PORTFOLIO MANAGEMENT AND REPORTING FOR MICROSOFT OFFICE 365 PLANNER: HOW-TO GUIDE
Modern workforce implies that everyone’s job is fast-paced and a little overwhelming. Today, everyone has to crosslink their job not only with teammates but also with multiple levels of management and stakeholders as well as keep in touch all the time. To keep track of work, all of us need some sort of task management system. As a vendor, we get tons of free R&D by simply communicating with our clients – different teams across the industry map. Most frequent requests concern the cross-functional tasks, shared by multiple team members.
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Digitize your project management efforts immediately!
Millions of workers across the globe still use Excel spreadsheets for project management, spending hours on tasks that take minutes with other solutions. “Why do people still use Microsoft Excel for project management?” is one of the more frequent questions you’ll find online in conjunction with PPM tools research. Old school task management has the same problem now as it had ten years ago – too many inputs to keep track of. Only a real savant can keep track of all things at once. For an average person in 2018, keeping track of the entire project at once with the help of Excel spreadsheets is like having a list on sticky notes. Things get lost. Task stay undone. Schedules break and don’t even start with the budget.
So why do people still risk it all with Excel? The simple answer is that most people are used to it. This familiarity with Excel spreadsheets makes it the most popular and, at the same time, the most dangerous ppm tool there is. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with it. Excel is still the best tool for number crunching. However, it wasn’t designed for project management in the first place. Therefore, using Excel spreadsheets for tracking your project bid and budget as well as managing the overall project is counterproductive. Use it where it makes sense.
After Excel, the attempts to digitize your timeframes and budgets go straight to Trello and Wunderlist. These are wonderful tools on a scale of 5 to 10 employees and 3 to 5 projects simultaneously. But again, with these solutions, you can’t communicate well with your team, even the five of them. Before migrating to Office 365, people usually go with (or rather settle for) OneNote or Wrike – as an ad hoc task manager. What awaits you and your team in these cases are humongous tables with lots of columns, checkboxes, and hyperlinks. New and new tabs for specific projects or people, more and more lists, complicated color-coding, and with tags it goes straight to “ridiculous” in one month. Tasks, unfortunately, still get lost or misinterpreted.
Project management in the digital age: four ways you can make it smarter
When your team is distributed not just across an open space, but across the country, or even the globe, you have many simultaneous projects and deliverables in progress at any given time, so you have to digitize. By choosing the appropriate tool for the job, like Microsoft Planner, with the ability to attach and share any file (Excel included), you can keep your budget spreadsheet in context with your timetables while getting the promise of the highest level of quality and an intuitive, easy-to-use interface. More so, Planner provides four main functionalities that perfect project management.
Microsoft Office 365 Planner is “one shot, one hit” kind of shop. Once you have your Plan up – that’s it. You’ll never need multiple tabs ever again. You get to see all the data in one place. Here’s what it looks like:
1. Check email, Teams channels, and Groups for new assignments.
2. Add those tasks to Planner with a description.
3. If you’re in a position to distribute tasks, you’ll assign them; otherwise, you can leave them unassigned until the team can sync up.
4. You can create sub-steps or deliverables required for the task and use the checklist in the Planner card to make an itemized list.
5. By keeping all the documents in SharePoint, you can take the links sent to you and add them to the task (In case someone sends an attachment, you can drop it into the appropriate SharePoint location and create a link.).
6. Once you’ve created a task in Planner, you can check the progress and respond to the originating email.
7. In case more than one person will be working on a task, Microsoft has an option of assigning tasks to multiple people. You don’t have to duplicate tasks anymore.
Flexible Categorization, Communication, and Workload Assessment
Planner’s buckets are a flexible way to categorize your tasks. You can create as many buckets as you want, with any name you want, and add tasks to them with a simple drag and drop. Creating buckets in Planner helps users prioritize and manage their work.
Communicating about tasks with your team can sometimes be a tricky proposition. Planner has solved it with a comment section on every task card and team integration. When you leave a comment there, you begin a conversation in your group’s mailbox, which is broadcasted to everyone in the group.
Planner also gives some functionality you don’t realize you need until you try it: namely, a way to see if any of your team members are overloaded. Planner provides soft analytics to help users balance workloads and monitor productivity. It is useful not only for project managers and team leads to show off a team’s productivity to the bosses but for the teammates to understand the workload spread.
The most important part is that by simply looking at the Charts overview in Planner, anyone can quickly assess what is going on with the whole team and the whole project, who has a lot going on, who doesn’t, and if any projects are late or pushing the limit. By keeping track of the “big picture” on any project, you can not only identify issues and reprioritize but foresee and prevent them from occurring in the first place.
You’ve cracked the project management code? It’s about time to level up to portfolio management.
Portfolio management is the next step in the evolution of any business. When you’ve finally got every team and project up and running, there’s space to grow – the number of clients, the number of employees, and even the number of teams. Subsequently, there’s room to grow the number of products, services, and as a result – the number of projects to monitor and manage. Most definitely, the decision to grow depends on your vision and “master plan.” But more often than not, people decide to grow rather than stay the same. The trick here is to make changes in your toolbox as you do so. When you need to track not just several projects, but progress on several project groups. For example, you have a chain of restaurants or shops, and you have simultaneous openings of new venues. This means you have to manage multiple projects at different stages of completion with separate teams involved. And in each group, you’ve got 10-15 projects. This is when portfolio management tools come in handy. They are specifically designed for you to see the big picture like “How’s our marketing doing?” with a way to get into the details of each of them if needed.
What does an ideal PPM solution have?
Having had vast experience working with analog and on-premises tools, we’ve gained insight into what a project manager needs from a task management system:
- “Home-based data” – a single, secure and easy to reach place where you can to see everything at once. You wouldn’t need it if you like drilling down into every single item, like you’re looking for oil, to get to the point. Otherwise, you wouldn’t mind having all your ducks in a row in the same place.
- Flexible Categorization – a way to quickly reprioritize tasks, change their category or status, and tag them with metadata.
- Communication – there are times when all the tags and statuses aren’t enough. That’s why you want to leave a comment for yourself or your colleagues, like “Was this doc sent back for review?” “When?” “By whom?”
- Workload assessment – You need to understand the team’s workload; your boss needs to assess your workload and budget. Using Planner in conjunction with Teams can get your timetable and workload set up easy as pie. You get things done and your reporting becomes flexible, up-to-date, and employee-friendly.
In cases when your business is moving toward progress (you got yourself Planner when you needed it, didn’t you?), the logical thing to do is to sync the evolution of business with the evolution of technical capabilities to support your growth. That is just a polite way to say that if you need to manage the tenth of groups of projects, Planner won’t do anymore. A logical continuation for your equipment strategy would be tools that are designed for more projects in the same chart or dashboard. And luck is on our side, because we don’t have to give up the solutions we’ve learned to use, gotten used to, and almost love by the time they’re no longer enough. For example, we still can use Excel spreadsheets to integrate the data from Planner into Project Online.
And there is more than one ergonomic solution for incorporating all your toolbox items into one concise picture. Let’s say you’ve worked with JIRA, VSTS, SharePoint, ServiceNow, and Salesforce, but not Planner. The reality of modern organizations is the use of multiple tools for portfolio management, project management, and work management. Top management and PMOs are facing the great challenge of getting a view of the full picture of the projects instantly, without manual data extraction and aggregation. That’s when FluentPro’s Integration Hub comes in handy. This platform is specifically created to ease the pain of connecting portfolio, project, and work management tools into one wholesome and continuous data stream. And if you started with Microsoft Planner and progressed to Project Online, you still can get all the pieces together. No matter what you’ve used in conjunction with your Office 365 solutions – Planner, Groups, SharePoint, Dynamics 365 PSA, VSTS, JIRA, CA Agile Central, ServiceNow, or Salesforce, Integration Hub will take care of your portfolio management and reporting.
In case you are not yet ready for hub-solutions based in the Cloud, FluentPro also offers a suite called PPM Express. It is a solution set for project, program, and portfolio management. It is unique in giving teams the freedom to use tools they find most effective for their job. PPM Express connects to those tools, aggregates information, and extends it with easy status management, cost management, resource management, and prioritization features. It is designed to be compatible with Planner and JIRA and enables you to have a set of over 20 reports and dashboards for project and portfolio reporting. If you grow beyond the geographical borderlines, you can go Cloud-based and intertwine all the processes with Microsoft Project Online. The best news for today is that you can choose between several equally high-functioning solutions to get all the data synced and easy to manage as well as transfer between systems automatically. For example, new projects are created in Planner; you can then get the progress and actuals flow back to Project Online. Make it easy for your teams with tools that integrate all stats into one data stream and have collaboration features like file sharing, teamwork, and video calls.