Hey! I’m Kayla, a project manager with Regroove and a product manager for Navo. At Regroove, we’ve tried a few different tools and processes to help us manage client project and internal tasks. In this article, I’ll walk through the process we use at Regroove to track and complete outstanding project and development tasks.
As Microsoft Consultants, we settled on using Microsoft Planner to track our tasks. However, there are lots of tools you can use for task management out there. These tips and tricks can be applied to whichever tool you choose to implement.
What Is Microsoft Planner?
At its core, Microsoft Planner is a task management tool that aligns with the principles of Kanban. Kanban, a method of agile task management often applied to software development, originated in Toyota’s car factories as a way to improve manufacturing processes. The system involved using “Kanban”, or cards, to track inventory against production.
Applied to software development, Kanban principles ensure that planned tasks for a period of development time do not exceed the capabilities or bandwidth of the development team. When planning technical client projects or internal development sprints for Navo, the Kanban method ensures we properly resource to meet client needs without overextending the team.
Beyond the resourcing component, Microsoft Planner helps me keep track of project progress and task completion for the whole team. Planners are created for each client and internal project. Tasks are created and tracked in the project planner for the team to see, and each task is designated with an assignee and due date.
Tasks assigned to an individual appear in both the project plan and Microsoft To Do. To Do is an individual task management application that is part of the Microsoft 365 suite, which allows you to view planner tasks assigned to you from across multiple project plans, as well as create your own personal tasks.
Creating a Plan
Phew! Now that we’ve covered what Microsoft Planner is, let’s talk about how we use the tool to create and manage project plans. We recommend creating a plan for any project that includes a team of people, big or small. At Regroove, we create a plan for every client or internal project that includes more than one team member.
A plan consists of “buckets” that organize tasks visually on your board, and tasks that outline the work effort, due date, and assignee. You can organize these buckets in any way that makes sense to your team. Stay true to the Kanban method with “to do”, “doing” and “done”, or branch out with titles that match your internal processes.
At Regroove, I typically use the categories included in our scope of work for the project, which include things like project management, requirements gathering, coaching, migration, development, etc. This makes it easy to track remaining tasks against the client’s budget. For Navo development, we stick pretty closely to the standard Kanban categories and apply agile development management.
Creating Microsoft Planner Tasks
In Microsoft Planner, creating a task is simple. Click “Add Task” under the bucket your task belongs to. Enter the task name, due date, and assignee. Your tasks in Planner automatically inherit the name of the plan, so your task name should be a short but descriptive explanation of the work effort. In other programs, you may also need to include the client or project name in the task title. More detail can be included in the body of the task including notes, steps, links, attachments, and other comments or discussion.
Finding Plans and Tasks
Once your plan has been created and you’ve added tasks for your team, its important to ensure you and your team members know where to find your plan. A link to your plan should be accessible in a central location that is communicated out to everyone.
At Regroove, we ensure our plan is always accessible in two central locations:
- Attached to the Microsoft Teams as a channel tab on the project channel
- In Navo, under the projects section of our company menu
Ensuring our plans are easily accessible means that team members can easily be updated not only on the tasks that are assigned to them, but on related tasks that others are working on as well. This is also important as a project manager. It’s an easy place to get a quick view of incomplete tasks and their deadlines to help ensure the project remains on schedule.
Team members can access tasks that have been assigned to them across multiple project plans from Microsoft To Do.
Communicating About Planner Tasks
As a Microsoft-centric organization, we use Microsoft Teams at Regroove to get conversations out loud and in front of the whole team. Discussing project tasks is no different; we create conversation threads in the team channel and often link to the planner board or a specific task for discussion where needed.
You can also use task features to communicate about work in progress. Microsoft Planner includes task attachments, notes, and steps that are effective for communicating the progression of work. Email reminders and other notifications can help ensure you’re up to date when tasks are in progress, completed, or overdue. Keep in mind that you need to be assigned to a task in order to receive these notifications.
No matter how you decide to communicate about tasks within your project team, the key is consistency. Decide what works best for your team, document it, and review it often to keep everyone on the same page. Documenting and reviewing how you’ll discuss planned tasks is key to ensuring your plans are accurate.
As we continue to work remotely and get comfortable with the apps and tools at our disposal, keeping track of tasks and communicating them effectively to the project team becomes even more important. Using a task management system like Microsoft Planner gives project managers and teams a quick and easy overview of project progress at a time when checking in with your teammate at the desk beside you just isn’t an option. While we use Microsoft Planner at Regroove for our Navo development, these tips can be applied to whichever task management solution you choose to implement.
PRO TIP: We use Navo audiences to ensure plans are easily accessible to their team members without having to dig through projects you’re not working on. We use Navo audiences to ensure that only members of the client or internal project team see the client information and plan in their company menu. Find out more here: getnavo.com