Almost a year ago we wrote an article about the future of task management in your business. In that article we talked about some of the challenges related to managing the various tasks that might be on your plate as well as how technology might help you overcome those challenges using Microsoft 365.
Well, it's 2021 now and several of the features that were coming now exist!
Let's talk about some of the features designed to help you keep your tasks organized.
So what's a Task?
The Webster definition of the word Task is "a piece of work to be done or undertaken". The scope of a task can range drastically in size, but it's ultimately a reminder to get something done.
In the Microsoft 365 universe, at a minimum, a task has a title or subject and is saved into a task list. That task list might be your own private list, or it might be a list you share with others in your organization. A Task at its core, is like a Post-It and the Task List is where you decide to stick your Post-It.
However, unlike a Post-It, you can see your tasks wherever you are. And, when needed, you can do a whole lot more by adding reminders, notes, and even checklists to your task.
Once you build the habit of using them, Tasks enable you to organize chaos in a very efficient and scalable way. Tasks are accessible via Outlook, Teams, and To-Do. Apps to view these tasks exist on PC, Mac, iPhone, Android, and the web:
Creating a task for yourself In your task list
With recent updates to Microsoft 365, a task now synchronizes across your preferred application.
Want to be able to use everything in one app? Use Teams! Do you live inside Outlook and don't want to use anything else? Use Outlook! Want to have a separate application that focuses purely on Tasks? Use To-Do!
You can use one or all of them, the task itself is synchronized and saved so you have the same task lists regardless of what app you prefer to use. Keep in mind that some of the newer features of Tasks don't currently work with Outlook, but the core components of a task will sync without issue.
We are huge fans of Microsoft Teams, so we will use Teams in our demo:
Select "Tasks By Planner and To Do" in Teams (If you don't see this, select "..." to see the option to open Tasks in Teams)
Select New Task or "Add a Task"
Enter a Name for Your Task
Once your task is created, you can select the task to add more details if desired:
The end result is that you have a task created in your task list, with notes that matter to you, and a reminder set so you don't forget. At any time, with just a couple of clicks you can see all of your tasks in front of you and make edits as needed. You can even pull up your tasks on your mobile device, so they are with you wherever you go.
What if you wanted to share tasks with others?
Built into Tasks in Microsoft 365 is the ability to share tasks with ease using Microsoft Planner. When you create a Team, that Team also has a Planner. It's been there for a while now and you might not have even seen it!
Microsoft Planner is basically a Task List for your Team. When you create a task in Planner, the task has additional features enabled that let you organize that task amongst your fellow Team members.
Anyone that belongs to the Team can view the list, its tasks, and collaborate:
When inside planner, the task itself adds new components that can be utilized by the team that don't exist in a task saved to your tasks list.
Several new components are added:
Ability to organize tasks into "buckets" for better organization
Add additional attachments such as files, pictures, and links to other content
Add comments to tasks that are visible by everyone in the team
Set Start and End dates to show in the Planner Calendar for that Team
Show progress statuses for individual tasks
Assign users to a task so you can track who should be working on which task
Add labels to categorize different types of tasks
There are tons of other features, you can read more here
Using Planner transforms a basic task into a tool to organize your Team. This could be as simple as a group "To-Do List" to help with different tasks that pop-up throughout the week. Or, it could be a tool to organize small projects, ideas, and/or objectives for your department and team.
Cool. What are some use cases for this though?
Much like OneNote , there are seemingly unlimited use cases for Tasks and Planner. To help, here are a few different use cases we have recently seen.
A few use cases for tasks:
Shopping and Gift Lists
Routine Business Tasks
Tracking personal and company objectives
Reminders about Flagged Emails or Follow-ups
Literally any time you would otherwise create a post-it :)
Use cases for using tasks with Planner:
Organizing ideas for the company amongst the executive team
Putting together a high level project plan
Managing department or team objectives and goals
Evolving task delegation within your company
Event Management and Task tracking
Streamlining internal progress meetings
So what's the downside here?
With all these features, you'd think the cost would be the main downside. Good chance you are already paying for it as everything we just talked about is included in most 365 licenses. The real downsides from from the challenges that come from introducing new technology to your workflow.
We've seen two main challenges with introducing Tasks (or really anything) into your company workflow:
1. Change is difficult
It takes time to build new habits. We've seen some people takes months to break the "Post-it" habit while others moved on within days.
Training is an essential component to evolving your team's workflow. Learning how to use Tasks is easy, but deciding on how you and your business will use it can sometimes add more to the conversation.
Gotta just use it! This may sound silly, but it's one thing to see the benefits and decide to move forward, and another to actually using the new technology. The more you use it, the easier it is to build habits that let you benefit from it.
2. Your IT Infrastructure needs to support a great experience
Your Microsoft 365 environment and processes needs to align with your business. This is a combination of configuration, training, and design that lines up with what you expect from technology in your organization.
The network in your environment needs to be secure and efficient. This enables a safe and fast experience with the cloud components of the 365 service.
Reliable and capable computers are an essential part to any great IT experience. If your machines aren't up to date, secured, and maintained, that could cause issues while trying to introduce any new technology.
This entire post is really about evolving how you manage tasks so that you can do more. Modernizing task management enables you to be more efficient, more organized, and more in sync with your workflow. It's a key component to your Digital Transformation.
Everything we talked about in this blog post is available for you to test out today. If a feature isn't available, contact your IT support to have it enabled!
While we think Microsoft 365's task management tools are going to be an excellent solution for most organizations, it might not be an option for you. You'll find plenty of alternatives out there (Using Google Workplace? Check out Google Tasks!) that can help you evolve task management in your organization. Depending the business software used in your environment, you might even find a good fit with your ticketing system or ERP. Remember, using every feature isn't a requirement to take steps forward, the best solution is typically easy to use, aligns with your business goals, and integrates with your IT infrastructure.
Interested in having a conversation about technology in your business?