Microsoft Planner: Automating Organization | Information Technology | University of Pittsburgh

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Microsoft Planner: Automating Organization

Organization is key when it comes to working on a team—especially when collaborating remotely. Managing your team’s progress can be a complicated web of back-and-forth emails and constant check-ins. But with Microsoft Planner, keeping track of all the moving pieces is simple. Planner is a tool to automate important organizational skills associated with successful project management. It helps you to create a plan, assemble a team, assign tasks, and monitor the progress of the plan and individual tasks.

Focus on the Big Picture

Planner works by organizing tasks related to a particular project—creating them, assigning them, and tracking their progress. After you create a plan and add team members, anyone can create tasks and assign them based on individual and team needs.

When you create a task within a plan, you will give it a title, due date, and description. You can also attach relevant files, form an in-task checklist, and categorize it by activity type or importance. Adding a team member to the task will assign it to them. Other members can then comment, add subtasks, and update the progress of the task.

Every team member can monitor their assigned tasks using the My Tasks tab, which organizes their responsibilities into a personal to-do list. Team members can opt in for notifications of pending tasks nearing their due date by text, email, Teams message, or push notification. That way, the project leader doesn’t have to track every little item and hassle team members with reminders!

Organize the Details

There are multiple ways to organize all the tasks that make up your plan. You can use them all simultaneously to effectively keep track of activities.

  • Buckets let you group tasks into folders that pertain to a specific topic or subcommittee on your team. For example, if your team is planning an event, you could make buckets related to promotion, catering, and entertainment. Buckets group all related tasks into one place, while still remaining visible to the whole team.
  • Color coding tasks makes for easy visual organization within your plan. When creating or editing a task, just add a color tab that corresponds to the established category. You can create a color code that corresponds to a particular aspect of the project (e.g., catering), a type of activity (e.g, vendor contact, marketing), or any other method.
  • You can also organize tasks by priority level. Choose between urgent, important, medium, or low priority. This allows you and your team to set urgency levels for tasks and allows for task monitoring on your team’s dashboard based on the priority.

Track Your Progress

Planner offers three displays to monitor your plan, so you can ensure milestones are being met and everything is on schedule.

  • Board: lists tasks in the categories of Not Started, In Progress, and Completed. Members can drag tasks between categories and sort through each category by team member, due date, priority level, label, bucket, and the team member the task is assigned to.
  • Schedule: shows tasks in calendar format. This helps visualize your project timeline and ensures that task deadlines are attainable and reasonably scheduled. Beside the calendar is a To Do list for items without a due date, with tasks listed as either completed or incomplete.
  • Charts: this is a dashboard overview of the project to make monitoring your plan’s status effortless. There are four main charts, each of which is automatically updated: Status, Bucket, Priority, and Members.
    • Status shows you how many tasks are not started, in progress, late, or completed.
    • Bucket displays the number of tasks in each bucket, color-coded by completion status.
    • Priority organizes tasks by priority level and is also color-coded by completion status.
    • Members shows how many tasks are assigned to each team member and their status. This allows team leaders to monitor the team and make sure the load is spread evenly.

Work Well with Others

Planner seamlessly integrates with other programs to simplify your project-planning experience. You can add items to your Outlook calendar, export your plan to Excel, or copy the link and share it manually. Other integrated apps include SharePoint sites and file sharing, OneNote notebooks, Outlook contacts and email groups, Teams, and more.

Get started with Planner to make your next project a breeze! Just connect through the Office 365 portal.

—Tabitha Barnes, Pitt IT Blogger