The Confusion of Office 365 Task Management and how I would like to see it changed

Ben Steginkoffice3650 Comments

To-Do

Don’t get my wrong, I love Office 365, I use it every day and am in it every day working with clients. There are a TON of really good things about the product, a few things that make you scratch your head, and then when that just makes you say, what the heck is Microsoft thinking? Or maybe they just aren’t thinking at all…One such aspect is Office 365 Task Management

Task Management “Apps”

Let’s start by just listing all the Microsoft/Office 365 Projects that you can store tasks in:

And, how much integration is there between them? Pretty much, none. I get it, Wunderlist will eventually go away with To-Do is fully functional, but seriously, another product?!?!

Let’s review them a little bit and what I would like to see:

Planner

I actually really like this one, with a few updates around planner, it could be a solid tool, the biggest downside is that is has no mobile app. There also isn’t an Add-In for outlook, this would be really nice to quickly create tasks from emails…of all of them, this has the most potential.

Project

This one I almost didn’t put in the list as it is it’s on project and geared for project management, not really task management. But, ever project has tasks, so this is yet another place to store tasks. If you are using Project and Project online, it would be really nice to see tasks roll up into planner. Let’s turn planner into that central location for all your tasks.

Outlook

People live in Outlook, emails and tasks go hand in hand. Tasks were in outlook long before any of the other projects came around (I believe). I can be convinced that tasks should stay in Outlook. Maybe we don’t even need an add-in for planner in Outlook, rather, we just flag an email as an Outlook tasks and those Outlook tasks sync up to Planner. What a novel idea…I can go to planner to view and organize all my tasks 🙂

Wunderlist

This was a Microsoft acquisition over a year ago. Since then, nothing that helps integrate it with the Microsoft ecosystem. You still can’t even attach files to a task in Wunderlist from any of the Microsoft products, but you can from Dropbox. This will eventually go away as it appears Microsoft simply acquired them for the developers and the code base. It will stick around for a while yet, but I don’t expect anything great from it. My guess is it’s just in maintenance mode.

OneNote

Tasks here make perfect sense. You are taking notes in your meeting, a task comes from the meeting and you want to create a task while you’re taking your meeting notes. But…like all the other products, it’s now stuck there, there is not synchronization of that task up to any other system. As with the others, why not sync it to Planner? Some third party companies such as TaskClone have attempted to do this by looking for Tasks in OneNote and let you choose which task management app you want to sync the task to, including Wunderlist. If a third party can do this, why not Microsoft?

SharePoint

Tasks in SharePoint were around long before planner. These will have to stay around for a while for on-premises SharePoint users, but in Office 365/SharePoint Online, I would love to see them go away. If people want a task list on a team site, why not just create a Planner Plan and surface it via an app part in SharePoint? On-Premises, give us the option to sync a SharePoint task list with an app…hm….Wunderlist..To-Do? Again, a third party company, Task In a Box has implemented this already. At least it gives us a central location to view tasks across all our SharePoint lists.

Cortana

This is more Personal task management, but it does have some hooks into Office 365. This should just be synced with either your Personal Microsoft account or your Office 365 account from a task perspective.

To-Do

This will replace Wunderlist…eventually, as per the announcement today from Microsoft. What it is right now though, is just a preview of yet another task management app that has the lest amount of functionality of any of the apps mentioned above. Currently you can:

  • Add a task
  • Add a due date
  • Add notesSet a reminder
  • Close the tasks

That’s it….I get that it is supposed to sync with Outlook tasks, but I’ve already seen rumors of that not working well. I guess that does fill a gap of Outlook tasks on mobile devices, but I don’t feel like this is what everyone is clamoring for.

I get that maybe to re-write Wunderlist for what I always hoped it would become was too much work so they had to start from scratch. But rather than start with what is currently in To-Do, why not start with something that is missing…a mobile app for Planner, especially since this is build on Office 365 (which, by thy way, To-Do doesn’t work yet with an Office 365 account, just a personal account…HUH?). This is just adding to the confusion of where do I store my tasks and what is Microsoft’s plan for task management.

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Conclusion

Now that I’m done with my rand, I’m not going to go before outline what I would love to see if I could define the task management road map for Office 365:

  1. Create To-Do as a front end App for planner, this causes no confusion and fills a current gap
  2. Create the ability for Outlook to sync Outlook tasks with Planner. This may create two desktop apps, to-do and Outlook as Planner apps, but at least the same tasks would be in both.
  3. Add functionality in To-Do to add a SharePoint task list to sync with, focused primarily at On-Prem SharePoint. Each task list shows up as a different list in To-Do. Think Tasks lists are to To-Do as Document Libraries are to OneDrive.
  4. Develop the functionality so a OneDrive notebook in an Office 365 Group or Team will sync anything flagged as a task to the Planner Plan associated with said Group or Team. As you take notes about meetings, those tasks are then surfaced in Planner and ultimately synced to Outlook and To-Do.
  5. Make sure that for those people using Microsoft Project, those tasks get synced into Planner as well, and again, in turn will be synced to the To-Do app and Outlook
  6. FINALLY, bring in the Wunderlist functionality for non-business users and people that want personal tasks and business tasks all combined. People using Wunderlist today for personal/family tasks don’t care about bullet points 1 – 5. Those all fill gaps that exist for business users. When you bring in the Wunderlist functionality you already have a solid app from going through the steps above. Maybe as part of this you add a few new features like allowing users to attach files from Personal OneDrive as well, and even choosing OneNote notebooks in their Personal OneDrive that they want to sync tasks out of into To-Do. You can still bring in the sync functionality running in the background for personal users as well so you can have family tasks list in To-Do as well, just like you do today. Even add both a Personal MS account as well as a Business Account (again, think Personal OneDrive and OneDrive for Business as a comparison).

Yes, this is a bit of rant, but also a bit of my wish list. I also realize it’s a lot easier for me to type out this road map than to actually build all of that. I’m sure you can poke holes in my road map as well and problem with that approach. But at least to me, the above fills a lot of gaps that exist today, mainly a single central task management system that can be used in several ways to meet each individual’s need. I’m still hoping To-Do goes in the direction outlined above, just in a seemingly confusing and round about way. I guess time will tell…let me know your thoughts and wishes around task management in Office 365 in the comments, would love to hear what others are thinking as well.