Posey's Tips & Tricks

3 Ways Microsoft Can Improve Planner

Microsoft Planner is an indispensable tool, but it still has room for improvement. Here are the features that Microsoft should add to make Planner even better than it already is.

Shortly after its initial release, I took Microsoft Planner for a test drive and concluded that it really wasn't very impressive.

Later on, though, I decided that the only way I could truly give Planner a fair evaluation was to use it in production for a period of time. In doing so, I quickly realized that I had underestimated Planner -- it is a far more capable tool than I had realized. In fact, I have been using Planner on a daily basis for over two years now.

Even though I now think of Planner as an indispensable tool, it admittedly has room for improvement. There are several things Microsoft could do to make Planner even better than it already is.

Mobility Between Plans
My No.1 wishlist item for Planner is the ability to move an item between plans.

One of the nice things about Planner is that it allows you to create plans in a way that aligns with your unique needs. For example, some organizations create plans for each project they are working on. In my case, I create monthly plans (March 2020, April 2020 and so on). I use these plans to manage my writing assignments for the month.

While this approach seems to work really well for me, there have been situations in which I have accidentally added an assignment to the wrong month. When this happens, there isn't a way to simply move the assignment to the correct plan. Instead, Planner makes you delete the item, then recreate it in the desired location.

Given the way Planner works, it might be difficult for Microsoft to introduce the ability to move items between plans, but such a capability would be extremely helpful.

Outlook Integration
Another thing I would love to see Microsoft eventually do with Planner is to make it compatible with Outlook.

Every plan you create in Planner has its own calendar. As you add items to a plan, those items are also displayed on the plan calendar based on their start date and due date.

Personally, I'm glad that Microsoft chose not to automatically merge plan calendars into Outlook. Doing so probably would have worked out OK for my particular use case, but I can only imagine what would happen if someone was working on several plans at the same time. Their Outlook calendar would immediately become cluttered with items from all of those plans.

Even so, I think that Outlook calendar integration does have its place. There are two ways I would like to see Microsoft add this integration. First, I think it would be tremendously helpful to be able to add individual Planner calendar items to the Outlook calendar. Perhaps Microsoft could create an option that allows a user to right-click on a Planner calendar item and choose a menu option to add that item to their Outlook calendar.

A second way that I would like to see Microsoft bring Outlook and Planner together is by providing an option to add all of a plan's items to the Outlook calendar. This function could essentially act as a shortcut that keeps someone from having to add every single plan item to their Outlook calendar individually.

Customizations
One more thing that Microsoft could do to make Planner even more useful is to allow users to create custom fields for plan items.

Again, every organization uses Planner in its own way, but having the ability to add custom fields to a plan would give organizations the ability to add things like billable costs, client names or account numbers to a plan.

Admittedly, you can enter any information that you want into a plan item simply by typing it into the Notes section. However, breaking information out into custom fields might vastly improve Planner's ability to export a plan to Excel. It would also open the door to using Flow to create automations based on plan data.

Unfortunately, I have absolutely no inside information about what we might see in future versions of Planner. Even so, I continue to think of Planner as an excellent tool with enormous potential for future improvement.

About the Author

Brien Posey is a 16-time Microsoft MVP with decades of IT experience. As a freelance writer, Posey has written thousands of articles and contributed to several dozen books on a wide variety of IT topics. Prior to going freelance, Posey was a CIO for a national chain of hospitals and health care facilities. He has also served as a network administrator for some of the country's largest insurance companies and for the Department of Defense at Fort Knox. In addition to his continued work in IT, Posey has spent the last several years actively training as a commercial scientist-astronaut candidate in preparation to fly on a mission to study polar mesospheric clouds from space. You can follow his spaceflight training on his Web site.

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