Microsoft 365 is designed to make task and project management as seamless as possible. From simplifying tasks through automation with PowerApps to the helpful streamlining capabilities of SharePoint workflows, you’ll stumble across the ability to simplify and fast-track business processes everywhere you look in Microsoft 365.
Automation, however, can only go so far, and sometimes you need a dedicated tool for keeping your team on the same page when it comes to task management. Thankfully, Microsoft 365 features various platforms dedicated to task management. The three dedicated task management platforms are:
In this article, we’ll focus on the first 2 of these. ‘Project’ requires examining on its own. It’s a complex platform designed for scenarios where ‘heavy-duty’ project management capabilities are required. As a result, it is only available as a standalone product as many businesses simply don’t need the level of complexity it offers.
‘To Do’ is Microsoft’s entry-level task management platform designed for domestic as well as less demanding corporate use. It is available as a free, standalone application available to Android, IOS, Windows and Mac users – so you can manage your tasks on your phone, tablet, Mac, or PC. Through its simple and intuitive interface, Microsoft To-Do lets you:
- Set up Tasks. Create assignable tasks and populate them with all the details you or your team will need to complete it:
- Add steps to keep your team on track
- Set reminders – these can be made to repeat so tasks don’t get forgotten about.
- Set a due date.
- Attach Files
- Add a detailed description
- Create ‘lists.’ Lists let you categorise tasks, helping you keep topics separate. This is especially useful for partitioning business and domestic tasks. These lists can be shared with other Microsoft users, giving them the ability to view and edit the list as required. Those you share a list with then become list ‘members’ and you are then able to assign them individual tasks.
- Create tasks from important emails through Outlook synchronisation. By activating the ‘Flagged Email’ list, any emails you flag on Outlook will appear as a task in the flagged email list on To Do.
To do offers a simple task management interface that takes minutes to get used to. It’s a free, low-commitment alternative to the many subscription-based offerings so why not give it a try today.
Planner is Microsoft’s mid-range task management platform, available to 365 Business, Educational and premium subscribers. It’s simple and intuitive ‘Kanban Board’ interface belies an extensive range of features as well as deep integration with other 365 platforms such as SharePoint and Outlook. Planner features the basic functions of To-Do but with a greater focus on file-sharing, progression reviewing and timelining. Let’s look at some of the key components of the Planner experience:
- Similar to ‘lists’ in To Do, these are the project sites where all tasks pertaining to a specific topic can be gathered. Setting up a ‘plan’ is straightforward; you give it a name, an optional description (so new members understand what the plan contains) and choose whether to make it public or private (available to everyone in your business or only certain individuals).
- These are the individual jobs to be completed by plan ‘members.’ Setting up a task in Planner is similar to the experience in To Do, however, planner allows you to attach a greater depth of information to each task, such as a start date, priority level and completion status. There is also a ‘comments’ section that allows you to continuously post notes or ask questions as the task progresses.
“Let me know if you need any help with this” “How’s this coming along?”
- Within each plan, you can further categorise tasks into ‘Buckets.’ These let you sort tasks into columns with titles of your choosing. You might want to create a ‘bucket’ for completed tasks or high priority tasks for example.
- Board, chart, and schedule view modes allow you to display your Plans in different ways depending on the information you want to review. The ‘Board’ view displays your tasks in their Buckets. ‘Chart’ view (as the name suggests) organises task information on a simple dashboard in the form of charts. ‘Schedule’ view displays tasks in a calendar format; great for looking ahead and planning future tasks accordingly. Each view also lets you apply filters so you can view more specific information. You might want an overview of a specific member’s workload or you may want to review info relating solely to overdue tasks.
- SharePoint and Outlook integration. Planner’s deeper integration with Outlook and SharePoint is the main factor which makes it a more effective task management tool than To Do. When you create a Plan a corresponding SharePoint site is automatically launched and can be accessed through the banner at the top of the Planner interface. This makes file management a breeze. Similarly, Planner also consolidates email correspondence pertaining to a particular plan in the ‘conversation’ tab.
Both Planner and To-Do offer useful, task management capabilities that will help you tighten-up your task management structure and ensure that individual tasks don’t fall through the cracks. While both platforms have their strengths, Planner’s SharePoint integration and greater depth make it the more powerful tool of the two. If you’re already a Microsoft 365 customer, it may be worth exploring Planner now to boost your Team’s productivity and take the stress out of managing your projects.
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We know Microsoft 365 inside-out, but we’re often dismayed by how few businesses utilise its full potential. Why not get in touch and let us guide you through the options that may already be sitting on your PC waiting to be opened.