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Office 365 Planner, a simple and highly visual way to organize teamwork

Alongside the official release of the long-awaited Office 2016, Microsoft is also shaking things up with the release of a whole new product: Office 365 Planner.

Planner is a web app integrated into the Office 365 platform that offers organizations a highly visual way to organize teamwork. It makes it easy for the organization to create new plans, organize and assign tasks, share files, discuss, and easily receive and disperse updates.

Planner is highly versatile and can be used for all sorts of projects to varying degrees of precision. It can be used to tightly manage a marketing event, for example. It can be used for something much looser, like gathering a team together to brainstorm new product ideas.

The magic behind Planner is that it organizes the team’s work visually.

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It achieves this using concepts called “Boards” and “Cards“.

Each plan has its own Board, which can be metaphorically analogous to a whiteboard or corkboard that has all of the project/plan/assignment’s pertinent details attached to it. Within every board, each work item or task is delineated by a Card.

Here’s where things get very interesting. A Card can hold all sorts of vital information, including due dates, attachments, categories, and even conversations. Team members can be assigned to various Cards. Once assigned, they receive updates about the changing circumstances of that card in the form of email notifications. Because Planner is already integrated into Office 365, all the infrastructure for emailing, conversation updates, and notification handling is already in place, and is done automatically by the organization’s Office 365 system.

Planner also gives broader, higher level views of all the Boards through the Hub view, which automatically generates efficient and clear visuals and charts that accurately measure the progress of all the Cards in play. This makes it very quick and easy to see in one glance how progress is coming for the entire Board.

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Naturally, Planner also makes it easy on the individual as well, as alongside the Hub view Planner will show a team member all of his/her tasks related to the context of Cards he/she’s been assigned to, such as due dates, notifications, progress, and more.

Planner’s Office 365 integration means that Planner conversations within Cards are available through team members’ respective Outlook 2016, Outlook on the Web, and Outlook Groups Mobile Apps.

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Planner also makes file sharing and collaboration very efficient. Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents can be attached to Cards and edited collaboratively, in tune with the theme of collaboration in Office 2016.

One really cutting edge feature is OneNote integration. Every plan has a OneNote notebook attached, making it trivially easy for team members to share, record, and express ideas with each other very easily. Imagine the possibilities created by hand-drawing notes on a Surface, and having them shared instantly across the entire organization. Such would be immeasurably valuable for a product design organization, which may heavily rely on visual design drawings for effective collaboration.

Finally, Microsoft is pulling all the stops to ensure Planner is the perfect fit for every enterprise organization. Planner features multiple redundant backups, virtually instantaneous recovery and HIPAA, FISMA, ISO27001, and EU Model compliance for world class data security and availability.

So when will it be available?

Office 365 Planner preview will be shown off first for Office 365 First Release customers starting Q4 2015. It remains to be seen when Planner will be available to all Office 365 organization customers.

It should also be noted that Planner is currently planned to be available primarily for Office 365 Enterprise and Education customers. Planner may be included in other Office 365 plans, but Microsoft will reveal that information at a later date.

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Would you or your organization be interested in using Office 365 Planner?