Microsoft Planner – A virtual Kanban board

If you don’t know what Microsoft Planner is then think of it as Microsoft’s version of Trello (https://trello.com/). If you don’t know what Trello is then think of it as a virtual Kanban board. And if you don’t know what a Kanban board is then the Wikipedia definition is useful:

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

“Kanban boards visually depict work at various stages of a process using cards to represent work items and columns to represent each stage of the process. Cards are moved from left to right to show progress and to help coordinate teams performing the work. A Kanban board may be divided into horizontal “swimlanes” representing different kinds of work or different teams performing the work.”
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kanban_board

Microsoft Planner is not as feature-rich as Leankit (https://leankit.com/) but as it is part of the Office 365 (E1, E3 and E5) suite of tools, it may be a cost-effective way to adopt an agile way of working supported by Kanban.

When a new plan within Planner is created, you get an associated Office 365 Group (https://support.office.com/en-us/article/Learn-about-Office-365-groups-b565caa1-5c40-40ef-9915-60fdb2d97fa2). The associated Office 365 group aids in collaboration with the users who will be part of the Plan, but the management of Office 365 Groups and associated tools needs to be carefully managed.

From https://tasks.office.com/ you can create a plan. It is worth thinking if a plan should be created as a new plan with a new Office 365 Group or added to an existing Office 365 Group.

It is useful to add a description to the plan so those who come across it know what it is for.

Once you have created the plan, it will look something like this:

The ‘Planner Hub’ provides an overview of how Plans are performing. Unlike Microsoft Project, the visualisations are easier to understand. You can simply see what the total number of tasks are (in the Chart view) and what their status is (Note Started, In progress, Late or Completed).

It is easy to add people to the plan so they can participate in the planning. However, note that they will also be added to the Office 365 Group.

You can quickly add a task; however, if you want to add more detail to a task you just simply have to click its name and the following will appear.

Buckets are the columns you add. You can add buckets for teams (HR, Finance) or for areas of work (Submission form, Email template). For a task to be done, it is a good idea to assign the task. You can specify the Progress (Not Started, In Progress and Completed). The Priority of the task can be set and help clearly identify which tasks are most important. The due date is helpful as it adds the task to the Planner Schedule tab allowing users to see the task due dates on a calendar (Schedule tab). It is important to add a description that clearly defines what the task is. Sometimes a task needs to be broken down into hierarchical steps and this can be shown using the Checklist. Attachments are useful to further describe tasks or just add background information. Lastly, comments help to keep track of information related to the task.

Users are emailed about tasks’ activities – when tasks are completed, assigned or commented on.

Accessing a Plan from Microsoft Teams is easy as you can simply add a tab for a Plan; however, I prefer to expand the window or just use https://tasks.office.com/.

Planner may not be the most sophisticated project management tool, but it is good enough for many agile projects. For larger-scale projects, resource planning and financial tracking needs, Microsoft Project is a better choice.