Administrators can now test Office 365 Planner, a new cloud-based team collaboration offering from Microsoft, the company announced this week.
Microsoft began switching on the new feature for organizations enrolled in the Office 365 First Release early access program on Dec. 14. An email will alert administrators when Planner is enabled on their Office 365 accounts.
The software is part of Office 365's ongoing evolution from a PC-based productivity software suite to a cloud-enabled collaboration platform. "Planner makes it easy for your team to create plans, organize and assign work, share files, chat about what everyone is working on and get updates on progress," said the Office 365 Planner team in a Dec. 14 announcement.
Planner's interface organizes a project's content into boards and cards. "Every Card can have documents (or pictures) attached that automatically get rich image previews, so it is easy to understand what the Card is about at a glance," explained Howard Crow, principal group program manager on the Planner Engineering team, during the Sept. 22 debut of the new software. "In addition, Cards can be organized on the Board into customizable columns called Buckets, which can be prioritized and tagged with colored labels."
Sharing Office content (Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents) is done by attaching a file to a Card. Attached files are saved to a SharePoint Online document library for offline editing. On the project-management front, a smattering of visualizations allows managers to chart the progress of their teams' efforts.
"The Hub view lets you track overall progress across all plans, while the 'My tasks' view lets you filter down to see just what you need to do across every plan," stated Crow. "In addition, the 'Charts' view includes interactive charts for visualizing people's progress against deadlines."
In an online FAQ, Microsoft detailed how Planner integrates with the collaboration-focused Office 365 Groups functionality.
"Office 365 Groups is a foundational service that allows individuals to easily create public or private groups. Each new plan created in Planner automatically creates a new Office 365 Group. Also, every pre-existing Office 365 Group will get an associated plan," stated the company. Conversations taking place over Planner can be viewed in Outlook 2016, Outlook Groups mobile apps and Outlook on the Web.
Naturally, Office Planner is backed by Microsoft's secure, globe-spanning cloud infrastructure.
"Technical features such as multiple redundant backups, virtually instantaneous recovery and HIPAA, FISMA, ISO27001 and EU Model compliance ensure that your data is safe, secure and always available," assured the software giant. "To make certain everyone has fast access to Planner, the service is deployed in multiple datacenters around the globe, so everyone has their work close at hand."
Microsoft plans on completing the Office 354 Planner rollout to First Release customers over the course of the next several weeks. Office 365 commercial and education customers can expect Planner to be made generally available sometime in 2016, said Microsoft.