Dark stories, tales of whimsy and random brain droppings.

Plan the Planny Plan in Planner

Microsoft simultaneously frustrates and inspires me.

Task and project management is once such case.

We’ve already talked about Microsoft To-Do which is part of the Outlook-family of tools. This is primarily for personal task management, but you can also assign and track tasks right in the tool– the same way we used Outlook Tasks for years.

Then there is Microsoft Project, a standalone tool and also an enterprise server-product that uses a traditional project management framework: schedule-driven, resource-managed with a well-defined scope.

Most folks mismanage projects quite a lot by one-and-done-ing a Gantt chart in Project and then doing the rest by email.

To be honest, Microsoft Project is a tool you have to know 90% of the features to use effectively. Contrast that with Word where you can start banging out prose without any training.

With MS Project, it also helps one hell of a lot if you have a project management practitioner running the show.

But that’s not where we’re at, is it? Enter Microsoft’s newer entry into this space for non-project projects: Planner.

Microsoft Planner

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If you caught last week’s post on Kanban boards, then you’ll recognize that’s what Planner is in a nutshell.

There are a couple ways to get a Plan up and running.

  • Go to the Planner tile in the Waffle menu or app-list in Office 365. Click New Plan. Daz it.

  • Go to any SharePoint Team Site (not Communication site). Click the New menu and then Plan. Daz also it.

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Here’s what happens:

  • When you create a new Plan in the Planner app, it creates a new SharePoint Team Site in the background and associates the Plan to it.

  • If you create a Plan from within the SharePoint Site, it just associates the Plan with that Team Site. What’s cool is that a SharePoint Team Site can have more than one Plan.

Here’s what I recommend:

  • Always make the Plan from the appropriate SharePoint Team Site first. This will make your life easier because you won’t have rando sites everywhere that only exist because they have a Plan attached to them. That’s madness.

  • Use the Planner app to work the Plan.
  • Use the SharePoint Team Site for all the supporting documentation and files.
  • Use To-Do to manage your own task assignments across projects.

Behold! A Plan

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It’s all about the Kanban board. If you need to go back and read the previous post, you should do that now. Don’t worry. I’ll wait.

Ready? Cool.

There are several ways of viewing the board. You can view the cards by Bucket, Progress, Assigned, Priority or Flag. I’ve shown the big ones here. To change views, it’s a dropdown on the top-left.

Click ‘Add task’ to, well, add a task.

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You can drag a card from one column to another and depending on the view, it changes that card’s property.

  • If grouped by Bucket, it changes the Bucket. Buckets can be whatever you want or need them to be. I usually use them to group related cards like “communications plan” or “change management”.

  • If grouped by Assigned, it changes who does the tasks. A team member will sort this way and grab Unassigned cards. In Agile frameworks, this is up to the individual.
  • Typically during the execution of a project, you and your team will group by Progress and drag cards left-to right as they go from Not Started to In Progress to Completed.

Remember, with Kanban:

Value flows left to right.

Pick a Card, Any Card…

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Pretty much all of these fields are standard tasks/project management fields:

  • Title, Progress, Start & Due Dates, Assigned to, Priority, Notes

The Bucket field shows up here as well as a colored flag thingy that you can use as a way to reflect complexity or Story Points. Cool colors are easy things; warm colors are for hard things. Just an idea. You do you.

What I like is that for certain cards, you can have checklists for subtasks. It’s great for tracking progress on a difficult card that stays in the In Progress queue for a spell. You’ll notice a glyph in the In Progress status. It’s all very visual.

When you attach files to a card, they show up in the Document Library of the associated Team Site, so…. very handy.

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The Charts view is pretty handy for getting a birds-eye view of progress. This is especially true for creative projects that are a wee bit organic in nature.

For some projects that are more schedule-driven, you can populate the Start / Due dates and use the Schedule view, if that visual works for your project.

You can also export to Excel if you want to generate a Burndown Chart or bring in to Microsoft Project.

Missing

One thing conspicuously absent is task Dependencies. This may be a showstopper for some projects. In that case, you should use MS project.

Also missing is Effort. Which is annoying because Story Points are also not here.

Final thoughts

Watch these two videos. Don’t worry, they’re short.

The first one positions where Tasks and To Dos are going in Office 365. EVERYWHERE.

The second one represents what’s immediately around the corner. It’s where MS Project and Planner come together under the same engine. Makes sense. Use whatever framework gets the project done, but it all stays under the same Office 365 roof.

Kinda brilliant, really. Can’t wait.

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