EP 47: The NEW Microsoft Planner: Manage Your Projects in One App

Unveiling the Future of Microsoft Planner: Enhancements and Integration Insights

In this episode of Tech UNMUTED, we investigate the upcoming enhancements for Microsoft Planner, set to revolutionize the way we manage projects and tasks. With an official release in early 2024, these updates promise a more intuitive layout, including a new "my day, my task, my plan" section, improved flexibility with multiple views, and the introduction of a timeline feature for better task dependency management. Additionally, we explore the integration of Microsoft Loop with Planner, offering a seamless collaboration experience. Join us as we share tips, insights, and a sneak peek into how these changes will elevate Microsoft Planner from a powerful task management tool to a comprehensive project planning solution.

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Transcript for this Episode:

INTRODUCTION VOICEOVER: This is Tech UNMUTED. The podcast of modern collaboration – where we tell the stories of how collaboration tools enable businesses to be more efficient and connected. With your hosts, George Schoenstein and Santi Cuellar. Welcome to Tech UNMUTED.

SANTI: Welcome to another episode of Tech UNMUTED. Today we're going to look at some improvements that are coming down the pike for Microsoft Planner. If you don't know what Microsoft Planner is, it is basically a to-do list on steroids. It's a great planner. It used to be the legacy task list, and it's evolving to almost a mini project planning software Microsoft Planner. I use it on a regular basis. It's great. There's some enhancements coming from Microsoft. These enhancements are due, they say, early 2024. I don't have an exact date, but that's what they're telling us is early 2024.

Because Planner, I find, is such a helpful platform and I am very excited about some of these enhancements coming into the pike. So, I thought it'd be good to share this with you. Now, granted, I don't have access to these enhancements, not yet, because they won't be available till early 2024. I have the article from the tech community within Microsoft, which gives us some screenshots. It gives us a high-level description of what these things are. I'll show you a quick little tidbit that you can do today using Microsoft Loop and Planner together. With that said, I'm going to go ahead and share my screen. We'll include a link to this blog in the description, but basically, this is Microsoft's tech community.

Here's the announcement. Announcement took place a few weeks ago. It's been out already for a few weeks, but a lot of people don't know about Planner. Basically, it was published November 15th, and here is the keyword, "Starting in early 2024 the new Planner app will be available in Microsoft Teams followed by web experiences later in 2024." Those are the two milestones that the article points out. Starting in 2024, the new Planner will be available inside of Microsoft Teams, and then shortly after that later on in 2024 it'll be available in the web format. Keep that in mind. What I'm showing you here is pretty hot off the press, and therefore I don't have access to it yet.

I can speak to Planner because I do use it quite, quite often. I will tell you that one of the things I like about this new Planner layout is the new my day, my task, my plan section. It doesn't exist today. Today you go to Planner, and all you have is create a plan, create a group, and whatever the case may be. This is great because as the person who runs some of these plans, sometimes I just want to see what of my specific tasks are due. If you click on my day, it gives you literally what is due that day. You can just focus on those things and get them closed out. My task gives you obviously a list of tasks assigned to you. Then my plans are all those plans that you're managing.

It gives me three different views which are very, very, very helpful. Then, of course, inside of each view, there's different ways of sorting these things. For example, under my plans, I can look at plans that are shared. I can look at plans that are maybe personal to me. Also, if you want to find things quicker, you can pin them. You can pin those today, though. Today, you can pin them. By the way, here's a tip for you all. When I use Planner in Teams, I don't use this view because you could go to your apps in Teams and add the Planner app, which is what you're seeing on the screen right now. That's the Planner app. That's fine.

What I do to keep it all consistent is I usually create a team under Teams. You see where the icon that says teams on the left bar of Microsoft Teams. I go in there, I create a team. This is the way I do it. There's a team in there called Project Management Office. That's the team. Then underneath that team, I have separate channels for each project. This is how I do it, I'm just giving you a tip, you don't have to use this. Each project is represented by that channel. Then inside of that channel, I add a tab that displays the Planner. Instead of having the Planner app outside-- Because here's why I do this. Typically, we have a channel. You have your posts, your files, it's all in one place.

To me, it doesn't make sense to then leave that screen or that channel to go look at a Planner. If I can bring the planner in and keep everything in one place, so this channel's dedicated for this project. Here's the post associated with that project, here's the files associated with that project. Oh, by the way, here's the Planner. In my mind, it just seems like an easier way, but you get the same, you don't lose anything by doing that. You still get the same view. It's just that in this case, you're seeing the Planner app as a standalone app. I typically don't run it that way. These are great views, and the ability to pin them and find those things quicker, that's also very helpful.

Maybe one day I'll just show you on a separate episode, some best practices. Actually, you know what, we may do this when the new Planner comes out. Maybe we'll do it in-house and how you can run some project plans within Teams. We'll make an episode just focused on that. Anyway, great new layout. I'm all for it. Moving on down here. They call it flexibility. Here's where it is. Today, when it comes to these plans, I can list them in a detailed list view. I can also use what's called the board, which I like. The board is what you see there right now. It gives these individual cards. You have buckets, and then underneath the buckets, you have these cards. Each card is one of those tasks.

For example, the bolded text on top, you see there that shows up there are the buckets, and then you have these individual cards. That's the view I prefer right here. There it is. That's the view I prefer. In the new Planner, there's a few new views that I think are very helpful. One is the people view. It gives you a view of the people involved in this particular Planner and how many tasks they have. That's a good thing to know because it gives you a good indication of somebody's being overburdened by tasks, too. You can be mindful. Also, it lets you create goals to shoot for, and you can now see your goals in a snapshot. Those views are very helpful.

As I scroll down, we're going to get to the one that you see up on top called timeline. That's a really good feature. Right now, what they're displaying here is the flexibility where you can take a plan, and you can either display it in a grid, using boards, using charts. You can get a chart of progress. You can see the people assigned, and you can see the goals. Absolutely improved. I can speak to this because I use Planner on a daily basis. This is good. I like this. Now, this is the one I was telling you about, the timeline. If you've ever used Microsoft Project or if you're a project manager and you use Microsoft Project in the past, what you're seeing before you is probably very familiar.

Basically, when you're creating a project, there's typically some dependencies. In order for you to complete this task, this one first has to take place. There's a dependency there. I can't move to this until this is completed. That connection, interconnectivity between tasks to get you to a finished date is something that's known in Microsoft Project, but it was missing in Planner. Planner was just a bunch of tasks, but there was no connecting them based on their dependencies. That's actually very important because as a project manager, you need to know you can't go to that task until this one's finished. You focus on the one that needs to be completed first.

Anyway, so that being said, they've added that. Here's the question I have. I don't have the answer. I'm just asking myself the question. If you add what's called the timeline, that's what they call, that's the tab you see on top with the dependencies, is Planner eventually going to replace Microsoft Project? I don't know, but it sure looks like it's heading in that direction. It would make sense because now with this new feature, it can do pretty much everything that Microsoft Project can do. We'll see. Because Planner has had a quite a history, start off as just a task list, then it became a to-do. Then it became Planner. Now, it's going to become more of a Microsoft Project replacement from what I see.

I'm very, very interested in getting my hands on this version of Planner. Specifically because I want to try out these dependencies that you see here. This is great. All right. Moving on. This is really good. Copilot is going to be in Planner. You know I'm a big fan of Copilot. Copilot is now going to be introduced into this Planner. It's going to create some tasks for you. I can generate them for you. I can generate an entire plan for you, actually. What I did here, this is a video, what I did is I forwarded the video to a specific spot, and I'm going to control the slider because I want to speak to what's on the screen.

Basically, you're able to launch Copilot, and ask Copilot some questions. For starters, you can ask things like, "Hey, who has the highest workload? What's the progress of this plan so far?" Copilot would give you those answers. That's great because you can get a sense for where you're at with each plan by using Copilot. One of the things Copilot can do is when you create a new plan, which by the way, now there's new templates, that's another thing. Planner today has three or four templates. There's a whole lot of templates coming, and they're actually very good templates. I like what I'm seeing so far.

When you're going to create one, and you give it a name, for example, now you can go up to the Copilot icon, click on Copilot, and ask questions to help you develop this plan. For example, the first question being asked here or the first prompt is, "Hey, plan for the goal of launching a new product. Add 20 to 30 tasks." Then Copilot would do that. Copilot will look at what type of plan it is that you're trying to accomplish here. In this case, it looks like a product launch, and it created those tasks. You can do some follow-up prompts to this. You can say something like, for example, "Can you add three or five actions to validate the success of the post-product launch." Copilot will go ahead and create those tasks for you.

You can choose whether or not you want to keep it, too. Once you review it, you can say, "Keep." It will go ahead and add those tasks, or you can try the prompt again and get a different set of tasks. Then, finally, another prompt that I thought was pretty good was, "Hey, can you add subtasks to--" You have to be specific on that one. In this particular example, there's a task called analyze customer support inquiries. You have to call out that task. You're saying, "Can you add subtasks to analyze customer support inquiries." Copilot will go ahead and do that. If you agree with those, you can click keep, and you'll keep them. Copilot coming to Planner, that is awesome. I can't wait for early next year.

Like I said, I'm a big Planner user, so this stuff really excites me because it's going to make my job a little earlier. Now, I will tell you one of the best practices that I can share with you is, I manage for the most part some go-to market activities. I know what those go-to-market activities are, so depending on what type of project I'm working on, I may have a tier 1, tier 2, and a tier 3 project plan, which I already created a template, if you would, and I save it. Next time, I'm going to create a new launch or a new go-to-market plan, I just go there, copy the appropriate plan, bring it in, and then I fine tune it. I actually assign people and dates or remove stuff, a lot of stuff for our placeholders.

Remove stuff from the Planner or add some stuff to the Planner, but at least I get a fresh start. I can imagine that you can potentially do that with Copilot. You tell Copilot, "Hey, take this other Planner and bring it in with some additional suggested tasks for this type of plan." Maybe, we'll see because I'm going to try it as soon as I get my hands on it. I'm going to close with this last screenshot here. This is something that's available right now. You don't have to wait, even though the entire article is around new Planner, they went ahead and added this little enhancement to Planner.

Basically, those of you who don't know what Microsoft Loop is, we have an episode on Microsoft Loop. Microsoft Loop is basically a collaboration platform where you can collaborate on content, not files. These are not files, these are individual content, pieces of content that are living content. What's nice about that is, let's say, I need somebody to look at a piece of content, not a hundred-page document. I just need to look at a paragraph. All I have to do is take that paragraph, turn it into a Loop component, and then share that Loop component. Anywhere that Loop component is shared, and anytime that Loop component is changed, that is a living, breathing piece of content, and it will update every instance that I've shared this component.

It just makes collaboration a lot quicker and allows people to make changes. Trying to track changes on work can be a little daunting. Now, granted once you're done with all the collaborations, you could take all that text and convert that into a proper document. That's what Loop is. I use Loop quite often, too, by the way, for that purpose. In this case, you can actually take Planner and create a Loop component, which is your tasks inside of Loop, which is wonderful because not everybody may have access to Planner, but a Loop component can be shared with anybody. Maybe I don't need to go see an entire Planner. I just need to look at this particular piece of the Planner. I can just create a Loop component of that and share it.

I went ahead and did a little test. Let me just switch screens here. This is the old or the legacy Planner. This is what we have today. You'll see, it looks very different. I created a fictitious plan here. I called it robocall mitigation plan. I have here a Loop page where I'm going to start developing pieces of content that I need collaboration on. Look what I did, I brought into this Loop environment, I brought in a component, and that component is the Planner. I can now take this component, and this component only without sharing anything else on this page and share it, so somebody else can go ahead in here and add a task or complete a task.

It's a full-functioning Planner. Everything, every kind of functionality that you would get out of Planner, you can get inside of this Loop component. That is actually a pretty cool tool.

If you're a Loop user and you're a Planner user, this is something you do today. You don't have to wait till the first of the year to use this integration, so feel free to give that a shot. All right. That brings this episode to an end. That was great. Again, I love Planner, I use Planner, I encourage people to use Planner. You can integrate into Teams. Now, as you saw, you can integrate it into Loop, which is great. By the way, you can also bring a Loop component into Teams. You can get really creative by connecting all these things together.

Folks, that's all the time we have today. Please, take this time to subscribe. Subscribe to Tech UNMUTED on your favorite podcast platform. You can also join us right here from a visual perspective on YouTube. A lot of times, we narrate things for folks who are listening, but a lot of times, we share screens like we did today. This is definitely one of those episodes that you want to tune into YouTube, so you can see the screenshots I was referring to. Anyway, great things are coming from Microsoft. Great things are coming in 2024. This is one of them. I can't wait. Folks, until next time. Stay curious, stay connected.

CLOSING VOICEOVER: Visit www.fusionconnect.com/techunmuted for show notes and more episodes. Thanks for listening.

Episode Credits:

Produced by: Fusion Connect

The new Microsoft Planner: A unified experience bringing together to-dos, tasks, plans and projects - Microsoft Community Hub

2023 TMCnet Best Tech Podcast award winner

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Tech UNMUTED, the podcast of modern collaboration, where we tell the stories of how collaboration tools enable businesses to be more efficient and connected. Humans have collaborated since the beginning of time – we’re wired to work together to solve complex problems, brainstorm novel solutions and build a connected community. On Tech UNMUTED, we’ll cover the latest industry trends and dive into real-world examples of how technology is inspiring businesses and communities to be more efficient and connected. Tune in to learn how today's table-stakes technologies are fostering a collaborative culture, serving as the anchor for exceptional customer service.

Get show notes, transcripts, and other details at www.fusionconnect.com/techUNMUTED. Tech UNMUTED is a production of Fusion Connect, LLC.