging and dropping it to target bucket. This same functionality also works when you are assigning tasks to people in Assigned to view or changing the status in Progress view.
Image 4 New task form
You can manage task information with own form. It contains huge amount of the information. You can manage following information:
Status is shown as small circle on bottom right corner.
If it’s not visible, task hasn’t been started.
If it’s half full, task is in progress.
If it has green checked mark, it has been completed.
- Start date
- Due date
Due date is shown next to task status.
- Task name
- You can also assign task to a user and it’s shown in task preview.
- Task description
- Attachment and Links
Attachment can be any type of file. Common files and links can be shown in task preview.
You can create a list of check items that can be shown in preview also.
Preview shows uncompleted checklist items and how many items have been completed from total amount of items.
This is really nice feature, because you can mark items done in preview and you don’t have to go and edit task.
You can define one or more labels for the task.
Here is complete edit form of the task. Behind … you can find only Delete Task. This is also the place you can see if there have been any comments to the task. All status changes and assignments also are listed as comments, so it doesn’t actually mean that somebody has commented the task.
Image 5 Edit task form
Image 6 Managing tasks
In Charts view you can easily check the current status of the tasks. It will show you basic metrics of the tasks and also highlights all tasks that haven’t been finished in due date.
Image 7 Charts view