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Recently I was asked by a customer about what to use to track personal and team tasks’ status. One may think that there is an easy solution when you use Office 365, but actually, the answer to this question is different every time.
It’s mainly due to technical limitations and a great number of features available. This article will save you some trouble and help you find the right task management tool.
I hope you will find it helpful. I must, however, include a disclaimer before you read any further! There are a lot of my opinions in this article, and with some of them, you might disagree 🙂
Today, there are a number of places where you can find a Tasks feature in the Microsoft landscape:
I can imagine you asking – what the hell! What should I use, can’t they just create one, good application?
I’ve always had the impression that there is no single vision for tasks at Microsoft. There was never a good, complete scenario, but let’s see what value we can get from what we have now.
Outlook is a starter scenario for many users. Most of Information Workers’ tasks come from e-mails. You can simply flag them to convert to tasks (well – this is not really true – flagging an email is different than creating a task. Contact us if you want to know more!. There are some standard task fields such as title, priority, status, etc. You can even set reminders, recurring tasks, or even assign them to another person!
Perfect scenario. Not 🙁
The biggest limitation was always the lack of integration with mobile clients (especially those by Microsoft). Even if you manage to sync your tasks to another device, not all of them will be included (for example, flagged emails). And when you assign a task to someone, you’ll only get the status information when they send it.
My recommendation for Outlook tasks:
Back in 2007, everyone was surprised by how quickly SharePoint usage grew. Platform flexibility and features such as tasks were some of the reasons. SharePoint task list is very feature-rich. It’s hard to mention all of them, but the main ones are:
I haven’t used SharePoint tasks for some time, and when I wrote the list above I thought: “wow, SharePoint tasks are not so bad”.
The main problem with older SharePoint features is usability. You get a ton of features, but in the end, many of them require a lot of clicks. This just makes adoption hard and discourages users. The views are not mobile-friendly, and there is no easy way of syncing or working on the task list on a mobile device.
When it comes to assigning a task to other users, remember that you can do it only for those who have accounts on SharePoint. You can also assign a task to a group, but it’s tricky to filter them.
In SharePoint 2013 there was a very nice feature – Work Management Service. It aggregated all of SharePoint, Exchange and Project Server tasks in one view. Tasks sent by workflows used to integrate with Outlook nicely.
Unfortunately, this feature was disabled. The biggest pain of SharePoint tasks is that Microsoft no longer invests in them and from a future usage perspective, this is a dead-end scenario.
My recommendation for SharePoint:
OneNote is a one-way journey. Once you start using it, there is no turning back. It’s also a component of many collaboration scenarios such as Team Site, Groups, Teams, Skype. At Predica we use OneNote for virtually every case.
When it comes to managing tasks there is a simple process. You can tag your notes with a “To Do” tag. It’s the simplest, easiest and quickest way of working on a task list.
You will probably ask if it’s possible to assign a OneNote task to a specific person. Yes, it is! This task will appear in that person’s Outlook task list. When they complete it in Outlook, the update will be synchronized with OneNote!
Now – this feature is really cool, but to be honest it didn’t really work for me. At our company level hardly anyone uses Outlook tasks, so I stopped doing it. Instead, I just use a simple table in OneNote with an Assigned To column.
My recommendation for OneNote tasks:
Planner is part of the Office 365 portfolio. It allows users to create modern, visually attractive plans. It has many features that competition such as Asana or Trello offers. If you have Office 365 subscription and your scenario is group collaboration, it should be your first choice.
Main Planner features are:
There are two features that I would like to see in Planner. The first one is Outlook integration. The second feature is more granular permissions. Now if you assign a person to a task, they get permissions to the whole group. This means access to all tasks, documents, notes, conversations, etc.
Microsoft invests and actively develops Planner so it’s possible that these features will appear in the near future. You can also vote or submit a feature request here.
My recommendation for Planner:
Microsoft bought Wunderlist in 2015. It came as a surprise to many people, especially considering that it was the leading task management app (just look at the App Store rating). The app and the whole service is very feature-rich and is offered in a freemium model.
This means you can start using it for free and you pay for additional “Pro” features. One of them is the ability to assign tasks without limitations.
The main Wunderlist features are similar to other applications:
The biggest strengths of Wunderlist are speed, ease of use and a very nice user interface. You can also use your Office 365 account to log into the application.
The main drawback is attachment storage – if you want to use it for business purposes, make sure it’s aligned with your company’s cloud strategy. The second one is lack of integration with OneDrive for Business. There’s also no integration with Outlook – it would be nice to have a plugin similar to the one Todoist offers.
My recommendation for Wunderlist:
What? Another task management application from Microsoft? Yeah…
To be honest I find it strange, that after Microsoft bought Wunderlist, they decided to create another application.
Right now To-Do features are very limited to:
I added information about To-Do as a curiosity. It was launched a couple of months ago and as you can see, it is at an early development stage.
My recommendation for Microsoft To-Do:
From the regular user’s perspective, using Microsoft Project or Project Server for managing tasks is a bit exotic. These are nice products but in my opinion, their usage is limited to managing projects, not tasks.
I will just leave you with the information that it’s possible to manage tasks with Project and you can create complicated relationships between them to have the whole project progress overview.
If you managed to read till the end – thank you! It means that the topic is really interesting to you. Contact us if you have any questions!
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