Microsoft already offers robust project management solutions such as the 26-year-old Microsoft Project desktop software. For most single users and small teams, it can be overwhelming and require a learning curve most users are not interested in sacrificing. Microsoft Planner builds on the fundamentals of today’s web apps by providing a clean and focused web experiences. With the recent launch of Planner, we decided to check it out to see if Microsoft has a solution that’s enticing enough for some established services like Slack and Trello.
Setup and Use Microsoft Planner for Office 365
Microsoft Planner requires users have access to one of Microsoft’s Office 365 business subscriptions such as E1, E3 or E5. If you already have an account, log into Office 365 then click the Planner icon on your home screen. If you don’t have access to Planner, you might need to request your Office 365 Administrator enable it as part of its first release. Wait while Office Planner configures itself.
After logging in, you will see an empty interface. It features a clean, easy to navigate design. The taskbar on the left can be minimized, while groups can be collapsed. You can create a new plan, view existing plans in the hub, view assigned tasks and favorites. If you were already using Outlook Desktop Groups, they would show up in Planner. Groups can be used as a jumping board for an existing plan.
To create a new plan, click New Plan tab, enter a name, choose whether you want to make it public or not, provide a description, then select Create Plan button.
Because Planner works around teams, you want to add some members to assign projects. Click the Add Members menu in the top-right corner, then choose an existing member. If you don’t see any, you can search for them.
After your plan is created, you are taken to an interface that is quite familiar if you have used Trello before. Planner lets you create new tasks, schedule deadlines and assign specific members.
Additional buckets can be created to manage the progress of each assigned tasks. Just like Trello, you can drag and drop tasks from one bucket to the next.
If you want, you can open up a job and contribute further details and assign a label. Files can be attached from OneDrive for Business or uploaded from your computer along with commentary and links.
For group leaders managing complex projects, you can click the Charts tab, which gives a visual birds eye view of each member’s progress. Users can see projects not started, late, in progress or completed.
When a plan is complete, you can easily hover over the card then click the green check box to confirm its completion.
Microsoft’s Planner provides an easy to use experience for small or large teams, who only want to invest minimal resources to get a project up and running. The instantaneous effect of jumping in and starting a plan without a reference guide is quite powerful. Users invested in tools such as Trello won’t experience a significant learning curve.
For mobile, Planner is not there yet, well, you can access it from a mobile web browser, but a dedicated mobile app is missing at this time. Personally, I don’t like using web apps like this on mobile devices. For a service like Trello, the majority of the time I am in the mobile app. Hopefully, Microsoft will follow up with this soon. Microsoft has started on a right path, it’s a pure web based solution, no need to think about installing anything, no need to learn anything. The key advantage is Office integration, especially with apps such as Outlook and OneNote.