Planner 101 – Step up your task management in Office 365

Heather Zigli

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This eBook is the companion eBook of the session of the same name from Heather Zigli at the Collab365 Global Conference 2 Summit. The eBook will cover how to create and manage a plan with some example scenarios. Integrations with Teams and Power Automate, as well as how to manage your personal tasks, including using the Mobile App.

This eBook will cover the following main areas:

  • What can you do with Microsoft Planner?
  • How does it fit into Microsoft task management toolbox?
  • Sample business scenario – Content Management and how planner is used to manage work tasks.
  • Integration of Planner into Microsoft Teams
  • Using Power Automate to automate Planner and Planner processes.
  • Tasks on the Go (Planner app for iOS and Android)

So, let’s get started with a basic introduction as to what Microsoft Planner is and what you can do with it.

What is Microsoft Planner (and what can you do with it)?

Microsoft Planner is included with your Office 365 subscription and offers the following functionality:

  • Create new plans, assign tasks, and share files.
  • Simplify teamwork and collaborate on projects visually.
  • Chat with others (about the work) to make sure everyone is on the same page.
  • Keep track of your team’s progress and stay on top of your tasks – from any location, using any device.

You will notice some overlap with Microsoft Teams (Chat, Document sharing etc.), however, this is not an either-or situation, as we go through the scenarios you will see how we can combine the two for the best overall experience.

Where does Planner fit in with Microsoft’s other online task management tools?

We’re almost spoilt for choice nowadays we have three major ways to manage tasks plus a few other ways, such as Outlook Tasks and SharePoint Lists. Choosing the right task management application can be daunting.

The following table illustrates the various use cases and strengths of each of the three major tasks and plan management tools.

ToolDescriptionMain Features and Use Cases
Microsoft ProjectUse Project Online (and Microsoft Project desktop application) for more complex efforts.
    Create Schedules

    Identify dependencies

    Track costs for human resources

    View multiple projects in a portfolio
Microsoft PlannerUser Planner for less complex group activities
    Create Plans

    Assign tasks to teammates

    Chat about tasks

    Add as a tab in Teams

    Streamline with Power Automate
Microsoft To-DoUser To-Do as your personal view of all your tasks (work and private).
    View your Outlook tasks and flagged emails

    View your Planner tasks and flagged emails

    Create lists to share with family and friends.

There is some guidance on the Microsoft support site to help in this area, go take a look – https://support.microsoft.com/en-ie/office/when-to-use-microsoft-project-planner-or-to-do-8f950d32-d5f4-40db-a8b7-4d1b82b55e17

For the remainder of this eBook, we will be focusing on Microsoft Planner.

Getting Started with Planner

You can access Planner in a number of ways, for all of them you will need to log in to your account you use to access other Office 365 apps, or already be logged in:

Directly from the Office App list

From any of the Microsoft 365 windows you can click on the App Launcher in the top left:

Then if it is not in your immediate Apps list, you will need to select the ‘All Apps’ option and scroll down to select Planner from the list.

Planner icon on the home page at office.com

From the office.com home page, select the Planner icon. Once again, if Planner is not shown, you will need to click the ‘All Apps’ option.

Type in the address bar ‘tasks.office.com’

Possibly the quickest way once you know about it is to just type the URL ‘tasks.office.com’ into the browser address bar and press enter.

Planner Homepage

The Planner Homepage is also known as the Planner Hub; let’s take a look around.

Here you can add plans and can see all your plans. There is a section on the left-hand panel for Favourites and Recent plans.

There is also a ‘My Tasks’ section where you can see all the tasks allocated to you. This can be very useful, particularly when working across a large number of boards to help plan your day.

There is also a link at the bottom left of the screen to download the Planner Mobile app.

Clicking on ‘Get the Planner App’ will give you the option for the link to be sent directly to your phone or for you to be emailed the link.

That’s it for a quick summary of the main areas of the Home page, next let’s go into our first business scenario.

Business Scenario – Content Development

This example is some work creating content for an upcoming product launch for product X. The Microsoft Teams Team has been created with the following Team members:

  • Heather Zigli – Manager
  • Elmer Fudd – Technical Writer
  • Jessica Rabbit – Sales Engineer \ Product Evangelist

The Plan was then created and added to the same Group as the Microsoft Teams team. Here is a tour of the plan in Microsoft Planner.

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By default, it will show on the ‘Board’ view showing the Kanban board and the tasks. There is also a ‘Charts’ View and a ‘Schedule’ view.

The ‘Charts’ view allows us to see tasks grouped by Status, Bucket, Priority, and by assigned user.

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The ‘Schedule’ view will show all of our tasks in a calendar view.

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Here are the main concepts of Planner in Board view.

Buckets

These are logical containers to group your Tasks. In the example below, there is a bucket for each stage of the content development process. The buckets used are:

  • Ideas – For suggested content that is not yet approved
  • Not Started – For Ideas that have been approved and not yet started
  • In Progress – For tasks that are currently being worked on
  • Under Review – For completed work that is waiting for management review and approval
  • Approved – For tasks that have been through the full process and are approved.
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Tasks

As the name suggests, Tasks are the packages of work that make up your plan and, in this case, that are moved along the content creation process.

Looking next at a specific task to write an article:

Title

You will notice there is a circle next to the task name. If we click on that, you will see that the middle Progress drop-down is automatically set to ‘Completed.’ You can also set it using the drop-down.

Assign

Below the title, you can see that the task is allocated to ‘Elmer Fudd,’ the technical writer. If there was the need to add other people to the task or to add someone to the new task, you could simply click on the ‘Assign to’ icon, search for, and then add a user to the card.

Task Properties

Below the task assignment area, you can see the basic task properties, they are:

  • Bucket – Showing which bucket the task is currently in and allowing you to select from the drop-down list if you would like to move the task to another bucket.
  • Progress – As we touched on earlier, you can select if the task is Not Started, In Progress, or Complete.
  • Priority – Ranges from Low, Medium, Important, and Urgent.
  • Start Date – The date the task should start.
  • Due Date – The date the task should be completed by.

The start date and due date are not mandatory; however, if you want to use the schedule view and see how tasks fit in the calendar you will need to ensure these are filled in.

Notes

This is where additional descriptions and key points about the work to be done can be added. If you click the ‘Show on Card’ option, then you will be able to see the notes when you are in the main Board view. This can be useful to be able to see the information of a task without having to fully open it.

Check List

This allows us to break the main task we are in down into sub-tasks or steps. Each checklist item can be checked off as completed.

If a checklist item is proving complicated or larger than first expected and you decide it should really be an individual task on your board, then you can click the up-arrow icon next to the checklist item, and a separate task will be created.

Checklists stay in the order in which you add them. To reorder you have to delete and re-add. Checklists also have the option to ‘Show on Card’ like notes do, however only one of them can be displayed at a time.

Attachments

You have the option to add attachments to each task, these can come from File, Website Link or SharePoint site. If your Planner is attached to a Microsoft Teams Team like the example is, then on clicking SharePoint option, you will be able to see the SharePoint list for each of the File tabs in each of the Teams Channels.

Task Comments

These are comments on the task that will get stored as the task progresses, giving a good audit history for the final outcome.

They allow you to comment on the task; and whilst the assignee may be notified by email that a comment has been added, it keeps the actual comment out of email and next to the task in the correct context as well as out of Teams ensuring the comment does not get lost

Labels

Coloured and named labels can be added to the tasks to help group and distinguish the tasks cards visually on the Boards view. In the example the labels are showing the different types of content each task relates to:

You can allocate multiple labels to one task, and after they are assigned, they are shown on the ‘Board’ view, helping give a quick view of what the tasks are for.

Planner User Perspective

Now we will look at the user experience for one of the users in this Team who has been assigned one or more tasks in this plan.

We will start in Elmer Fudd’s (Our technical writer) email inbox. Elmer will get emails letting him know he has tasks assigned to him. You can see from the screenshot he has two planner tasks assigned to him.

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If we click on the green button from one of the tasks the ‘Open in Microsoft Planner’ link or button, we are taken into a new tab in our browser, Planner is opened and the relevant task is opened. If we close the task, we will be left on the Homepage for this plan, where we can review the other tasks in this plan and navigate Planner application as normal.

My Tasks

You will notice that on the left-hand panel navigation of Planner there is a ‘My Tasks’ link. This is where we can see all of our open assigned tasks across all plans in Microsoft Planner.

The ‘My Tasks’ section also has Board view, Chats View, and Schedule view.

Clicking on each of these views will display the same type of information that was available at the plan level, but only for the tasks assigned to you.

Integrating Tasks into Microsoft Outlook

Now we are going to look at integrating your tasks into your Microsoft Outlook. Start in the ‘My Tasks’ view and click on the ‘…’ menu.

Select the ‘Add “My Tasks” to Outlook calendar’ option. Then select the ‘Publish’ option followed by the ‘Add to Outlook’ link on bottom right.

Next Outlook will open in a new Browser tab, with a pop-up window asking us to select a colour, and an Icon (Charm) to allocate to your Planner tasks in your Outlook calendar.

You can then go ahead and click ‘Import,’ you will get a small message at the bottom of the window to let you know it is complete, you can then close the pop-up window and you will be in Outlook online. Here you should now be able to see your planner tasks and a calendar you can select or deselect in Outlook. This will also now appear in your Desktop Outlook Application.

Each of the tasks assigned to you will now show in your calendar, where the start date and due date have been filled in correctly the task will have a duration.

Clicking on a task within Outlook will show the basic details of that task, and if we expand by clicking the top right of the pop-up window, it will expand and provide a link to open the task in Planner.

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This will display the Task in Planner in the same way as when you click to open a task from an email.

Additional Tips

Now we will work through a few additional tips to help you work with Planner and Planner tasks.

Adding a comment

In the example scenario, the operations manager has added a comment to one of the tasks. On returning to Planner, you will be notified that the task has changed, as it will be highlighted in grey, and a notification will appear in the top right of the window.

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If there were more than one change, then other tasks would also be highlighted, and the message in the top right would let you know how many tasks have been changed.

Task Sorting Order

By default, tasks are shown in each bucket in the order they are added. If you want to change that order, you can simply drag and drop each of the cards\tasks up or down or across to another bucket.

Grouping Tasks

By default tasks will be displayed grouped by the buckets they are in. This is probably the most useful and the most common view, however, we do have the option to Group in the following different ways:

  • Bucket – Default
  • Assigned to
  • Progress
  • Due Date
  • Labels
  • Priority
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This gives some great flexibility particularly for the different users of the Plan, each role may have a different interest as to what is important or as to how they want to see the progress of the tasks.

Filtering Tasks

Filtering allows you to show only the tasks that match a given criteria. You can filter on the various aspects of:

  • Due Date
  • Priority
  • Label
  • Bucket
  • Assignment

For our example if we were to click on ‘Late’, it would filter the tasks to show all the tasks that are late.

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You can also notice that late tasks already have the due date highlighted on them in red, so that they stand out even when you are in the standard view without filtering.

Moving Tasks to a Different Bucket

We have touched on this above; however, it is worth highlighting separately. In most circumstances, tasks need to move from Bucket to Bucket. Of course, we can do that by opening the task and using the property settings to change the bucket. However, if that is the only thing that we need to do, we can just drag and drop that task to the new bucket.

Integrating Planner into Teams

Next, we will review how to add a new plan as a tab in our Microsoft Teams channel. In our example, we had the ‘IP Development’ team, so we will add a tab to our ‘Content Development’ channel to show our plan.

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Start by clicking the ‘+’ icon at the top to add a new Tab into the channel

Select ‘Planner’ from the list of applications, if it is not shown you may have to type Planner into the search window

We already have a plan associated with the Team, so we have two options, we can create a new plan, or we can use an existing one.

We are going to use our existing plan, by selecting it from the drop-down box and clicking the ‘Save’ button. We can leave the default options to post the channel about this if we want to notify the team of this new Planner Tab.

Now we can see our Planner Plan with the context of our Microsoft Teams team.

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There are a couple of differences in the user experience when we access the plan through a Teams tab. Firstly, we no longer have the Planner hub, we can only see this plan and associated tasks. We cannot navigate through to other plans or to the My tasks page. However, we can click on the website icon in the top right to open Planner up in the browser.

There is also some extra functionality because we are in Microsoft Teams. Now we can have a tab conversation about this plan.

Clicking this will allow your team members to have focused conversations about this tab, in this case, our Planner Plan.

Adding Users

A great feature of having your plan integrated with Microsoft Teams in this way, is that when you add a member to your Microsoft Teams Team, that user will also get added to the associated plan, and when you add a user to your plan in Planner they will also get added to the Team in Microsoft Teams.

For this to work, the plan has to either have been created new from with the Teams Team, or when it was created within Planner, you would need to select the ‘Add to an existing Office365 Group’ option.

You would then select the Group with the same name as your Microsoft Teams Team.

Creating a Plan that does not sync with Teams Users

If you want a plan that does not have the same users\members as your Microsoft Team, then when you create your plan from within Microsoft Planner, you simply select the ‘Private..’ option.

When we create a Plan in this way, the Group membership remains separate Microsoft Teams group and is just for that plan.

Streamline Planner Process with Power Automate

In this section, we will look at how to automate the flow of information in and out of Microsoft Planner using Power Automate.

Power Automate workflows can be initiated in a number of ways:

  • Automated Flows
  • Instant Flow (Manual or OnDemand)
  • Scheduled Flow (Recurring workflow on a designated schedule)
  • UI Flow (RPA- Robotic Process Automation)
  • Business Process Flow (Standard process with defined stages and steps, including stage gates)

For the purpose of this example, we will be focusing on Automated Flows. Microsoft Planner can trigger your Automated Flows through one of 3 events:

  • New Task is Created in a Plan
  • Task is assigned to me
  • Task is completed

Then once any of those events a triggered, there are 14 actions that you can carry out in Planner using Power Automate, they are:

    List Tasks

    List plans for a group

    Update a task

    Get task details

    List my tasks

    Create a task

    Unassign user from a task
    List Buckets

    Get a task

    Update a task (v2 – preview)

    Create a bucket

    Add assignees to a task

    Update task details

    Sync messages from M365 admin center to Planner

Power Automate Workflows Related to Planner

If you open Power Automate from your Apps list and from the home page search for Microsoft Planner, you will see there are a lot of prebuilt workflows that you can use that in some way involved Microsoft Planner

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Here are a few favourite pre-packaged Automation for you to have a go with:

Post Messages to Microsoft Teams

This allows you to post a message to Microsoft Teams when a new task is created in Planner.

This is very useful to help keep things out of Outlook and within Microsoft Teams particularly if your aim is to make Teams the center of Team activity, work, and collaboration.

Post a Daily Message to Microsoft Teams with Due Tasks

This allows you to post a Daily message to Microsoft Teams channel with all the tasks that are due the next day – automating some of the chasings for tasks to be complete.

This is a great feature to help with Project and Task Management.

Create a Planner task to Review New Documents in SharePoint

This is particularly useful for a project like our example where we are creating content for a release, with marketing materials, white papers, blog posts, and knowledgebase articles etc. …that all needing writing.

We simply have one Document library to upload these documents to, and we can have an Automation set up so that every time a new document is uploaded, a task can be created in Planner in your Review bucket, to review the document.

Custom Flow – Email list of Plans in a Group

This example flow is set up to help Manage your plans within your Microsoft Teams Team / Office365 Group. Every Monday it sends an email list of all Plans within the specified Group.

As each Microsoft Team can have many Plans attached to it, this can help manages and team leaders with the Governance within Planner and ensure we don’t have duplication and that everything is organised in the best way.

To Help demonstrate this custom flow a number of additional plans have been added to our Microsoft Teams Group, as you can see in the screenshot below.

Here is the Custom Workflow in Power Automate. First, we have the recurrence that is set to run every Monday.

Then we have a Variable called ‘GroupPlans’ as a ‘String.’ This will hold the list items HTML for the Unordered list of Plans that will go into the email body.

Next, we request the data from Planner, using the ‘List plans for a Group’ action and selecting our Microsoft Teams Group.

The next section will apply for each plan that is returned and will Append the ‘Title’ as a list item, notice the HTML <li> formatting, to the ‘GroupPlans’ variable. This will then give a set of HTML that will make up the email body containing a list of Plan Titles.

The final step in the flow is to send the email notification with the list of Plans in the Body of the email. You will notice you have all the usual options that you can set in an email.

You will notice that we have passed the ‘GroupPlans’ variable with <ul> unordered list HTML formatting wrapped around it, this formatting will give a list in the resulting email.

You can run your Flows to test them by selecting ‘Test’ in the top right of the Microsoft Flow window.

Once the flow has run, you can see the Green Ticks indicating that each step has been successful.

This will then result in an email being sent with the list of all the Plans in the Group, looking something like this.

This is a basic example of what you can do with Power Automate and Planner, but hopefully this section has helped you understand what can trigger a Flow and what sort of actions can be carried out in Planner using Power Automate.

Planner Mobile Apps

To get the Planner Mobile app, you need to be signed in with your work or school email account for Office 365. You will then need to click the ‘Get the Planner app’ link at the bottom of the Planner Page to get an email or text message with a link.

NB: You cannot use a consumer email address (e.g. Gmail, Outlook, Hotmail, Yahoo) to access Planner. If you want to manage personal tasks, take a look at Microsoft To-Do App.

Planner App Requirements:

  • Android 5.0 and up
  • iOS
  • 9.0 and up
  • Works on iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch. ( best on iPhone and iPad)

Mobile Experience Considerations

Features Differences

  • You CANNOT delete a plan from the Planner Mobile app ( must use a web browser)
  • You CAN add a photo taken with the devices camera. ( Not possible via web browser)

Permissions Required

PlatformRead phone status and identity
AndroidModify or delete contents of USB storage / Write and delete internal storage.
AndroidFull Network Access
AndroidView network access
AndroidTest access to protected storage
AndroidRead the contents of your SD card/internal storage/USB storage
AndroidPhone*
AndroidStorage*
AndroidCamera*
iOSPhotos

*optional permissions

Microsoft Planner Mobile App

Once installed, you will be able to access the Planner App by clicking on the Planner Icon, like you would any other App.

You will first see the Mobile Planner Hub, showing Favourites and Recent, with links at the bottom for ‘My Tasks’ and ‘Settings.’ If we click ‘see All’ plans we can see all the Plans and favourite our plans using the Star:

If we now select one of our plans, you will see that you can see the Buckets and tasks as you can on full Planner, you can also add new Buckets and new tasks. We are also able do some similar options in regard to grouping our Tasks.

If we choose the ‘My Tasks’ option, we can also see tasks assigned to me, which will show in the ‘Not Started,’ ‘In Progress,’ and ‘Completed’ Buckets. We can also edit a task and all the elements within a task.

Closing Thoughts

The key points we have discussed in this eBook and that Heather covered in the Summit session that it accompanies, were as follows:

Planner Plans

  • We have discussed how to create plans from Planner or with Microsoft Teams
  • How to view edit, move and change buckets, as well as re-order tasks
  • How to Group and Filter tasks in a plan to give the view best for your needs
  • How to Add Planner tasks to the Outlook Calendar view
  • How to Modify Plan, Team, and Group memberships.

Integration Planner with Office 365 Apps to aid Productivity

  • We looked at Integrating Planner into Microsoft Teams to help keep Teams as the hub for work and collaboration.
  • We looked at a simple example of how Power Automate can be used with Planner to help with managing your plans and workload.

Mobile Apps

Then a quick overview of how the Planner Mobile App works and the user experience. This can be very useful way to keep up to date with tasks and plans on the move.

Summary

All these things show how very powerful Microsoft Planner can be particularly when used in an integrated fashion with your other Office 365 applications.

Helpful Resources

Here are a few resources that should help you with your Planner journey:

ResourceLink
Planner Web sitehttps://tasks.office.com/
Planner help and Learninghttps://support.microsoft.com/en-us/planner
Planner Video Traininghttps://support.microsoft.com/en-us/office/microsoft-planner-video-training-4d71390f-08d8-4db0-84ea-92fb078687c7
Planner Apps & Integrationshttps://support.microsoft.com/en-us/office/apps-integrations-1bf9c5f2-3e54-44fb-a7ae-c120bd5f482a?ui=en-US&rs=en-US&ad=US
Planner for Androidhttps://support.microsoft.com/en-us/office/microsoft-planner-for-android-help-cba3a894-a397-47da-861f-2cb7d08c41ef
Planner for iOShttps://support.microsoft.com/en-us/office/microsoft-planner-for-ios-help-a251cd45-f48d-4e24-966a-2fd36cfa143e
Planner Roadmaphttps://www.microsoft.com/en-us/microsoft-365/roadmap?filters=Planner

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