Microsoft Planner is a plug-in for Office 365 that helps you organize teams and stay on top of your projects. It's incredibly easy to use, fully integrated with all your Office apps, and it's free as long as Planner is included in your Office 365 subscription.
Essentially, Office 365 Planner is the way Microsoft makes sure that its subscribers don't have to rely on third-party applications for project management. It's pretty light, more akin to Trello than Asana, but as one of the many great plugins for Office 365, Planner is constantly improving.
If you've never worked with Planner before, don't worry: 80% is easy. We will cover the 20% that stumble people, including a quick tutorial.
Office 365 Planner overview
With Office 365 Planner, you can create and monitor detailed plans in a clutter-free space. In the left panel, you will see some options:
- New plan Launch Planner and create an Office 365 group for anyone who invites you to the plan.
- Planner center allows you to monitor all your plans. You can make favorite plans to keep them focused or view the latest ones first.
- My tasks allows you to view upcoming tasks broken down from all your associated plans.
As an organization tool, Office 365 Planner is simple, clean and agile. For users who have worked in Kanban or Scrum environments, Planner will be intuitive.
Here is an example of Office 365 Planner that I just put together, as seen in the dashboard view:
You can see the basic breakdown of Chores displayed as cards, which are arranged in cubes. It could also be on a blackboard, and that's the idea.
- Chores they are actions that must be completed as part of the project. Each task has a digital card where you can assign people, start / end dates and a priority level. As you learn more about your project, you can add files, notes, and updates to the task. When complete, you can remove the task from view without losing any important information. (More information on completing actions like this in the tutorial below).
- Cubes These are the categories that help you quickly distinguish relevant task characteristics, such as status or classification. You can drag and drop tasks from one repository to another as a project progresses, or when different people need to take the lead.
The dashboard grows as you add new tasks and cubes, but this is just one of the ways you can visualize your project in Planner. At the top of the window, you can switch between three different views in Office 365 Planner:
There is Boardthat we have been seeing, but also Graphics Y Calendar. Toggling between these views transforms your raw Planner input into useful images that are easy to share.
In chart view, you get an overview of how things are progressing, as well as tools to narrow your focus. Get a 30,000-foot view or drill down into specific areas of the workload to look for patterns and problems.
In the mockup below, there's a clear status breakdown, along with an instant representation of tasks and buckets:
You can add and edit tasks in charts, just as you can in the dashboard view. And if you keep scrolling, you'll see that Planner has plotted the data along a few different axes to illuminate different aspects of your plan.
How exactly Planner cuts the data is up to you. On the right side you can see options to Filter your tasks and "Group by cube". As you fill Planner with more and more information, these filters help you search for answers and data.
Speaking of tracking, the third way to view Office 365 Planner is Calendar. Here, the details of each task are assigned in the coming days.
This is a good way to think about what looks "realistic" while planning your workload. View by week or month and see the plan in real time, synchronized with all team members.
You can also extend or shorten deadlines and move tasks from one day to the next with a single click. This is huge for anyone who doesn't know exactly when they can meet with clients.
Any changes you make to the Calendar will be reflected on your dashboard and charts. If you want, you can add your Planner to Outlook and it will generate a link to share. That way, everyone can see the plan on their own schedule.
The Office 365 Planner Sharable Calendar view is an excellent feature for spotting conflicts with other work responsibilities and people's personal lives, before problems arise.
Along those same lines, you can use Schedule Proactively to test plan changes to see how they will affect everyone involved. Get an idea of what a fit would look like before diving.
The best reasons to use Office 365 Planner
Until now, we haven't talked about anything innovative. Dashboard, graph, and scheduling features are already building blocks of a million free project management apps.
But this is what sets Office 365 Planner apart:
- It is built in Office 365 GroupsThis means that when you bring a team together in Planner, Azure AD automatically provisiones all members with a shared inbox and OneDrive storage. You don't have to worry about sharing permissions or requesting setup assistance.
- It is integrated with Office applications. No one beats Microsoft at their own game. Features run smoothly, and you can take advantage of the SharePoint, OneDrive, and Outlook team knowledge from Planner.
- Email Notifications they are easy to control in Planner. Help the team track without overloading their inbox.
- It's great on mobile devices. Whether you use Android, iOS or WindowsYou can download the Planner mobile app to stay connected on the go.
If you're not using Office 365 yet, Planner isn't the feature to discourage you. But if you use Office 365 and have a qualifying subscription, Planner is already included for free.
In that case, why not use it? Especially if you are paying for another service to achieve the same.
What Office 365 plans have Planner?
This breakdown shows which of the top Office 365 subscriptions include Planner:
One thing to take away from the breakdown is that Planner comes with Office 365 Business Essentials, which only costs $ 5 per month, and comes with a complete set of cloud-based productivity.
So if you're spending as much – or even close to that – on lightweight project management software, you'd think about making the switch. At least see what you would get in addition to Planner (SharePoint, Teams, Outlook …) with a subscription to Office 365 Business Essentials.
Since Planner is only three years old at the time of writing, many people who have it don't even know it. If your company has an Office 365 subscription that includes Planner, you should carefully consider the additional cost of paying for something similar.
How to do key tasks in Office 365 Planner
Microsoft had a lot of inspiration for its design, making it a fairly fluid program that knows what it is trying to do and reduces the clicks required to do it.
Opening planner in Office 365
To open Planner, log in to your Office 365 account. Click on the app launcher.
Click "All apps" if you have Planner installed and don't see it in App Launcher. Or select the Plugins icon if you've never used Planner before and look it up in Microsoft AppSource.
Alternatively, you can access Office 365 Planner at task.office.com as long as you are logged into your account.
Once you're signed in, follow the instructions to get started.
Create a new plan
On the left side of your Planner control panel, select "+ New plan". Fill in the basic information to get started:
And that is. Your plan is underway. You will see the plan on your board with the ability to start.
Add members to Office 365 Planner
To add teammates to Planner, simply click on the "Members" tab in the upper right corner and start typing:
Add tasks and cubes
In graph view (although you can make these decisions in any mode), you will see the option to add new tasks at the top of each segment. You can find the option to add a new deposit on the far right of your plan. This may involve scrolling if you have more than multiple cubes.
Add details to tasks
When you click on a task, a new window opens allowing you to add key details to your task:
Viewing a task's digital card, which you can do from Dashboard, Graphics or Schedule, allows you to control all aspects, including:
- Which members are assigned to the task
- Progress (not started, in progress, completed)
- Priority (low, medium, important, urgent)
- Start / expiration dates
- Homework notes
- Create / edit checklist
- Team Comments
- Add colored tabs (don't overdo it!)
- Add attachments
All of this is incredibly easy. For example, when you select "Add Attachment", you will have the option to access the files directly from SharePoint:
Filtering tasks and grouping by cube
Even in the most complex plan, you can quickly focus on specific timelines, card types, or keywords by using the “Filter and Group by Bucket” functions found in the upper right corner of the Office 365 Planner panel:
You can also "Group by cube," which adjusts how you view cards in the task pane. You can configure to view by deadline, priority, or view each task assigned to a specific individual.
Add plan to Outlook calendar
At the top center of your Office 365 Planner dashboard, click the "plus" icon to the right of "Schedule." If you created the plan, you should see the option "Add plan to Outlook calendar".
From there, post the Planner and use the generated iCalendar link to share it with whoever you want.