Office 365, Program Framework, Project Online, Project Server, SharePoint Online

Office 365 Planner – is it for you?

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People have developed a whole series of expressions about overkill – a ‘sledgehammer to crack a nut’, a ‘bazooka to kill a fly’, or (as in Russian), ‘to shoot sparrows with a canon’. Overloading and saturating can be just as damaging as starving. This principle can be applied practically anywhere – from growing a plant to filling a vehicle engine.

In the workplace, this principle definitely applies to project management. Here, we are usually concerned with using the right resources for the right job. Most companies need to be very precise in how they use their personnel and available resources so as to get the best return on investment that they can. The size of your company and the number of projects you have to keep on top of will go a long way to deciding which tools or solutions you need to get the best out of everyone. Multiple large-scale projects would naturally get out of hand without a full-time project manager and a great project portfolio management (PPM) solution.

Managing projects efficiently is far from a simple task, however. There is so much to pay attention to; making sure different mechanisms are working effectively and to the benefit of each other. Microsoft’s established PPM solutions – Project Server and Project Online – are essential components for any company that has to keep up with a plethora of projects and needs a good overview of progress and other vital statistics.

The broad scope and complex nature of multiple large-scale corporate projects mean that a project portfolio management solution needs to be a ‘big hitter’. It also needs to have the muscle to take care of a lot of data – to be a ‘heavy lifter’.

But what about smaller projects? Or what about companies that don’t require the power or scale of a dedicated PPM solution? For smaller tasks within local teams or smaller companies that require a certain amount of organisation and supervision, this is where Office 365 Planner comes in. In this post, we’ll take a look at the Office 365 Planner preview and provide an answer to whether it’s the right tool for you.

Planner preview is here

As we wrote at the end of last year, we expected access to Planner at some point in early 2016 as a product included in Office 365 subscriptions. Well, on the 12th of January, Microsoft made Office 365 Planner available to Office 365 First Release tenants – and there are lots features to like.

Office 365 Planner is a lightweight planning application that offers teams a new experience in Office 365, providing a straightforward and visible way to arrange their teamwork. It gives your teams a good way to:

  • Come up with new plans
  • Designate tasks
  • Pass around content
  • Communicate over the works
  • View the overall, real-time progression status of the work

Essentially, this is the younger sister of Project Server and Project Online – it’s not designed to replace the juggernaut PPM solution. It will, however, provide an extra dimension for teams across your organisation (not simply in your Project Management Office) to work together in a more organised way. In terms of the user interface, it’s based on the idea of whiteboards and index cards being used to help teams visualise tasks that are, or need to be, connected.

With the release of Office 365 Planner Preview, here are some of the things we think are worth a mention:

Planner and Office 365 groups are inextricably linked

Each new plan formed in Planner creates a new Office 365 Group. Each Office 365 Group (even the pre-existing Groups) gets a plan, too.

Faster access to service

Planner services are deployed in data centres worldwide; this ensures a higher performance by eliminating common data centre issues.

Planner Hub and My Tasks overview

This includes a summary of all the standing plans in the Office 365 tenant, and all current Office 365 Groups will appear as a plan. You can easily view users’ My Tasks and see who has been assigned various sub-tasks relating to a bigger project.

Direct OneNote access

Each Plan includes a direct link to a notebook feature that is a link to OneNote, meaning you can easily make notes that are automatically stored within the Plan, thus reducing the potential for confusion.

Tasks as Charts

The ability to share information and statistics in more visually appealing ways has always been important. With Planner, you can easily see the content of your tasks represented in the form of charts.

As we mentioned in our previous post on this subject, Office 365 Planner won’t replace established PPM tools – it lacks the fine-grained detail of project timing, resource allocation and financial controls. It will, however, be a very useful solution for smaller teams or companies who aren’t in need of a full-time Project Manager but still need something to help them successfully organise and keep track of numerous tasks and smaller projects.


You can learn more about the products we provide to help your business by contacting Program Framework today.