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A New Member of Your Microsoft Office 365 Team: Planner

Over the past year, Microsoft has been doing its best to keep business users of Office 365 confused—in a good way! Every few weeks, it seems, a new tile appears under the cheerful greeting I see when I sign in to my Office 365 subscription. “Good morning, Carol,” I read, and every newly appeared tile seems to add, “Look what else I’ve got for you to try!”

Most of our small-medium business clients come to Microsoft’s cloud-based bundle of apps and services to take advantage of the business-class email and calendar functions included in Office 365—Outlook for desktop and browser, with Microsoft handling the back-end details of hardware, software, uptime, and security. Smart move—but there’s a lot more to Office 365 than email and calendaring.

OK, maybe some of you use the 1 TB of storage you get with OneDrive for Business, or the voice and video capability of Skype for Business, or have built a team site with SharePoint. OneDrive, Skype, and SharePoint have been part of Office 365 for a long time. (If you aren’t using those “old-timers,” you’re missing out on some great services that are part of your subscription.)

But what about those new apps and services calling out to us from the mysteriously appearing tiles? One new Office 365 product in particular can be especially useful for small-medium businesses: Microsoft Planner.

Take the Chaos Out of Teamwork with Microsoft Planner

We organizations in the small-medium layer of the business world can’t afford and don’t need behemoth applications like Microsoft Project to manage the details of our projects. Whether you’re planning a move to a new office, growing your sales pipeline, developing a new organizational web site, or any project that requires management and teamwork, Microsoft Planner will help you successfully complete it.

Organize Your Project Visually

With Planner, teams and managers organize work visually. Each plan (project) has a board, each task is a card with due date and assigned team members, and tasks can be collected into buckets that define tasks for project milestones. In chart view, you can monitor a project timeline as well as task and milestone progress. Each team member can see current and completed projects at a glance. Add colored labels to the tasks and you’ll have such a pretty board you might be sorry when the project is finished. (Might…)

Integrate Your Project Plan with Other Office 365 Services

Integration with other Office 365 services makes Planner stand above other basic project management apps such as Trello.

When you create a plan in Planner, an Office 365 group is automatically set up. Every person working on the project becomes part of that group. They can then receive notifications of newly assigned tasks in Outlook 2016, Outlook in Office 365, or on an Outlook mobile app. They can participate in email conversations related to the project that are collected in distinct plan conversations in Outlook.

Documents can be attached to tasks and edited with Office online or installed apps if needed. All project documents are stored in an automatically created project library on a unique SharePoint team site, making them accessible in one location to the entire team. A project notebook in OneNote facilitates project continuity with part-time team members.

And on and on and on—you get the picture. Planner’s integration with Office 365 is excellent and for the most part set up by Planner itself. You’ll be using parts of Office 365 you never used before, almost without realizing it. Now THAT’S a way to get the most out of your subscription!

How Do You Know If You Have Planner?

If you have an Office 365 Business Essentials, Business Premium, Enterprise 1-5, or Education subscription plan, you’ve got Microsoft Planner. Look for the tile that shows three people with a checkmark above their heads and give Planner a try for your organization’s next project.

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