There are a lot of Professional Services Automation (PSA) tools out there, and a lot of them do a very good job for what your service delivery needs are. A common drawback that a lot of full-blown PSA’s have is the ability to track the low-level, menial tasks that when managed well, can make a huge difference in your service delivery to your customer. Microsoft Planner is a tool that can help fill the void of managing tasks and action items quite nicely. Here are some tips and tricks to using it effectively in your organization.
Organizing Tasks, Risks & Issues
Planner does a good job in letting you manage and collaborate on tasks and action items. There’s also the ability, with a little tweaking to let it effectively manage and track your issues and risks. Planner provides the ability to set up to six configurable tags per project. You can use those tags to categorize your items as tasks, risks or issues. The value of doing this is it allows you to filter your list based on those specific tags so that when you are wanting to get a view of your risk and issue profile for your project, it’s a simple mouse-click away.
Use for Status Meetings
No tool is effective if your team doesn’t buy into it. One way to subtly get the tool in front of them is to use it during status meetings. When reviewing outstanding work, it has a very nice board-style view that shows tasks in a number of different views. You can quickly and easily run through the list of current items that your team is working on during the meeting, make updates online as you go through them and then your team immediately has the most up to date information. A by-product of continually using Planner in your status meetings is to have your team members become more familiar with the tool and begin to use it themselves, increasing the level of collaboration and communication within your team.
Supplement your Plan, Don’t Replace it
Planner is not a PSA – let’s get that out of the way right now. It does provide a nice, tactical, boots-on-the-ground task experience for yourself and your team. A lot of PSA’s don’t effectively manage minuscule tasks (such as meeting action items) in an effective way which is where Planner comes in. A process that I like to follow is review your broad-strokes project plan on a regular basis (ex. weekly) and see what higher-level tasks are currently being worked on and determine if/how those tasks should be broken out into more miniscule tasks (or even checklist items) and assign those tasks to your team members accordingly. This method is also a great way to provide content for your weekly status reports in the “What did we do last week/this week” sections.
While limited to task management, Planner does provide a simple, intuitive interface that allows you and your team to collaborate on progress of immediate tasks. It will never replace a full blown PSA system but is certainly a valuable addition where your PSA falls short on the low level task management.