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When it comes to task management in Office 365 and SharePoint Online, you have three choices:

  1. Microsoft To-Do
  2. SharePoint Task lists
  3. Microsoft Planner

Which you use really depends on your requirements and how many people you are collaborating with.  Microsoft To-Do is targeted purely for personal task management so we will focus our efforts today on how we can move away from outdated SharePoint tasks to Microsoft Planner.

SharePoint Task list

What is Planner?

Microsoft Planner

Microsoft Planner is the new kanban-style task management application provided by Microsoft as part of Office 365.  It is all web-based, responsive and mobile-friendly along with a dedicated mobile app.  It works great when you need group-based task collaboration and don’t need lots of custom metadata fields.

Microsoft Planner Charts

How Could the Parts Translate?

First let me be clear that there is no official migration mechanism to take an existing SharePoint Online task list and migrate it to Planner.  But let’s walk through how the different features potentially translate from one to the other for effective task management.  Here is a quick summary of how things will translate.  This is not the only way to do it, but this is a good starting point:

Mapping SharePoint Task Lists to Microsoft Planner

The Task List

Both the SharePoint site itself containing the task list and the task list itself would become a Plan in Planner which is contained inside an Office 365 Group.  There is one Plan per Office 365 group, if you create a new plan it will create a new Office 365 group.

Task List Views

Like any SharePoint list or library, you can create and utilize views to customize what parts of the data you want to see.  In Planner, it’s not as flexible as a SharePoint view but you can use the Filter and Group By options:

Microsoft Planner Filter and Group By options

There is also a “My tasks” view available via the left navigation menu that will show all tasks assigned to you across all plans:

Microsoft Planner My tasks view

Parent Tasks

In a SharePoint task list, tasks can be all at one level, or they can be in a parent-child. 

SharePoint parent task

If there are no child tasks, then a SharePoint task is a Planner task.  But, if there are parent-child tasks, you could utilize a Planner Bucket to organize the child tasks.

Microsoft Planner Buckets

Child Tasks

Following on the above, the child task then becomes the actual task in Planner.

Microsoft Planner Task

Each task has the core metadata built-in like Start and End Dates, Assigned To, Title, Description, tracking of Comments and activity, holding attachments and tracking checklist items.  Also like in a SharePoint task list, you can complete a task with a single click of the checkmark icon on the task.

Complete a Microsoft Planner task

3rd-Level Tasks

3rd-level SharePoint Task

This is what I mean by a 3rd-level task.  You could just create additional peer tasks in Planner, but a task in Planner can have subtasks called Checklist items. 

Microsoft Planner checklist items

Custom Task Metadata

One area where as of this writing (September 2018 and subject to change) Microsoft Planner doesn’t support adding custom metadata fields to a task.  You have to stay within the boundaries of what they give you.  So how can you tweak this? 

  • You could use Buckets like a “Category” column
  • Utilize Labels to group and categorize tasks in different ways

Labels are the different-colored tabs on the right side of a task:

Microsoft Planner tabs

These tabs also show in the board-listing of tasks:

Microsoft Planner tabs

Project Summary Web Part

Project Summary web part

The Project Summary web part is a classic web part that you can add to a classic page to aggregate and summarize tasks from multiple task lists.

In Microsoft Planner, there is no direct equivalent but you can use the Planner Hub to get a list of all your Plans, and possibly the My tasks view I mentioned earlier to get your tasks assigned to you from all Plans.

Reminders

In a SharePoint task list, you can use the built-in alerts to get notifications or write a custom workflow to get notifications. 

In Microsoft Planner, right out of the gate they provide some basic email notifications based on due dates of your tasks:

Microsoft Planner Email Notification

By default, you will get emails from Planner:

    • 7 days late

    • Due yesterday

    • Due today

    • Due tomorrow

    • Due in 7 days

You can read more about email notifications from Planner from Microsoft here.  You can’t customize these but you can create custom ones with Microsoft Flow.  There are now baked-in actions in Flow to be able to interact with Planner and accomplish custom email notifications.

Microsoft Planner Actions in Microsoft Flow

I hope this informed you on how you can move from a SharePoint task list and use the power of Microsoft Planner to achieve your task management goals.  If you have any questions or need help with Office 365, Planner or Flow reach out to us!