Microsoft made Office 365 Planner generally available in June 2016. And this product would be rolled out to eligible users who fall under Office 365 Enterprise E1–E5, Business Essentials, Premium and Education subscription plans. According to Office Blog, “The addition of Planner to the Office 365 lineup introduces a new and improved way for businesses, schools and organizations to structure teamwork easily and get more done. With Planner, teams can create new plans; organize, assign and collaborate on tasks; set due dates; update statuses and share files, while visual dashboards and email notifications keep everyone informed on progress.”

Having said that, you can login to your Office 365 tenant and click on the app launcher. If Planner has been released on your tenant, you should be able to see in the app launcher.

Planner-Office 365

 

With tools like Wunderlist to manage personal task list with limited collaboration and Project Server to manage large portfolio of projects in planned and defined manner. Planner holds the middle ground as an end to end work management tool by leveraging simplicity  of managing a task list with flexibility to work with ad hoc teams and projects with extreme agility. If you have ever used Trello, ASANA or Basecamp, you will find Planner to fall under similar cadre of work management tools except that Planner is tightly integrated with other Office 365 line of products like Groups, Exchange, etc.

Let’s see how Planner works. I will go ahead and create a fictitious plan for migration of mail server to Office 365.

Create a Plan using Planner

You can choose to make this plan public or keep this plan private by invite only. When you create a new plan, it will create subsequent Office 365 group.

Once the project is created, you can add more buckets to the project.  The +Add new bucket appears when the view is “Group by” Buckets.  I have added two buckets namely Communication and Governance.

 

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Let’s start adding some To do’s . I can start creating and assigning tasks by entering task name and clicking on Add task.

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As you can see, I have added few tasks and assigned it to a user. I can make modifications to this task and assign a label as well. I can add a checklist for each task that can appear in the preview.

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So this shows the board tab where you can add tasks with checklist, description and images.

If you look at the Charts tab, you will see awesome graphical representation for your task status’s. The status web part  shows color coded depiction of each tasks by their status. The members web part shows by each user. If you click on color on status or members web part, it will refresh the Task pane with grouped view based on what the user clicked on.

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For instance, I clicked on the red on the status and the Task pane grouped by due date. You can also group by assigned to, progress and buckets. Planner Blog 6

Planner is built upon Office 365 groups and is very well integrated with that functionality. The eclipse expands additional functionality as shown below.

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Clicking on conversation would open up conversations view for that project. You can send / receive communication to other members of the project.  
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Whats coming up ? Microsoft is planning for the following features to add to Planner.

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External user access: Allow external users to access Planner.

Multiple user per tasks: I guess this is significantly missing functionality that should be made available soon.

Mobile Apps: Mobile Apps for Windows Phone, iOS & Android.

In the world full of Trello’s, ASANA and BaseCamp, how would Planner fare?

  • Unlike other tools,  Planner is dependent on Office 365 subscription and is not available as a standalone product. But that should not hinder adoption if your organization has invested in Office 365.
  • Multiple user assignment is lacking, but as Microsoft highlighted, it should be soon rolled out.
  • Unavailability of Mobile Apps is an issue. Microsoft shared, they should be out soon.

Summary:

If you are invested in Office 365 and has a business case for work management tool, Planner is the best bet for you due to its seamless integration with other Office 365 products. If you are planning to roll out Office 365, this could be a value add in your business case to get your roll out moving. Planner, just like all other Office 365 products will mature into a enterprise wise tool once these voids are filled.