Collaboration isn’t just a 13-letter word. In EUC, we need to work together effectively. Far too often we straddle the fence between multiple departments and need to work together. Additionally, we need to organize our thoughts, plan enhancements for the technology we own, and build a great reference point for our achievements. Even if you have the seven essential tools like I recently wrote about, you still need some help! Enter Microsoft Planner, which I have often dubbed as Project for Dummies. Let me take you on a journey of discovery and how Planner can be your best friend.
What is Microsoft Planner?
Microsoft Planner is a free part of Office 365, which is often overlooked similar to Microsoft Stream. The idea is simply you create buckets with task cards, you assign those cards to people, build data around those cards, and use them to organize yourself aka PLAN.
Buckets are exactly what they sound like. You create a category to group task cards under e.g. Workspace ONE, or Office 365, or whatever you want really. I will typically create a bucket per technology that I own. They can become quite compelling when you start looking at charts and reporting:
Task Cards are the lifeblood of the entire Planner architecture. As you can see below, we can do a number of things. Typically, I will tag it for further categorization, set priority, assign people to the item, build a checklist, add attachments, and use the card overall to drive collaboration.
Task Cards are sort of like crepes. You can turn them into anything you want them to be. The main idea is that you set start and end dates and people will get great email notifications to keep them on ask:
Administration and Reporting in Planner
Something that people overlook in Planner are its administration and reporting components. It’s great when we need to show our work and deliver the plan for the coming month or quarter. Let’s talk about the great capabilities within.
The Planner Schedule View
Our schedule view is great because you get a calendar-like view of your tasks, which is very useful when trying to share what your plan for the given month or week is.
This is a way we can show our work and even go back and reflect on months in the past to see what we accomplished. It’s incredibly useful when we go to do our reviews and highlight our achievements of the past year.
The Planner Chart View
The chart view is similar, but a bit more visually appealing as you can see. This is the one that I will typically share with my management team when they want to see what we’re working on.
The Planner List View
The list view is also nice for some people, which provides a basic list of the tasks similar to Excel, but not really that flashy or fancy:
One good thing about it is you can easily modify the items from the list view, which makes it a bit easier to work with at times, but overall not a view that I ever use:
Leveraging Planner for Sharing Accomplishments
As mentioned earlier, the Task Cards have become very powerful because of their pliability. You can add links to the change controls you enter for these items, add other types of attachments, build out checklists, and even chat within the task card to let people know what’s relevant. You will see below, I have now added a link to our Jira Service Desk to make it even easier to work together:
Recently, they have now added the ability to export your Plan to Excel so you can build out a collection of your achievements. It’s not 100% perfect, but its a nice way to get a good idea around what is completed.
The export looks like this. Sure it’s not perfect, but does have some nice utility:
Extending Planner into Outlook
Probably one of the most overlooked areas is the iCal sync for Planner. With this feature, you basically turn Planner into a shared calendar in Outlook, which makes it very powerful and appealing for many users:
How Planner Drives Collaboration
You can see that Planner isn’t exactly complicated. It’s power and beauty is in its simplicity. One of the great things about Planner is how you can simply add anyone in your organization to a task card and get this intuitive pop-up:
That allows you to seamlessly add a resource e.g. a network administrator or security operations team member to a task that needs their input/assistance. They get pulled into the workflow and notifications and helps everyone stay on task. You want to remember that adding them to the Plan will add them to the subsequent Office 365 Group/Team, but that isn’t a huge deal most of the time.
You can soon couple this with the new Microsoft Shared Channels that were mentioned at Ignite 2021 to further drive collaboration with external collaborators. For now, you can leverage private channels to make sure that other departments you pull into Planner will only access the Plan and not have access to specific documents/data/chats that are not meant for them:
Why I Love Microsoft Planner
The truth is that I love Planner because anyone can use it. Planner is such an inclusive product. People in IT, business, or anyone really can use Planner. It doesn’t feel like this exclusive club like Microsoft Project does. It’s so simple and useful, which makes it a perfect IT tool. One of the most crucial things about collaboration is simplicity and inclusivity. Planner is a platform that is only as good as the effort you put into it. Some people use it in a very lazy fashion, which loses some of its utility, but a thorough approach will help you stay on task and focused. If you’re unaware of what Planner has to offer, you should check it out because it can be a major difference maker like it has been for me.