Planning Effectively while surrounded by Uncertainty

New Planning tools you probably don't know about unless you are a Projects Pro or work in software development.

Over the last decade or so many small to medium size businesses have taken to not bother too much with planning tools and this is largely because the classic planning approach is very inefficient in dealing with uncertainty.  This is of course a huge problem because planning is full of uncertainty which is ironically one of the major reasons why we need to plan in the first place.

What is the problem with classic planning and project management 

Classic planning which looks something like an intricate network of inter-connected water falls which are interdependently flowing from left to right so that the completion of one activity then flows into the start of the following activities until the process is complete.  The critical or longest path is the yardstick used to measure progress and the expected completion date. 

The problem here is that an intricate inter-connected network of activities may be great in a stable environment of certainty but in a rocky environment of uncertainty it quickly turns into a big mess. 

Software development to the rescue! 

In 2001 a group of software developers looking for smarter ways to manage software development came up with the  The Manifesto for Agile Software Development

So, like it sounds, Agile is quick and smart, and a new way of approaching planning and project management.  Agile planning manages the tricky project management elements like uncertainties by putting them into labeled Buckets so that they are safely out of the way but not forgotten!  Agile increases productivity by focusing on what we need to do today and this week, individually and as a team, in order to move our projects forward.  

Agile of course can't ignore resource allocation because somebody has to do the job and one person can't do everything either.  But once we have our Teams, it's a totally different ball game! 

Scrums, Sprints, Epics, … a fun new lexicon.

Over the last nearly two decades Agile development methodology has developed into systems of project management with a load of fun new words.  For example, Scrums, like the scrum you rugby fans know all about, is a small group of people closely huddled together and pushing things forward in perfect coordination.  Project management is no longer this long complex intricate process it’s a Sprint! Like Husain Bolt the Team is running short distances and aiming to do it in record times, each time!  Every day our Team meets for a Scrum meeting where each member gives a quick update about what is relevant and problematic right now and the Team agree on what each person is doing today.  The Scrum Team throw there ideas into labelled Buckets which can then later be sorted and brought out when necessary for the next Sprint.

An Epic is a great and long story than needs to then unfold into projects that like an fantastic real-life adventure are made to coming to life!

I don't intend this to be a detailed article on Agile methodology but I hope you get the general idea.

How does this relate to Microsoft cloud tools?  And what is Planner?  And how is it different from MS Project?

Office 365 is a massive tool box, including many new tools and one of these brand spanking new tools is Planner.  Planner provides organizations with the environment to manage Agile planning on a Teams base (right Microsoft Teams - but that's for a different article).  Project of course is still around and strong providing the crucial resource allocation and strategic management needed at an organization level while Planner is where the work is done!

We can also integrate Planner with Project as our Project intricate inter-connected waterfalls can now be replaced by Husain Bolt style Sprints!   Project, or Project Online, an add-on to Office 365 sits on it's own SharePoint site and is now more of a strategic management tool than a task manager.

What about simple tasks? Outlook tasks? To Do or SharePoint task? Confusing! :)

Well not everything is an Epic or project.  Sometimes it's just one simple task but it still needs to be managed and completed.

As part of the Office 365 tool kit you get a SharePoint farm where you can setup as many SharePoint sites as you need but be careful as this can quickly get out of control and it is a subject for yet another post.

Back to the subject of Tasks - SharePoint Team sites which can be setup for each Group (right, you got it - yet another article) provide the App for managing Tasks.  It’s a great App which integrates with your Outlook and provides the manager with oversight of who is doing or not doing whatever they need to do.

 On that note, I have to Scrum with my Team at home to finish that Friday night Epic Sprint to dinner so have a great weekend and hope you enjoyed the read!  Please leave your comments.  Cheers

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