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Planner Task Dependencies and Task Ordering

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Highlighted
Jacques van der Hoven
Contributor

Something I'd like to add to Planner thinking is the concept of Task Dependencies. If this concept was added it would make ordering somewhat easier whereby it could order tasks in each bucket based on dependencies. Yes this would require some thinking in terms of manual re-ordering, but at least it would provide a somewhat better experience without having to manually re-order 50 tasks. 

 

Ordering is a major pain in Planner. I just created a plan with 42 tasks and 4 buckets (somewhat similar to Agile scrum boards). I created the tasks based on a proposal document from top to bottom. The first problem is that whilst you're working top to bottom in your proposal document, Planner adds the tasks in reverse order and provides no alternative method of adding a task to a specific position (Last, First, etc.). So for tasks 1 through 5 you add task 1 then 2 and so on, but Planner adds task 2 above 1, 3 above 2 and so on. 

 

With 40 tasks, what you're left with is having to shuffle the tasks around by dragging and dropping them one above the other. Painful! 

 

On top of that there are also random re-ordering issues which I posted about here

16 Replies

This is something similar to sorting of tasks. When I search for similar requests in uservoice I found these

https://planner.uservoice.com/search?filter=ideas&query=sort

 

 

 

The functionality you speak of is logical, but starts to head towards a project plan as opposed to task management.

You should look at the Task list in SharePoint as this gives you waterfall, ordering, etc. And you can open it in Microsoft Project if you like, or just use the Gantt chart view in the list.

 

Interesting view although what does that leave us with in terms of a business case for Planner? Yes you can manage tasks, but ordering is a nightmare at the moment because it lacks some fundamental logical features that even the most mundane of projects would require. I.e. Add task After, Add task Before. And if it's just a task manager, why add buckets, collaboration, charts, etc. all features that a regular task list in SharePoint don't offer which make Planner more appealing. 

 

Let's see where Microsoft takes us with Planner. 

Isn't this more suitable to be a checklist within one overall task that multiple tasks ? I use tasks to represent distinct, separable pieces of work that move through a series of buckets on their way to completion, seems to work fine.
If you want Prince2 style of project management then use MS Project, if you want something more SCRUM-based then use Planner.
If you want something that is more waterfall-based, with dependencies and those kind of things from traditional project management - then use the Tasks list as I suggested as it will give you that functionality, or use Project Online.
The business case for Planner is about task management. I pitch it as both individual and team/group-based task tracking, not so much projects. While we can order tasks (simply dragging into different positions) we can simulate an order - it's not intended for that purpose.
Project management varies from person to person. You shouldn't try to make the tool fit your PM style - find the more suitable tool.

@Loryan Strant - Have a look at the user voice ideas at https://planner.uservoice.com/search?filter=ideas&query=sort that was posted by @Santhosh Balakrishnan, you'll notice that a lot of people are trying to make the tool fit their needs. I guess this is because people are enthusiastic about the product but it doesn't quite match their traditional methodology. 

 

Planner has a far more visually impactful UI and adds deeper levels of collaboration out-of-the-box which is what makes it appealing, but there are many flaws. 

 

  1. Random reordering - e.g. a short while back if you changed the group by value between buckets, assigned to, etc. then back to buckets again the order that you had specified by dragging and dropping gets lost. I just checked this now and it seems to have been resolved. But this is what prompted this line of thinking in terms of dependencies. 
  2. Labels go missing - yesterday all my labels had gone missing, today they're back again
  3. If you delete the conversation in Outlook it permanently breaks the Comments section for that particular task in Planner. (I've posted about this one too)
  4. If you have 50 tasks and you want to add a task at position 45, you can't, you have to add it at position 1 and then drag it all the way down. Note: The positioning here has nothing to do with waterfall or dependencies but might be solely for the purpose of aesthetics, readability. i.e. You have two related scrum style stories that would like to locate close to one and other in the first bucket. 

Overall I'm still enthusiastic about the product especially in terms of collaboration, but when you're an Microsoft partner encouraging the use of Office 365 you're often left having to explain these evolutionary flaws to customers who just want a product that works. 

I get your point, but just because users want to change the product doesn't mean it's the right thing for it.
I can take my Nissan Pathfinder offroad, but it's not built for extreme four-wheel-driving up a mountain, regardless what modifications I make to it or ask Nissan to change it.
Microsoft provides three different solutions for project and task management (four if you include Tasks in Outlook, but we won't).
If people want waterfall-style project management then they should use the product that does it best for their requirements. :)

One might might not be able to take a Nissan Pathfinder on an extreme four-wheel-driving adventure up a mountain but it can be used for driving on the road; for daily tasks as well as having the flexibility to take on less extreme off-road adventures - 90% of the user needs?

It provides a lot of flexibility in the one vehicle, otherwise maybe 4 or 5 different vehicles are needed, and this saves a lot of money.

 

I appreciate that each tool has its place but the end result is that people are having to manually integrate the data from each tool. Why can't we use the computer systems to do this for us, can we not create a tool that meets 90% of a users needs?

 

I like the interface that Planner has - it is easy to use without having to spend ages learing how to use it. Good for mear mortals.

So if I had a choice I would use this interface to manage a task list in Sharepoint as well as any other task list.

I agree with your point, if you allowed dependancies it would get complicated and people would try and build plans within it better suited to msproject.  However I dont think it would be a big deal to allow decent sorting and some sort of linking or cross referring of tasks.  It'm also hoping that recurring tasks can be built in. Recurrences are no problem for outlook so why not this. I was a bit disappointed with planner when i first saw it demonstrated as it came across as a half hearted application a bit like some of the google tools that appear to do the job but in practice turn out out not to be usefull because of all the little things they dont do.

I would like to see some way of organising the tasks to allow a team manger to coordinate a team.

 

I saw a link on another discussion (I'm impatient) to this site: https://teamweek.com/

This demos the sort of feature I would like to see.

Would Teams not be better suited to your needs?

Unfortunately Teams does not give me the task management.

I completely agree with your first point - checklists are great for an individual task but do not relate dependent tasks. Are peeps getting around this limitation with say the project online integration?
Other than that the next missing feature is custom fields for say project or budget codes.
I have put my plan in a spreadsheet before I am convinced that Planner is the ultimate destination.

There is a work around to do this, copy the last task (three small dots on the task) and change the name as the new task and copy the task. This task will be created below the previous one. Change the dates.

@buyerjkd  It doesn't necessarily have to get complicated.  It depends what you use the dependancy for.

 

For me, I would like to be prevented from marking a Task as started if it is dependant on another Task being finished.  Would be great if it came up with a dialog box saying 'Sorry, you cannot start this task until xxxxxxx is completed'.  I don't think that would complicate things at all.

 

Just my thoughts on it...  :)

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