Wednesday, May 10, 2017


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Lightweight Project Management Using Microsoft Office 365 Planner

Implementing a working project management platform in an organization is a challenging task. The platform must account for the needs and desires of the business, stakeholders and sponsors; and same time, provide intuitive, easy to use tools for teams so they can collaborate and work on projects smoothly and cohesively to achieve maximum results.

Microsoft Office 365 is compatible with two products for project management: Microsoft Project Online and Microsoft Planner.

Microsoft Project Online

Microsoft Project Online is an advanced platform for Enterprise Project Management, and Program and Portfolio Management with advanced functionality for intake and execution of projects, portfolio analysis and prioritization, and resource management. It is a true Enterprise Project Management Platform that is used by tens of thousands of organizations, and it delivers the consolidated PPM view and visibility that businesses and PMOs need.

Microsoft Office 365 Planner

With the power and advanced functions of Project Online, comes increased complexity. Team members of some organizations find the Project Online User Interface a bit complicated. Luckily, Microsoft has another product, Microsoft Planner for Office 365, that is a more lightweight Project Management product. Microsoft Planner enables teams to work and collaborate on their projects and tasks using a more intuitive UI and still benefit from all the functionality available in Office 365 Groups, such as Microsoft Teams, OneDrive, and Skype, to name a few.

As we can see, these are two different worlds, and they are disconnected. Can organizations benefit from using both platforms? The answer is YES.

FluentPro Software offers a unique suite of products called PPM Express Plus. The suite includes a complete, ready-to-use configuration for Microsoft Project Online for project, program, and portfolio management, as well as a set of over 20 report and dashboards for project and portfolio reporting and FluentPro Integration Hub for connecting Microsoft Project Online and Planner, so all information flows between systems automatically – new projects are created in Planner, and task progress and actuals flow back to Project Online.

By providing practical tools to team members, the organization empowers them by helping them to work together more effectively. Team members start with Microsoft Teams app, integrate Planner Plans with it, and use it for all collaboration, file sharing, teamwork, and video calls. Equipped with these tools, they can integrate all project related information from other systems, and maximize the results of their time and effort.

By using FluentPro PPM Express, organizations can achieve the maximum level of engagement and collaboration within and between project teams. Business leaders are able to view the latest, actual states of projects with increased speed of project updates and over 20 reports. PMOs can focus on optimizing the project management process – project planning and execution practices. As a result, the project management maturity level increases.

Benefits for organizations:

  • High level of engagement of team members in the organization
  • Use of all the latest features of Microsoft Office 365 Groups
  • Access to reliable reports of the state of projects
  • Full portfolio visibility for optimal resource management, portfolio analysis and prioritization
  • Easy reporting using over 20 reports and dashboards
  • Low cost of ownership, re-use of standard Office 365 licenses, and instant deployment
To schedule a demo and learn more about PPM Express Plus, visit our website,

Thursday, May 4, 2017


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Microsoft released the Office 365 Planner App for Office 365 Enterprise subscriptions last year. Planner is a lightweight program to address project task management and teamwork.
As part of Microsoft Office 365, Microsoft offers its Enterprise users a product called Microsoft Project Online.

Our users may ask, why 2 products? What’s the difference? Which one should I use? Should I use both?

Let me try to give some answers.

Planner is much simpler than Project Online; it is positioned somewhere between task list and Project Online in terms of ease of use, features, and overall user experience.

If you are have not been informed about what Planner is, you may refer to our previous blog posts -
HERE and HERE or go to the Planner product page for a product overview.

If you do not know what Project Online is, please refer to the Project Online product page.

If you are a part of an organization with an Office 365 Enterprise subscription, then you will see the Planner icon in the Office 365 application list, as shown below (if not, please ask your Office 365 Administrator to assign you a license – it is free).

Planner and Project Online are two distinct products, but they both address project collaboration and teamwork. They are not integrated (at least, out of the box) but can be integrated with 3rd-party solutions.
Planner is very easy to adopt and use, but it comes with no customization capabilities.
Project Online is best suited for an enterprise’s project and portfolio management, as it is equipped with advanced customization capabilities.

To compare the two systems, please use the tables below to see their commonalities and differences. We have also put together a features matrix which is used as a summary at the end. 

As you can see, Project Online was designed for an advanced and formal project management approach, can support different kinds of businesses and is highly customizable. However, this flexibility and great value for executives and PMOs comes with the price of complexity for team members, and that’s why Project Online is considered to be too complex for some organizations. Such organizations can benefit from using Office 365 Planner.

Planner can be used by organizations who have just started implementing project management practices. This is a great platform to start with, and it is completely free for Office 365 users, versus products from competitors, such as Trello, Basecamp or Asana.

But on wider scale, I personally see Planner used not as an alternative to Project Online but as a daily instrument for team members. With the help of integration (and this can be obtained with a product from FluentPro - Integration Hub, which connects Planner and Project Online), team members can work on tasks in Planner, and all progress will flow to Project Online so Management will have a reliable “big picture” and full visibility of all projects in the organization.


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With the release of Microsoft Teams, there is a new experience available for users of Microsoft Planner – Plans are one of the items that can be added within a Team, and you can create multiple Plans.

There are a few differences between the way these ‘Team Plans’ work.

With Office 365 Planner, currently, there is a one-to-one relationship between Plans and Groups. Create a Plan in Planner, and it creates a Group; create a Group, and it creates a Plan. It is the same with Teams: create a Team, and it creates a Group, which creates a Plan. So, how do the Plans created within Teams fit into all of this?

I create a Team in my Office 365 tenant using Team App:

Once I have done this, I also see this as a Group in Outlook in Office 365:

And I can see the same Plan in Office 365 Planner:

Now if I add a Tab in my Team App for my Plan, I have 2 options:

1. Create a New Plan

The first thing you will notice is that you have not been prompted to provide an e-mail address to associate with the Team. As this is within a Team, it does not get its own e-mail address and associated SharePoint site. Therefore, conversations and attachments are also not available directly in the Plan; but of course, at the Team level, you have these capabilities anyway.

We do not recommend this method of creating a Plan, since it will result in the Plan not being visible in the Planner App (but only in the Teams App). This might change in the future (Microsoft, please!), but currently it is not visible since there is no Group created for the Plan (the underlying Group has multiple Plans).

2. Add the existing Plan to the Team App (Recommended approach)


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Microsoft has recently rolled out its Office 365 Planner. Here are 15 things you need to know about the new Planner in Office 365.

1. Adding Planner – If you do not see the Planner tile in App Launcher, you need to ask your Office 365 Administrator to assign you a license (they are free).

2. Accessing Planner – Planner can be accessed only if a Planner License is assigned in Office 365. Once a user is assigned a Planner License, they can access Planner in two ways:

a) Via Planner tile in the App Launcher

b) By navigating to

3. Planner and Office 365 Groups – Planner is powered by Office Graph and Office Groups, and each new Plan created in Planner automatically creates a new Office 365 Group.

Create new Plan

Groups View

Navigate to Groups in Office Admin Center Dashboard, and then,

4. Planner Buckets and Tasks – Each Plan has its own Board, and within each Board, Buckets (groups of Tasks) can be added. Within the Bucket, users can then add work items, or tasks.


You can create a new Bucket in a default Plan Board by simply clicking on Add new Bucket.

A Task is represented by a combination of name, due dates, attachments, categories and conversations associated with it.

Team members receive an email notification whenever they are assigned a new “Card” or task.

5. Views Tasks as a visual Chart – you can select the Chart view to see a graphical representation of Tasks.

6. Menu to Switch to Office 365 Group View – There is a callout (…) from a Plan’s Board to switch to the Plan’s associated Group view, where you can see the Group’s properties, such as Mail, File repository, Mailbox, and so on.

7. Conversation View of Plan – There is a callout (…) from a Plan’s Board to switch to the Plan’s associated Group’s conversations.

8. Calendar View of Plan – There is a callout (…) from a Plan’s Board to switch to the Plan’s associated Group’s calendar view.

9. Members View of Plan – There is a callout (…) from a Plan’s Board to switch to the Plan’s associated Group’s team view.

10. Files View of Plan – There is a callout (…) from a Plan’s Board to switch to the Plan’s associated Group’s file storage location

11. OneNote Notebook – Every Plan has a link to OneNote, which is represented by “Notebook”, and which opens up when a user clicks on it.

12. My Tasks View – This is similar to workflow Tasks, where you switch to My Tasks or Tasks assigned to the logged-in user.

13. Using Planner and Teams – Users can assign their Plan to a Team using the Teams App.

14. Integrating Planner with Microsoft Project Online – If you use Microsoft Project Online and Office 365 Planner, you can install the SharePoint App from FluentPro, Integration Hub, and connect your Planner to Project Online. When you implement Integration Hub, every time you create a project in Project Online, a new, corresponding Plan and Group will be created in Office 365.

Learn more here:

15. Influencing Planner development – You can use UserVoice to provide feedback to Microsoft about Planner.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017


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Microsoft is rapidly adding new features and updates to Office 365, as well as new products and apps. Today we want to take a look at Office 365 Planner, which was recently released and is now publicly available to all Office 365 users. We want to review this new application to show its features and benefits, and to explain how you can use it.

How do you get it?

Office 365 Planner is available with any Enterprise Office 365 subscription. If you do not see the Planner tile, then speak to your Office 365 Administrator or Managed Service partner.

What is Office 365 Planner?

Office 365 Planner is a Work and Task Management application that provides a hub for team members to facilitate creating Plans (projects), organizing, assigning tasks to different team members and tracking progress. It also provides a task view screen that provides full visibility so that files can be uploaded and shared among the whole team.

Planner and Office 365 Groups

Office 365 Planner is linked closely with Office 365 Groups. Every time a new Plan is created in Planner, a new Office 365 Group is automatically created – all powered by Office Graph.

Using Planner


To start, you’ll need to create your Plan:

To get an overview of your Plans, you can use ‘Planner Hub’ which shows a snapshot of how your Plans are progressing. Planner Hub displays all the information in one place so you can see what has been started and what has not been started, what is in progress, what is late, and what has been completed.

Team Members

With each new Plan, you can add group members – just start typing and Planner will automatically list contacts after you type 3 letters. If the desired contact isn’t listed, you can type in their email address.

When new users are added to a Plan, they will also be added to the Office 365 Group automatically and they will see the Group appear in their Outlook account.

New users will also receive an email notification welcoming them to the Plan and team.


Once your Plan has been created, your team has been built, and you have an idea of what the project is about, you can start adding tasks. Within your Plan, you will see the option to add a new task:

Once you’ve created a task, which will have very little information at the beginning, you can click on it and add in more detail, if required, such as: assignment of team members, start and due dates, descriptions, attachments and comments. There are colored tabs on the side, which you can use to mark tasks with different colors.


Buckets are groups of tasks. There at least 2 possible uses of buckets: to indicate of the type of task (Design, Analysis, Development, etc.) and to indicate the state of the task (Planned, Started, Implemented, Ready for Test, and Completed). You can create new buckets and edit buckets at any time, and you can manually drag and drop tasks to and from buckets.

You can view your tasks by clicking the Board tab or the Charts tab. The Board tab shows tasks grouped into buckets and gives the details of each task. If a task is late, then the date is highlighted in red.

The Charts view gives a higher-level overview of the tasks within the Plan. This view breaks down tasks into the status of the tasks – not started, in progress, late, and completed – and also shows which team member(s) the tasks are assigned to.

Who gets Office 365 Planner?

Planner is available to any client who has one of the following Office 365 plans: Enterprise plans (E1, E3, E4, and E5, including government and not-for-profit plans), Education plans, Office 365 Business Essentials and Office 365 Business Premium.


In terms of Planner’s niche in project management software, it is targeted toward clients who need a lightweight task and project management app.

The chief advantage of Office 365 Planner is that it is part of the Microsoft Office 365 Suite, and so it offers the features of integration with email (Outlook) and document storage (SharePoint and OneDrive for Business). This means that businesses can access this project management tool at no extra cost to their Office 365 subscription.