Unless you are at the forefront of office technology process development, your office and day to day workflows operate off of at least a few older processes from years ago.
More than likely, the management culture for task management and planning in the business was implemented without considering the modern solutions available.
For most businesses, when you take a step back, it can be easy to see it is time to consider some task management workflow changes.
It's difficult to know who is working on what
It's difficult to identify someone's availability
It is a struggle to find forward momentum as an individual and/or as a department
You or your team are having problems juggling multiple responsibilities
Meetings are often spent trying to figure out the status of tasks rather than the tasks themselves leading to long and/or too many meetings
When someone is out of the office, it's difficult to manage workloads
You or your team have productivity issues when something unplanned happens
Fortunately, it has never been easier to organize tasks for an individual, team, or company, and it's about to get even easier.
Here is a brief example of where things are headed
Alex the Sales Manager needs to put together a new digital advertisement that lines up with a new product by the end of the month. He also needs to handle a dozen of other objectives for the year, manage his small sales team, as well as his individual tasks that come up day to day. Right now he has a calendar that he updates regularly with things he needs to do, but it has become cumbersome to rely on his calendar for everything.
Since he has Microsoft 365, let's look at what the future could look like on that platform...
He decides to use Microsoft Planner to create a "Planner" for his Sales Department. This allows him to have a central location to look at objectives for the team.
The individual tasks in the plan can be opened to add more details. He can assign tasks to himself or others. There is a place to add notes, comments, and a basic checklist. If needed, it's possible to track progress, set start dates, and due dates.
Planner ends up being sort of a "Project Management" lite for his department. In the future, it might make sense to add a couple of more Planners for more complicated objectives or projects.
Via the Planner view, he is able to see all tasks assigned to him and their status across every Planner that he is part of. His staff have their own view based on what is assigned to them. Selecting a task takes us right to the task to edit it via the same interface.
For meetings, Planner can be opened up at the beginning of the meeting to get a birds-eye view of the overall tasks of the department, then easily updated as the meeting progresses. The team can click to give focus to a specific task.
Behind this all, we are using Microsoft Teams. The Planner that was created and its tasks are part of that Team:
This means we are able to chat, collaborate, video chat, and remotely meet with the entire team with just a few clicks.
No bouncing around to different applications, the entire experience, despite using multiple services, can be managed completely in Teams.
This works in the same room, different offices, remote offices, on the road. From a PC, a Mac, a tablet, or a phone. If we are members of multiple teams or planners then you are able to see everything related to you via one click in Teams.
Pretty Cool Right? Well, there's more!
Microsoft To-Do is a list application that can be your place to create tasks or the equivalent of a "Post-It" that syncs across all of your devices. Good chance you aren't using this yet.
A recent update to Microsoft To-Do has added the ability for Outlook Tasks and Planner Tasks to sync. This gives the individual a single pane of glass to look at what's on their plate. Combining both their individual tasks with their Planner Tasks.
The overall goal is to be able to quickly get up to speed "at a glance". What do I need to do today? A glance at "My Day". How is our department doing? A glance a the department's planner. This shifts the focus towards working on the tasks and objectives, rather than organizing them.
It is expected that To-Do will eventually become your center for all tasks, soon integrating with Outlook and elsewhere in the Office universe. If you aren't using To-Do or something like it, your future self likely will!
Wait a sec. This is all part of Microsoft 365?
There are numerous applications and integrations out there that can help with evolving how work is managed in your business. You may already be paying for and using some of these solutions. It's also possible you have a more specific need that caters to your industry. Either way, there is a good chance whatever solutions you use will at least partially integrate their workflows into the Microsoft 365 universe.
We have been blown away by the level of synergy Microsoft 365 already provides and is about to implement for many businesses. And here is the crazier part, if you are a Microsoft 365 customer, all of these features are included with your licenses.
You already have Teams. You already have Planner. You already have To-Do. The integrations with Mailbox, file storage, and collaboration tools are all part of the package. It is all tied together with the same security and data protection policies available with the platform, just waiting for your business to utilize. It's pretty darn impressive!
Cool cool... so how do we start the process?
The first step is to make sure you IT infrastructure is ready for a modern workplace. Your technology infrastructure needs to be setup for success. That means having the right hardware, software, and resources available to you. The focus needs to be on your workflow, not dealing with computer and infrastructure problems.
Next, is to start small and put together a plan. Identify a specific team or department with the right people to learn about the new solutions available. This team should include your workflow managers, members of the team, and your IT resource.
Once educated (not before!), start designing a pilot program for a new workflow that uses this new technology. Plan for adjustments to be needed throughout the entire process.
From there, you can expand your pilot and slowly introduce more components to the environment. Something as simple as "Hey you can click this button to see each other's screens while you are talking" can be a bigger culture change than you'd expect!
As your business slowly adopts the new solution, remember to schedule time to review progress and review your implementations. If the right solutions are implemented, you'll find you have a lot more time to do so!
Interested in having a conversation about technology in your business?