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How to use Microsoft Planner to manage your projects

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Microsoft Planner can help you create and share business plans and projects. Here are the steps for using it.

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Image: iStockphoto/Tanya St

Microsoft Planner offers you a visual way to track and manage projects and other work among business teams. Available on the web and as a mobile app, Planner serves as a hub where all team members can create business plans and organize tasks so that other members can view and access them. How does Microsoft Planner work, and how can you and your fellow team members use it to manage your projects and tasks? Let’s check it out.

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Microsoft Planner requires a Business, Business Premium, or Educational subscription to Office 365. Users of the Home plan or other consumer versions of Office 365 will not be able to access it. If you do have a qualifying Office 365 account with your organization, sign into the Microsoft Planner site with your Office 365 username and password. At your Microsoft Planner website, your first step is to devise a plan. Click on the button to Create A Plan (Figure A).

Figure A

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At the New Plan window, type a name for your business plan. Choose one of the two access options: 1) Public – Anyone In My Organization Can See Plan Contents; or 2) Private – Only Members I Add Can See Plan Projects. Click the Options arrow and add a group description if you wish. Click the button to Create Plan (Figure B).

Figure B

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Your next action depends on which option you chose–Public or Private. If you chose public access, then you can start assigning tasks. If you chose private access, then you may want to take this time to invite other people to the project plan. For the latter, click on the ellipsis icon and select Members. That action opens Outlook with your project group listed. Click on the link to Invite Others.

You can invite people internal or external to your organization. People outside your organization are invited as guests who will receive email notices and can access content in the group project. Click on the Copy Link button to copy a shareable link, or click on the Email button to send an invitation email to the people you’d like to join the group (Figure C).

Figure C

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Alternatively, click on the link to Manage Group Members in Outlook. Then click on the link to Add Members. Choose the members you wish to add and click the Add button (Figure D). Then close the window.

Figure D

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Close Outlook and return to Microsoft Planner. Click the button to Add Task. Type the task name, enter a due date, and then assign the task to a group member. Click the button to Add Task (Figure E). Continue to add and assign tasks this way to members of the group.

Figure E

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Next, you can create buckets to organize the different tasks by type of work, department, or other criteria. To do this, click on the link to Add New Bucket. Type a name for the bucket. You can then add tasks directly to that bucket (Figure F).

Figure F

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As you and other group members accomplish tasks, just click on their circles to indicate that they’ve been completed. You can then check on completed and ongoing tasks a couple of different ways. Click on the Charts header to view the progress of all tasks (Figure G).

Figure G

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Click on the Schedule header to see a calendar view of assigned tasks and flip through the months to see the status of all tasks (Figure H).

Figure H

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Click the ellipsis icon for a specific task. From the menu, you can assign a color label to it, assign it to a different person, copy the task, copy a link to the task, move the task to a different list, or delete the task (Figure I).

Figure I

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Click on the task itself. You can now add more details, including a start date, progress on the task, the priority, notes, and an attachment (Figure J). Close the task window when done.

Figure J

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Next, click on the ellipsis icon for a specific plan. Here, you can add it as a favorite, export it to Excel, add it to your Outlook calendar, and run other commands (Figure K).

Figure K

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To create a new plan, click on the New Plan entry in the left sidebar. To view all your plans, click on the Planner Hub entry in the sidebar. Click on the My Tasks entry to see tasks assigned to you.

Finally, you can use the Microsoft Planner mobile app to track and work with your plans and tasks. To get the app, click on the Get The App Button in the Planner Hub and enter your mobile phone number. Alternatively, grab the app directly from Apple’s App Store for an iPhone or iPad, and from Google Play for an Android device.

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