Project Management Using Microsoft Planner

By Kristin McKinley, Director of Research Administration at Lawrence University

This month, Tech Tips features something completely different from the typical Excel Tech Tip - Microsoft Planner.

Are you looking for a way to manage and organize tasks, work, and projects? Do you want to encourage collaboration among your team members? Microsoft Planner may be the answer (if your institution subscribes to Office 365)! Since it is powered by the Cloud, you can get to files from almost anywhere – PC, Mac, and tablets – and they are always up to date.  

Planner allows teams to create plans, organize, assign, and collaborate on tasks, set deadlines, and upload/share files. The bonus is that all work stays within the plan. Progress is tracked by visual dashboards and updates are provided by email notifications. Each plan created in Planner automatically creates a new Office 365 group, which can be designated as private or public. This example shows how Lawrence University uses Planner to manage various data projects.

Accessing Office 365 and Planner

Planner can be accessed via Office 365. Once logged in, a variety of online options appear including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, OneDrive, and Planner. Select Planner. 

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Creating a Plan

Once Planner is selected, two icons appear on the left side of the screen. Select New Plan and a pop-up window (see below titled “New Plan”) appears in the center of the screen.

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Enter a plan name (plan email address automatically prepopulates and matches plan name). Choose to make the plan public or private (I usually choose the latter) by sliding the bar to the left or right. Select Create Plan.

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Wait a few seconds for the new plan to generate.  An email notification will be sent to the individual creating the plan, as well as anyone who is added as a member. A link to the plan is provided within the email.

Viewing the Plan

Each plan has three different views – board, charts, and notebook – which allow for easy navigation.

 

Board View

The Board view provides an overview of all tasks, which are grouped into buckets, and organized within each plan. Individuals can be assigned tasks and are then responsible for indicating progress (“not yet started”, “in progress”, or “completed”). Tasks can be dragged and dropped. Attachments and links can be uploaded to facilitate file sharing. Deadlines can be set. Comments can be added, which will be emailed to the group.

Buckets: The default label for the first bucket is “To do”, but it can easily be renamed by simply hovering over the default label. Two options then appear: Rename and Delete. Select Rename and a cursor appears allowing the default name to be replaced with a desired one. Note, buckets can be added by simply clicking + Add New Bucket. For example, in our IPEDS Spring Surveys Plan I renamed the default bucket “Human Resources” and adding three new buckets.

There is one bucket designated for each of the surveys. Buckets can be moved around by dragging and dropping them.

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Members: Individuals can be added easily by selecting Members.

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Start to type in the first name of the individual you want to invite as a member. Names and emails of possible matches appear. Select desired individual(s) to add as members, who will be notified by email and welcomed to the group. Members need to be invited to the plan before they can be assigned tasks.      

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Tasks, Deadlines, and Assignments: To add a task under a designated bucket, select + and the following appears:

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Type in a task name (in this case “Pull data from hyperion”). There is one option to Set Due Date, and when this is selected a calendar appears. Note: deadlines can be changed or cleared as needed.    

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Select desired date and it appears under the task name.

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There is another option to add assignments, and when this is selected the members who were invited to the plan appear.

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To assign a task to a desired individual, select their name and it appears.
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To add more tasks under a bucket, simply select Add Task.

Additional features are available – tracking progress, checklists, attachments and links, and comments. Right-clicking on the task name brings up a pop-up window (see below). 

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Tracking Progress: The assigned member selects one of three options. This information is used to prepopulate My Tasks.

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Checklists: For a more detailed breakdown, items can be added to a given task through a checklist option.

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Simply place your cursor on add an item and type a new item(s).  

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There is an option for the checklist to be shown on the card. If checked, the following appears in the Board View. If unchecked, a check box appears.

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Attachments and Links: There is an option to add attachments or links. 

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If Attach is selected, two options appear: Browse SharePoint or Upload a file (I usually do the latter). Once uploaded, the attachment will appear in two different locations:

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If Link is selected, the system prompts for the address and display text for link before saving.  

Comments: Comments can be useful in collaboration, as an email notification is sent to all members of the specific plan. The email references the plan, bucket, and task.

Charts View

The Charts view provides a simple, color-coded visual to show the progress each team member is making toward the plan.

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Detailed information is available by selecting a particular team member.

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Notebook View

The Notebook view can be used to take meeting minutes, brainstorm ideas, or document procedures relevant to the plan. This feature improves office efficiency by keeping everything all in one place.  

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Planner Hub

The Planner hub provides a visual overview of all plans and serves to facilitate navigation to the different plans. The plans may need to be designated as a favorite to appear in the hub, which is done by selecting the ellipsis and then Add to favorites.

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 Comments

 
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Total Comments: 2
 
Jason posted on 3/17/2017 8:01 AM
Can you set tasks as recurring? We are looking at PM software and have found that some do a good job of recognizing that some projects happen every year and we don't want to rebuild the project files at the beginning of the year all the time. Some don't understand this and that has been a deal breaker for us. Thanks for any insights you may have!
Kristin posted on 3/20/2017 3:34 PM
Jason,
Planner does not have the capability at this time to set recurring tasks. As a work around one can rename plans that are recurring, but I understand the frustration of the limited capabilities. I used Trello in the past, but prefer Planner as I can communicate with my staff and others across campus more efficiently since our IT dept has simplified the process for accessing Office 365.
Kristin