Deconstructing productivity with Teams and Planner

I’ve been working on some productivity tweaks, and with a BCcampus move to Office 365 and Teams, I’ve found myself really appreciating the seamless transition between Slack-like team spaces and synchronous meetings. I’m also loving MS Forms for survey creation, and this week I discovered Planner, the Office 365 project management Kanban tool. I dove right in and have realized that MS Office 365 is major rethink, and a significant workflow shift. But it has required some reflection about how all the productivity and workflow pieces fit together.

The first thing to understand is that Teams, Planner, and to some extent Outlook are built on top of a files and document structure (Sharepoint). Thanks Anne-Marie Scott for making that visible to me.

In previous ways of working, the workflow started with a document that you created on your desktop and maybe synced to a cloud. Your communication activities took place around this document as required…via email, Slack or some sort of cloud annotation (google docs). Sometimes you used multiple communication spaces defined by implicit or explicit rules – email and attachments for formal, Slack for informal, etc.

As I understand it, in this new way of working your file/document structure is built out from the communication or activity space. If you are in a Team or a channel, the files becomes associated with that space. If you are in Planner, it becomes associated with the plan or the task. These activity spaces become the gateway to your files. This is both delightful and challenging to me. On the one hand, it’s nice to have the files in a collection associated with your specific activity and the communication around that activity. So you navigate to the activity space in order to find your files. On the other hand, navigating to the files the old way (via desktop or cloud space) is surprisingly opaque to me.

First, the nomenclature is confusing. There’s OneNote, (which used to be a document view option in Word back in the old days called Notebook view, and it had a handy dictation feature that I still miss) that is a separate application but also available to you via Teams or Planner. There is Sharepoint where the docs you create on your desktop and then share via the Office Teams/Planner spaces seem to end up. Sharepoint is your institutional/organizational space so the photos of your pets and whatnot that you share in these channels presumably end up there? In Teams you have Notes which opens up Notebook (on Sharepoint?) but the same thing in Planner is called Notebook. But if you want to initiate it on your desktop you have to open up OneNote.

If you are wanting to make sure that you are retaining your own copies on your desktop presumably you can make all of this work with OneDrive syncing – thanks D’Arcy, for that tip.

Is this an improvement? For me, it’s 80% there. I’ve gained some significant efficiencies, and I like having shared docs at hand in the activity space as opposed to hunting and pecking for a google doc. In other words, I like this rethink about the activities of work teams being the central focus, of which document production is a component and for having tools available that facilitate that working together. But I think there’s work to do – or perhaps some tips to throw my way – for more transparency on the file structure and document management side.

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