Bad Weather? How to protect your IT equipment

Given the recent spate of storm events in Northland and NZ wide, and weather experts saying we’re going to get more in the future, now is the time to check your IT gear is protected.

New research from NIWA (National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research) has shown that extreme events have occurred four to five times more frequently in the last decade.

Many IT technicians had call-outs from clients after the recent storms. Thunderstorms can literally fry electronics, and this causes not just replacement cost, but also work disruption and even possibly data loss. 

Many technicians carry surge protectors in their cars, so that whenever they are working, they can ensure that sensitive IT equipment is at least surge protected. But for clients we see less often, or who are not on a managed service agreement, it’s easy for IT devices to not be surge protected. Your staff, cleaners or others will sometimes move plugs about. Be aware that this does matter.

Now is a good time to have a look at your computer equipment, or ask our team to do it for you next time they are onsite.

Here are our top tips to protect your IT – how do you stack up?

Surge protectors

A surge protector guards against the damage that sudden power surges can cause.

  • It’s recommended for almost any piece of IT hardware plugged into a power outlet.
  • It will help protect against power spikes which can sometimes happen, especially if the power suddenly goes off. This happens more often than you might think; for example, your local lines company may be doing maintenance or upgrades to their system and will turn the power off for a period overnight.
  • The surge protectors can protect against more distant lightning strikes but will not provide protection from a close or direct strike.
  • Surge protectors can be built into power boards, so several devices can be plugged into them.
  • Do NOT plug anything other than IT equipment into surge protectors / surge protected power boards. We have seen heaters plugged in to surge protectors! These types of devices can fry your electronics. Make sure non-IT gear uses a separate power point.

Things that people often forget to surge protect

  • The Optical Network Terminal (ONT) that brings your fibre internet into your premises. The ONT is the little box that your provider installs. If the ONT blows will have no fibre Internet until they replace it.
  • Network gear in the cupboard, or wherever it is located at your place – routers, powered network switches, etc. If the network gear blows up, you will lose the network around your premises.
  • Phones – while they are not as mission-critical as your ONT and network gear, it’s still annoying when they get fried.

UPS or Uninterruptible Power Supply

An uninterruptible power supply (UPS) is an electrical apparatus that provides emergency power when the mains power fails.

  • Critical pieces of IT hardware, such as servers, key computers and network storage devices, should normally have a UPS between them and the wall power supply
  • The UPS does more than a simple surge protector, but they do also provide some surge protection.
  • This article does not cover UPS devices, but do make sure that they are regularly checked and batteries replaced.

Unplug IT from the wall

  • This can be difficult to achieve as computer equipment is often in use. If you are concerned enough about an approaching storm, then consider properly turning it off and then physically removing the plug from the wall.
  • If in any doubt – ALWAYS check with @Computer first, as some IT equipment should not be unplugged.

Last thoughts

  • If the surge protector has experienced a significant power surge, or a lightning strike, it may have done its job and no longer work. Replace it. Often they will have a little light which indicates they are working, so if the light goes out – probably time to replace.
  • Don’t use the very cheapest devices and expect them to protect you.

In summary

Thunderstorms and lightning are real threats to IT and can cause not just cost, but also disruptions to your business. Surge protectors can last for years and all your IT equipment should use them. 

While surge protectors can last for years, it pays to keep a close eye on them and replace them if needed. 

If you need help making sure your IT is protected against weather events contact @Computer here .

IT Hardware: Tips for planning and budgeting

Nothing is more true than the fact that IT moves quickly these days! 

Part of keeping up with IT and the rapid changes is making sure that your business has the right equipment to do the task. 

In this article we will be providing a few ideas for how to make a plan/budget for new or replacement equipment, as well as offering you some information on leasing.  

Firstly budgeting for IT hardware

Most businesses will have a budget for IT hardware and other goods and services that they need to operate. 

Our advice is that if you have more than a handful of computers, you will benefit from forecasting and budgeting for IT expenditure. 

Once your business is established, there is a very good chance that you will need to replace your IT equipment every few years. Such a good chance, in fact, that you can plan on it! 

Drawing up an IT replacement schedule helps you plan well, and helps ensure you have the funds when you need them.

This can be done in conjunction with the team at @Computer. If you have a list already, we can do an audit of the IT equipment that you have, the date it was installed, and therefore when it is likely to need replacing based on its expected life. 

This asset management plan needs to be revised every year for budgeting purposes.

We strongly suggest that you do this years in advance of when you actually require upgrades. It’s not hard to do. 

This list can help you have a clear and actionable plan on existing equipment, when warranties expire, and the requirements for a staggered plan for new hardware.

A look at leasing

Whilst many of our clients purchase outright as the overall cost is lower, leasing can be a good option for when you are starting out, if your business is expanding rapidly, or if cash flow is wrapped up in other parts of the business. 

Leasing turns capital expenditure which has to be depreciated, into a monthly payment that is immediately expensed. It can also be an advantage in keeping assets off your balance sheet – speak with your accountant or advisor about this.

Obviously the disadvantage of leasing is that you are using someone else’s money and so they will need to charge you for that, as well as for their efforts! You could arrange your own finance and purchase, instead of leasing, in which case it pays to do your research on interest rates. 

Upgrading your technology for modernisation and expansion and to get more reliable up-to-date technology is very important, as using outdated technology can cost money and time (and expensive IT call outs!). Sometimes it is a case of weighing up your options here. 

Using leasing options, your business may be able to move forward more quickly then it otherwise may have been able to, financed in a way that suits your budget or cash flow. 

Whilst leasing is more costly than buying in the long run, one of the advantages is that you can establish predictable payment structures aligned to your needs, taking the stress out of an upfront payment. 

This all means that you can get the technology you need with the budget you have today by utilizing IT leasing arrangements.

“When I became self-employed 20 years ago, I got my first laptop and setup via Flexirent, as it meant I didn’t need to spend the cash and then have the asset/depreciation. Instead, I kept the cash, and the entire cost was a relatively small monthly expense. So, sometimes, especially for new start-ups, it means you can save your cash for something you do need, or as a reserve. For more mature companies, taking a lease for gear, means that the cash can stay with you, which can help with liquidity.” Comment from ITA member.

Leasing options: 

These are just a few of the leasing options that some of our clients use. This is by no means conclusive, and we are not aligned with any of these companies. All of our advice is simply that, advice. Please make sure you do your own thorough research on this subject.  Never before has the saying ‘read the small print’ been more applicable. We strongly advise that you speak with your financial advisor and or accountant about this. 

Feefunders
From Fee Funders website: Your business receives 100% of the customer invoice paid upfront, whilst your customers enjoy the flexibility of monthly installments. Fee Funders manages the monthly customer’s payments by direct debit over three, six, nine or twelve months . Your business achieves upfront cash flow at no cost. Your clients pay a basic interest rate to achieve a spread of their outgoings. It’s like outsourcing a spread payment option for free!A simple, hassle free approach to funding for your business and your clients.Your business has the money in the bank within three working days of the customers first direct debit, giving enhanced cash flow with no debtor management distractions. Staff can remain focused on core business activities.
Flexicommercial
Flexicommercial offers your business flexible equipment finance solutions. The credit criteria for finance varies depending on whether you are an existing or new business and the required amount of finance.Choose the equipment you need.Choose the type of lease that best suits your needs.Select the payment term to best suit your budget.Apply over the phone or through your supplier in store.Sign and return the paperwork for approval

Of course these are just suggestions and all leasing arrangements should be thoroughly considered before being entered into. 

Hint – Leasing companies will usually be quite happy to include IT engineer setup costs in the value of the lease. For larger or more complicated systems, this can be quite a substantial part of the project costs. This means you can also expense those costs as well.

In summary 

Working closely with @Computer to do an audit of your current equipment, and make a plan for future expenditure, makes good business sense. 

Something that makes this type of IT cash-flow of forecasting easier, is if you work with an MSP (managed service provider). Being on a Managed Service agreement removes many of the fluctuations of IT budgeting as generally you pay a fixed monthly fee for IT support. 

Please feel free to reach out to us here to speak about this further.

How a Managed Service provider can help your business

In IT we love to use fancy jargon, and Managed Service provider or MSP is no exception.

In this article we will break down what an MSP is, how it can help your business, and use some real-life examples of businesses, like you, who have made the switch to an MSP.

Firstly, what is a Managed Service Provider???

In a nutshell an MSP is your ‘outsourced IT Dept’ that provides proactive IT support. An MSP provides preventative measures, detecting most issues long before they become a problem.

The mission of an MSP is to protect your business from costly downtime and ensure that business continues seamlessly.

What is the break-fix model of IT support?

In contrast the ‘break-fix’ model of IT support is when you call an IT company when something breaks, and they come and fix it, on an adhoc pay by hour model. There is no ongoing support or preventative security measures taken. This is a bit like the ambulance at the bottom of the hill.  

Top advantages of an MSP for your business:

We become an IT partner to your business: As an MSP we are interested in understanding your entire business. We see ourselves as a business partner who wants to help your business to succeed and grow. This is quite different from the ‘break-fix’ model. We anticipate a long-term working relationship with your business. 

Proactive IT Support: As an MSP, our mission is to keep your business technology safe and available, and to anticipate your needs and requirements. This means minimum costly down time, and maximum business continuity.

Knowledge of your needs: As we have a long-term relationship with your business, we become closely acquainted with your IT systems, and your personnel. Because of this we understand how the parts make up the whole, rather than just offering a quick short-term solution, which may be costly in the future.

Cost savings: By outsourcing your IT management to us, you get a well-informed IT department on your team, without the cost and responsibility of training, recruiting, and retaining staff.

Case-Study

“An IT Alliance member had a company who was reaching out to them on a ‘break-fix’ basis. During Covid the IT Alliance member reached out to them to discuss becoming their MSP. They sat down and discussed what this actually meant, the services that the MSP offers, and the priority that is given to MSP clients. The client has been using them as an MSP for over two years now, and happily sings their praises, saying that having an MSP has revolutionized their business. No more waiting for IT support, no more downtime and so much more alignment”

So, what does an MSP actually do?

Remote Monitoring: An MSP proactively monitors, patches, and updates your software on an ongoing basis with 24/7 monitoring. This is all done in the background on an ongoing basis and requires no input from you.

Security: As an MSP we constantly review your systems to identify and address vulnerabilities. We can keep up with system updates, software patching, antivirus and more. It would be difficult for any business to keep up to date with all the daily security alerts. With an MSP this is all taken care of and is one less thing to worry about, so you can focus on your business.

Optimising hardware: An MSP provides information on optimal hardware that synchronises across your business. This includes laptops, desktops, and mobile devices, plus your network and servers.  We can work with you to understand your growth requirements and work on the best timeline for your budget.

Strategic advice: As IT is our passion, we hear about a myriad of tools that may be of benefit for business goals. We share this advice with you, rather than you having to research or find out how you can optimise technology for your needs.

Regular reviews: As an MSP client, you are a priority which means that we schedule in regular proactive reviews. No more waiting on the phone to talk to someone to get IT support.

Business Continuity and disaster-recovery strategy: Nowadays it is crucial that you have a solid data-backup plan. We can help you with this process and ensure that everything can be efficiently restored should the need arise.

So what do I do now?

So now you have an overview of what an MSP is, and how they can help your business. The next step is talking to our team at @Computers about your specific needs. Many of our members tailor packages to suit your business requirements. Please feel free to reach out here for further advice. 

Protecting your IT when employees leave in difficult circumstances

So it didn’t work with your newest employee, in fact it didn’t work out would be an understatement…they left under quite a cloud! 

A recent Symantec study states that “half of the employees who left or lost their jobs in the last 12 months kept confidential corporate data and 40 percent plan to use it in their new jobs.”

  • You’ve got the work laptop/computer back, but have they deleted things?
  • How do you know what they were doing and looking at before they left?
  • They used their own devices for work, do they still have their work material?

What to do when employees don’t leave on the best terms

The vast majority of staff finish employment and move on with no issues. But occasionally people leave in less harmonious circumstances, or they are just plain dishonest. We’d like to cover off on some of the basics to ensure that your risks are minimised for if, or when, this happens to you.

Importantly, it makes a big difference what systems you use and how you are set up, so keep that in mind. For the purposes of this simple article, we assume you are a small to medium kiwi business, with a fairly simple IT setup, using one of the lower-level Microsoft 365 licences for your email document storage and sharing.

Set up the employee properly when they join and have proper security

To get the best outcome when an employee leaves you need to start when they join the company. 

Practice ‘need to know’ access to systems and data:

  • People only get access to what they need for their job
  • This includes ensuring your work, documents, emails, etc are protected by permissions appropriate to the user. If they don’t need access, they don’t get it!

Set up an off-boarding system

The obvious (we don’t want to tell you how to suck eggs with your HR, but people sometimes don’t do these things, or forget) things to do when the person leaves:

  • You probably have an induction process when someone joins, but do you have an off-boarding process for when people leave? 
  • Ensure the off-boarding process is promptly followed. 
  • Ensure the off-boarding is responsive enough to handle an employee disappearing at no, or very little, notice.
  • Promptly close off email and other systems access.
  • Promptly close off remote access.
  • Take back company owned devices.
  • Ask specifically if there is any company data in their possession and if so, make a plan with them for retrieving it.

 The not so obvious things

Of course IT being the mysterious being it is to most of us you might not consider the less obvious things to do:

  • Don’t let people use personal devices for company work – give them the tools they need, and ensure those devices are properly set up by your IT.
  • Setup your business so that ALL work data/information is only ever stored in company systems. Do not allow people to save work anywhere else. Make sure they have a company owned folder they can save drafts and working documents to, if this is needed.
  • Have remote wipe enabled, meaning you can remotely wipe the data from any devices they have accessed. The next time they connect to the Internet, the data is wiped.
  • Review activity logs; these are detailed, but can give you a picture of what the person was up to.
  • If they delete emails or files, systems like 365 and Dropbox Business keep files for a ‘retention’ period and during this time you can restore them.
  • Use a company password manager such as LastPass so that people actually don’t know their passwords, so if they leave you (or your IT support) remove their access and they can’t get into anything.

Use technology to protect your organisation

If you are on a lower level 365 licence, such as Exchange Online, Business Basic or Business Standard, then talk to your ITA partner about the benefits and costs of moving to a higher licence with more security features such as 365 Business Premium. For example, configure 365 to prevent bulk downloading of company data, etc.

In summary

Put in place protections now, so that you have them there before you have a problem. Once the person has left, it is often too late. In general, these suggestions are a good place to start with ensuring your business is protected. 

If you need a hand with any of these steps get in touch with our team at @Computer

IT Supply chain shortages – what can you do?

The current global supply-chain challenges are ongoing:
This article highlights business technology supply-chain challenges, what you can do about them, and how to prepare for this as a part of the new business reality.

The computer chip and semiconductor shortage is an IT supply-chain stumbling block. Take, for example, Marvell Technologies, which develops and produces semiconductors and related technology. In late 2021, they were offering customers a 52-week delivery time.

Meanwhile, Intel’s chief warned the chip shortage could last into 2023. The founder of Dell said even cheaper components are proving difficult to source. In a Reuters report, Michael Dell said that “the shortage will probably continue for a few years” and that “even if chip factories are built all over the world, it takes time.”

What’s causing the shortages?

For one thing, more people bought computers during the pandemic for remote work. Meanwhile, COVID-19 created a logistical nightmare for technology production and shipping and continues to do so. In March, the major Chinese tech hub of Shenzhen, went on lockdown to combat an outbreak of virus cases.

Critical international ports are also struggling to stay open amidst COVID-19 outbreaks. In March, trucks couldn’t reach container ships at the port city of Yantian due to lockdown. The port had already closed last June for a week, and it took months to deal with the shipping backlog.

Many manufacturers need Chinese components before they can start building their products. Thus, the shortage stops an entire production line.

None of this is helped by people hoarding products to take advantage of supply-chain shortfalls.

Plus, business tech manufacturers aren’t the only ones needing semiconductors and chips. If it’s got an on-off switch (e.g. your phone, your car, or any other electronics), it’s hit by this supply chain shortage.

What does this mean for your tech?

Business technology is going to cost more. No surprises there. It’s basic supply and demand. Not only is technology more expensive, but it’s also going to take longer to reach you.

What can you do? Plan ahead. If you’ve been thinking about a hardware upgrade, don’t wait to make your purchasing strategy. Anticipate your IT needs in advance to accommodate buying challenges.

You’ll also want to prioritize maintenance of your existing technology. You can’t risk a critical piece of your network failing. You might have to wait weeks (months even) for a replacement.

With hardware in short supply, a repair can also take more time and money. You’ll want to take care of what you currently use to make sure it lasts as long as you’ll need it.

Working with a managed service provider can help. We can do preventative maintenance and support your long-term IT strategic planning. Our established vendor relationships could also help us access the technology you need. Let us take care of your short-term and future technology issues. Contact us here.

Microsoft 365: The key to communication

How communication is rapidly evolving:

We have seen an explosion in the ways we communicate, and, in the ways, we use these forms of communication. The last few years have seen people that would have rather picked up their land line, now reaching for their laptop or tablet to make a video call. 

Our original and oldest form of distant communication, the letter, has been branded snail mail and the volume of snail mail has steadily decreased to the point that the humble letter box is on the verge of redundancy.  

We have transitioned from the art of formal letter writing, taught with passion by our English teachers, to communicating in text or even emojis. We are evolving not just our means of communication but also the way we use these tools.  

What does this mean for Business?

In Business, while an initial introduction is more commonly made in person or by voice, further contact takes the form of electronic mail. Leading to a bombardment of the recipient’s inbox and the frustration of unread emails at the end of the working day. It is true to say that if our humble letter box had to deal with our daily volume of mail, it would have long since collapsed to the ground. 

How do we deal with all our email? 

The first thing is to ask ourselves is “Should this communication take the form of an email?”. If you yourself are not part of the solution you are part of the problem. Solve as much of the problem at the source not at the destination.  

If your email is urgent, short, or to a large audience question the medium you are using. Would communication be better served by picking up the phone, chatting in teams, or holding a team’s meeting/presentation. 

When should I use email?

We all unconsciously know that email is great when we need a record of a communication, date or action. For example, if I was to respond to a work order or quote, I would reply via email and simultaneously schedule a task. If I was going to tell a colleague a joke or organize a get together, I would do that in person via voice or message via teams. 

A matter of Etiquette:

Remember to use email to “create a record or reminder”. There are certain things that you can do to ensure your message is heard. Be concise, proofread in the voice of the receipt so you more accurately convey the tone you intended. Use a grammar checker as well as a spell checker.

If you are asking a question, use a question mark? If you require a response, say so.

Ensure you have a email signature on new emails and a shorter signature on forwards and replies.

If your email recipients need to contact you outside email, how hard are you making it for them? I would personally question the practice of having your email address in your email signature. Use a relevant subject line. “Meeting request” vs “26th May at 4pm re Communication is Key!” make your email easy to search for! 

To CC or not to CC that is the question?

Using the carbon copy (CC) field is the most abused part of the email. It is NOT to shame the recipient into action it’s to record other parties to the action when they do not directly have to participate in the email.  I encourage this behavior by doing the following. 

Sorting your inbox:

Which brings me to organizing my inbox. How can I work more efficiently, giving emails the priority, they deserve?  

I take an email which has me cced as not requiring my immediate attention, I have created a rule within Outlook to move these to another folder called CCED emails. I can make this rule as simple or as complex. If the cced email has a mention of me in it, or is mark high importance, I can ignore my move rule. I do the same for group, broadcast or send to all emails.  

When it comes to the external mail, I have rules that sort emails by sender and or subject line. For example, an email from an IT alliance member with the subject containing “communication is key” goes to “webinar blogs” folder in the sub folder “ITA”. 

How you build your rules is up to you and it does take some initial work and experimentation, but the gains will be worth it. 

Case Study:

A great example is a company in New Zealand that uses some of the AI engine’s ability to determine a customer’s tone in an email to prioritize unhappy customers allowing them to be more responsive when required. It can also be implemented to send an automatic response such as “we are sorry to hear about your recent experience with Contoso and would like to speak with you to resolve this issue at your earliest convenience. Please press here to schedule a call with our team.  

Can I have emails go to a team? 

Of course. If you have all the sales team respond to emails sent to enquiries@contoso.co.nz then you can have a shared mailbox. Members that are granted access to the shared mailbox can be setup to send as enquiries@contoso.co.nz or as themselves salesguy@contoso.co.nz , however a shared mailbox does require its own license.

What about a public folder?

A public folder is designed for shared access across the whole organization, it can be enabled with a mail address so that when added to the address field can be forward to a folder for centralized record keeping but it does not allow controlled access, hence public. 

Email Security  

As with phones and postal services there will be abuse. The more a communication tool is used the more likely some people will see an opportunity to scam others. 

As “email is a record” as postulated earlier, do you retain and control access to these records. Do your emails contain personally identifiable information or other forms of sensitive information? How can you ensure emails are not sent to the wrong person? 

Digital communications are more secure than physical forms of communication as technology “can” ensure trust and authentication at every step of the path between sender and recipient. I stress the word “can” in the previous sentence!  

Encrypted Email

I am sure that you may be surprised to learn that you can encrypt your email so only the intended recipient can read it. Even more surprising you can encrypt the email so it can not be forwarded. printed or copied.  You can even stop sensitive information being sent outside of the organisation automatically. Technology is available to digitally sign all email from your business to stop imposters posing as your business via email. Technology can check links and attachments in emails for malicious behaviour. 

What Next? 

Casting the human eye over an email, no matter how much training they received, will never match the ability of the technology to weigh the huge amount of data necessary to make a good decision.  

Technology can make our digital communication more secure, as with all communication it is up to us to evolve to use our tools to their full potential. Talk, email, send a letter (!), or message the team at @Computer  to discuss how to take your next step. 

How Microsoft 365 Exchange has revolutionized and simplified communications for Kapiti Kitchen company. 

Meet Orchard Joinery 

Meet Orchard Joinery. A family-owned business from the Kapiti Coast. Orchard Joinery have crafted bespoke kitchens, bathrooms, windows, doors, stairs and furniture for over 20 years! Whilst they really know their stuff, they were struggling with their customer communications, much of which is by email these days. 

Inefficient Email 

All the company emails had been set up to come into one email address, leading to missed communication and some unhappy potential customers. The office manager had to check through emails every day to make sure that all communications had been addressed. What a headache! 

Aiming for Change 

Orchard joinery contacted an ITA member for a free consultation. Together we worked out a solution using 365’s business grade email facility – Exchange Online.

Ideally, they were after a way to split and redirect emails to the correct staff to ensure efficient and correct action and response.  

They did this by outlining a list of new addresses that were needed. Next, we set up Microsoft 365, new email addresses, and when they were all ready, they switched emails across to the new system.

They then onboarded staff onsite, so they felt supported and knew what to do from day one.

The email system now has custom access settings, and the Manager can see everything if they need to. 

The End Result 

The end result was a much clearer process for customers and staff alike. Orchard Joinery now has an easy-to-use mail system with access across all accounts. There is clear allocation of emails and tasks and there is one incredibly happy office manager who no longer has to sift through screeds of emails to find the correct recipient! 

“Very happy with the result, and with the changeover process. Our IT company made this easy and was on call to help with any adjustments promptly. Particularly impressed with the ability of the staff to translate difficult IT related information into easy-to-understand applications.” – David, Orchard Joinery 

This is just a simple case study involving email, but there is so much more that can be done to improve your internal and external communication and efficiency.   

If you are ready to empower your business with Microsoft Products like these, you can join us at our upcoming FREE event through the EMPOWER series. Click here to register. 

If you need a hand with streamlining your emails reach out to us here.

What is Microsoft Planner and how can it help your business?

What is Microsoft Planner and how can it help your business?

Many businesses in Northland use Microsoft Planner. Planner is a tool within the Office 365 suite. Planner is an easy way to organize teamwork with intuitive, collaborative, and visual task management. Planner is simple, easy to use for new users, and included in the licensing for Office 365 users. 

Advantages of Planner:

Planner improves teamwork by organizing an Office 365 group or team’s tasks, files, and conversations.

Planner helps to organize your tasks by adding one or more Planner tabs to a team channel. You can then work on your plan from within Teams, remove or delete your plan, and get notified in Teams when a task is assigned to you in Planner.

All tasks are easily accessible in one place: Plans comprise content-rich tasks that contain expected details, such as due dates, and extra elements like color-coded labels and files.

Automatic chart report: Planner automatically visualizes task status into pie and bar charts for you with no setup required.

Work where you want: Use Planner wherever you’re working. At your desk? Open Planner from tasks.office.com. On the go? Update tasks from your mobile device. In Microsoft Teams? Select the Tasks app powered by Planner and Microsoft To Do.

Connect across Microsoft 365: Planner is part of Microsoft 365, so it’s highly secure like your other Microsoft 365 apps. Microsoft 365 also connects Planner with Microsoft To Do, SharePoint, Power Automate, and other apps for efficient task management.

Manage all your tasks in Microsoft Teams: Planner and Microsoft Teams work well together. The Tasks app in Microsoft Teams combines all your team tasks from Planner and individual tasks from Microsoft To Do with advanced collaboration tools.

How to add planner:

  • In your team channel, select Add a tab +.
  • In the Add a tab dialog box, choose Tasks by Planner and To Do.
  • Create a new task list to make a new Planner plan and add it as a tab to this channel.
  • Use an existing task list to choose an existing Planner plan to add to a tab in this channel.
  • Choose whether to post to the channel about the tab, and then select Save.
  • The tab will be added alongside your other team channel tabs, and you’ll be able to start adding tasks to your board.

Six Tips to use planner well

Use the buckets:

Microsoft Planner lets you create buckets for various tasks. Within each bucket, you can create specific assignments.

The calendar feature:

The calendar is very important for keeping everyone on task. Items in the calendar can be assigned both due dates and a specific task owner. This helps individuals know who is responsible for what and also whether or not they are on schedule.

Checklist:

You can create a checklist to keep on top of tasks. This checklist can be a list of necessary actions for this project. As the assigned user works their way through the project, they can check off individual items on the list. This creates an effortlessly easy visual to be able to track progress.  

Categorise tasks easily

You can create easy visual categories for tasks by color-coded labels and priority. For example, you might split things up into “low-priority,” “medium-priority,” and “high-priority” based on deadlines. This is visually easy for your team to follow as they can see what is coming up on their calendar and what is a priority.

Easily integrates with 365

With Microsoft Planner, you can integrate easily with 365. This means that you can take advantage of Office 365’s own calendar and reminder features. This helps keep your employees focused and on track every time they open up their e-mail.

Connects to the Cloud

Members of the team can upload various files as attachments to different projects and cards.  Once the file is attached to Office 365 Planner, everyone has access to it via the cloud. You no longer have to worry about vital information being unavailable to the rest of the group.

In Conclusion:

Planner is a wonderfully simple, yet effective way to manage projects across a team and to improve communication and efficiencies.

For further information, please feel free to reach out to us here to discuss how planner can be used by your team.