Microsoft has been slowly aligning its multiple task management tools over the last few years, including bringing Planner and To Do tasks into Teams and making more sense of the different roles that Project and Planner are suited for.
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In part, Microsoft is responding to long-term customer feedback about not having to go to multiple places to track all the things you need to get done. Some of this is driven by the new Viva Goals app, which promises to connect an organization’s big picture plans and priorities to the individual projects and tasks that employees actually spend their time working on.
Viva Goals’ features will help with goal setting and tracking
Viva Goals will soon let you add Microsoft Project and Microsoft Planner plans to the dashboard and set how they relate to high-level objectives and key results for the organization. These goals will be updated automatically as the work is done. You’ll also be able to set goals at the project level inside Project so you can track progress on OKRs and make sure you’re focusing on the tasks that line up with company priorities.
The much-requested Assigned to Me list feature is on the horizon
For managing your own workload, seeing your Project tasks alongside tasks from Planner and To Do within the Assigned To Me list may be more useful. This is a feature that many users have asked for repeatedly, and Microsoft says it will be coming “in the next couple of months.”
When it arrives, you’ll finally have a single list of all the tasks that you’re supposed to be doing. Regardless of the system they live in, you will then be able to filter and sort by when tasks are due and what’s set as a priority. You’ll also see tasks from Project in the Microsoft To Do app in the same Assigned to Me smart list that shows tasks from Planner, but because of the way To Do works, that’s a separate list. You can choose to add individual tasks to My Day if you want to see them there.
Because tasks can come from different systems, you don’t get the same options in all of them. If you look at tasks from To Do in Microsoft Teams, you can see the due date, notes field, checklist and two levels of priority. Tasks from Planner or Project have all of those, but they also have buckets, labels, start dates, attachments, comments, three progress levels and two more priority levels.
Just as there are more options when you look at a To Do task in the Microsoft To Do app, you don’t get all the details from a Project task, but you do get enough to know what the task is and how it’s going — or to quickly update your team on progress without going into the full app.
If you need the full Project interface, making Project a tab in your Teams channel means you can see a grid or board with all the plan tasks, get an overview with the Timeline, Charts and People views, or pop up a Teams chat to discuss progress with all the context of the project in front of you. This is more efficient than trying to juggle two windows with Teams taking up so much of your screen that you can’t see details in Project.
While Microsoft is vague about when new features will be available, you will soon also be able to dig into task history so you can look back at the progress updates, see who defined different tasks, and when and how a task was broken up into different activities.
Microsoft Project’s new features include agile support
Microsoft Project is also getting some new features: Agile support (another much-requested feature) will let you manage springs and backlogs, plans can now include up to 1,000 tasks, and you will be able to create more complex relationships between tasks like whether one task can only start after another has already started, only finish once something else is complete or not get marked as complete until the next task has started – options that will be familiar to users of the more powerful desktop Project software.
Some of your tasks might not be in a task management tool at all, like comments in a Word or PowerPoint document that you need to review or reply to. The activity column in the new OneDrive home page on the web shows when other people have mentioned you in a document as well as when they’ve shared a file and which documents are connected to which meetings, which might make it faster to review them before diving into the conversation, as well as linking to meeting recordings in case you need to check for actions to add to your tasks.
Moving from Microsoft Planner to Project
Planner and Project are different tools for different audiences, and Microsoft will be keeping both of them. But there’s also a lot of overlap: Some people will need to use both for different projects, and some projects that start in Planner will become complex enough to benefit from the more powerful tools in Project. If you or a colleague already did the work of sketching out what a project will involve in Planner, transferring that to Project makes more sense than doing it all over again.
If you’re hitting the limits of Planner and wondering if Project would work better for you, sign up for a trial that brings your Planner plan into Project as a live project you can work on. You can find the trial option inside Planner on a new tab called Timeline.
This imports a copy of the current Planner plan, leaving the original in Planner for your colleagues in case you decide not to switch to Project. In the future, you’ll be able to choose which Planner plans you want to import into the Project trial, so you’ll be able to reuse a Planner plan if you already used Project and work with more than one Planner plan in Project.
If your organization already has project licenses, IT admins can assign you a license or tell you to request one instead of a trial. At the moment, this will still only let you work with the Planner plan you imported as part of the trial, but in the future you will be able to move more Planner plans to Project when you want to switch them over.
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