Keep Your Team Engaged & Productive From Afar - Part 2
Welcome to part two of this blog series where we show you ways to make the most of your Microsoft 365 tools as a people manager. In part one, we covered tips for managing calendars, meetings and files. Today’s blog is all about task management and automation – how to proactively manage your own and keep a pulse on your team’s work.
With so many of us working from home, it can feel overwhelming to keep our team on track without resorting to micromanaging. Anyone who has had a micromanaging boss knows how demotivating it is, and anyone who’s used this approach has seen their workday burned up before they got to their own to do list.
At Pivotal, we use all the apps and features to find the right use cases; we create, recreate and shift as we run into the limits of each tool. Ultimately, it helps us find the right tools for our jobs, but it also allows us to share with you everything we learn.
So, let’s take a look at some apps and techniques that can make it all a little easier to create, track and automate these tasks and reminders.
First up is the Planner app, which can be, but doesn’t have to be, used within Microsoft Teams, has a mobile app and can be integrated into the To Do app, more on that in the next section. Planner should not be confused as a true project management tool, this app shines at capturing every day operational tasks, weekly tasks, and quarterly goals.
What it can do:
This is not an exhaustive list, but it is some of the more helpful features.
What it can’t do (today):
Keep on reading to learn about integrations and how to add your own automation.
We know, we know, yet another task tracking app and we’re already using Outlook, OneNote, Planner, Trello, etc. However, this app is getting better all the time AND it integrates with Outlook and Planner. Encourage your team to at least give this app a try. To Do is available in the browser from https://office.com, as a Windows 10 app and as a mobile app.
What it can do:
Again, not an exhaustive list, but it is some of the features we really appreciate.
What it can’t do (today):
Now, let’s kick this up a notch and create some automation.
If you haven’t tried the Power Automate app in Microsoft 365, consider yourself warned, you may lose hours exploring the options and testing the templates. Partly because there are A LOT of options and partly because it’s fun and empowering to create your own workflows.
Some words of caution: flows are only ‘free’ (included in M365 licensing) if all automation stays within the basic Microsoft 365 box: Exchange, Planner, Teams, SharePoint, etc., or other free applications such as google calendars and Trello.
Many of the templates are a few clicks away from being ready to go. Here are a few that can be very helpful when managing a team.
Post a daily message to Microsoft Teams with Planner tasks due tomorrow:
Even though the name of the template contains the word ‘daily,’ you are in control of the frequency. From seconds to months, you get to decide how often this flow should run.
For this one, select the frequency, the Planner, the Team and the Channel. You can also edit the message that gets posted.
Create a task in Planner when a new email arrives in a shared mailbox:
If your team has to monitor a shared inbox, this can help ensure nothing falls through the cracks. Select the inbox, define a due date (see ‘Get future time’ in image below), the Planner and Bucket and this is ready to track emails for you.
Report current location and activity:
If your team is always on the road, provide them a mobile button for easy check ins. Upon pressing the button, location and a short activity description will get logged to a SharePoint list. Before using this template to create your own flow, you’ll need to create a SharePoint list with the following fields: Title, Time, Location, and Activity.
Out of the box, it provides a field for activity. Location is provided via GPS on the mobile device. If you want to add more input fields, click + Add an input and be sure to go back to your SharePoint list and add a corresponding field there.
Select your SharePoint Site and list and if you’ve added extra inputs and SharePoint columns, click ‘Show advanced options’ to map the two fields together.
The steps for this bit of automation are:
Power Automate flows do not have to be built from templates, but the templates can be great time savers as well as learning devices as you’re getting started.
If you’re interested in learning more and having any automation created for you, let us know!
So, that’s it for this month. Planner, To Do and Power Automate can come together nicely to help save a bit of your time and sanity. Next month, it will be all about helping your team upskill from afar.
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