Microsoft’s Mike McLean Gives the Scoop on Office 365 Planner [Video Interview]

    Over the last few years, the evolution of technology and the growth in variety of ways people can work together has been incredible. From on-premises Project Server to the Office 365 Suite, there are so many tools individuals, teams, and organizations can choose from to best fit their specific project. But a big part of finding the right tool to manage a project is to understand your options.

    One of the highlights of Ignite for me this year was having the opportunity to work a session on this very subject with Mike McLean, Senior Program Manager on the Microsoft Project Team. Luckily, I also had the opportunity to ask Mike for the scoop on Office 365 Planner, the latest addition to Microsoft’s portfolio of project management tools.

    Is Office 365 Planner the project management tool you’ve been waiting for? Let’s find out!

    Join us for a Live Q&A on Lessons Learned at Ignite 2016!

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    More from Dux Quax:

    Video Transcript: Dux Raymond Sy (@meetdux) and Mike McLean (@mikemcleanlive) at Microsoft Ignite

    Dux: Hey, everyone. Welcome to another episode of Dux Quax live here at Microsoft Ignite. With me is Mike McLean.

    Mike, why don’t you introduce yourself and tell everyone what you do?

    Mike McLean: Great. Hi, everyone. My name is Mike McLean. I’m a Senior Program Manager on the Microsoft Project Team. So I actually help support Project Online and Microsoft Planner.

    Dux: Planner, that’s the hottest and greatest and latest. Can you tell everybody what Planner is about or why they should be using it?

    Mike McLean: Yeah, definitely. Microsoft Planner is a brand new service. We just shipped it at Office 365. It has a super deep integration to Office 365 groups and the key thing is that helps you organize all your team work that’s happening in groups.

    Dux: How is it different than Project?

    Mike McLean: It’s really built for that light weight team that needs something quickly to help organize all the tasks and all the work that’s happening in their groups. So it allows you to quickly jump in there, create a plan, create some tasks, assign it to all the team members that are in your group, and then track all the work that’s being done.

    Dux: And from my experience using it, it’s visual, easily consumable, and it’s quick.

    Mike McLean: Definitely. Yeah, we really try to design it to be super lightweight, so somebody can jump in and it’s very, very easy to learn, so the ramp is very, very quick. And you can start creating tasks with really only knowing the task name and where you want to do the work.

    Dux: Awesome. Now let me ask you, Mike, how long have you been with Microsoft?

    Mike McLean: I’ve been with Microsoft a little over 11 years.

    Dux: Eleven years, so, just looking back, right, I mean you could be sentimental, but how is the evolution of Project Management technology from Microsoft? I mean, obviously, Project’s always been there, Planner, and then we’ve got Wunderlist, we’ve got all this new work codes and capabilities which is exciting. What are your thoughts about it in relation to the industry itself?

    Mike McLean: Well, it’s really evolved quite a bit. When I look back at when I first joined the team, we didn’t even have Office 365. We had our on-premises Project Server, we had the Project Client and it was really up to our customers to secure the hardware that they needed to deploy the software, they had to do all of the capacity management, understand like what type of workflow they’re gonna have. And just within the past five to six years, we have taken that whole product, we made it available online, as an online service so you can get it up and running super quick. You can subscribe to it within minutes and start creating your projects.

    So it’s been really interesting to see how just the deployment has evolved overtime. And then within Microsoft we’ve actually been running Project Online ourselves in the data center, so we learned quite a bit about what’s needed and how we need to modify the architecture.

    Just to give you an example, when we first shipped Project Server years ago, you needed four data bases for every instance of project. And so we consolidated that down to one and then by running the online service, we realized, “Wow, we could make this even better,” right?

    Dux: Of course, yes.

    Mike McLean: And so we actually modified that architecture and moved even deeper into SharePoint. And now all of our customers on-premises benefit from all of those advancements that we’ve done.

    Dux: And I mean even the industry, if you just look at Project Management in general, everybody’s a project manager with just how everything’s moving so fast. It’s important that not only you provide the cloud offering, mobile capabilities, the agility and I think that’s where tools, again, like Planner comes in and makes sense.

    Mike McLean: Right, right.

    Dux: Now, Ignite. I mean, are you tired yet?

    Mike McLean: Oh, man, it is so crazy. I talked to so many customers the first two days. I was like, “I cannot believe it.” It’s only Monday. They packed so much content.

    Dux: Yeah, exactly.

    Mike McLean: This conference is amazing.

    Dux: And there’s what? We have two more days or three more days.

    Mike McLean: Right, right.

    Dux: Something like that.

    Mike McLean: Yeah, we’re halfway there.

    Dux: So, you’ve been to a lot of events, from back in the old good days of Project Conference, SharePoint Conference, TechEd, the first Ignite, second Ignite, so what do you think about this Ignite?

    Mike McLean: Yeah, it’s amazing. I definitely think they have improved over last year. They’ve taken up another notch. It’s amazing. I think as our services scale for customers, they’re scaling Ignite and our conferences as well.

    Dux: Yeah.

    Mike McLean: We’ve gone from conferences with like a couple of thousand people to 10,000 in Vegas with SharePoint Conference. Now we’re here in Atlanta with 20,000 attendees.

    Dux: Yes, like 23,000, yeah.

    Mike McLean: It’s pretty amazing, yeah.

    Dux: And like you, I find this Ignite like the messaging is so solid. It’s one message around transformation and I’ve gotten a lot of great feedback from customers as well. Everybody is so excited.

    Mike McLean: Yeah. No, that’s good. That’s good. Yeah, I can’t believe that just the flow of traffic in customers. People are…they’re grabbing content from so many different places, too, at this conference. They’re attending the 75-minute sessions and then they’re jumping in into the 20-minute theater sessions.

    So as they’re walking through the expo, they’re like, “Oh, wow. This sounds interesting,” and they’re grabbing 20 minutes of, “How do I establish my online practice,” right? Or, “How do I ramp up on this product?” And then in the main hall downstairs where we eat, you can sit down there in the couch and plug in to all of these sessions that are streaming live.

    Dux: Seriously? That’s crazy.

    Mike McLean: Yeah, so it’s great.

    Dux: And then they come to the booth and talk to somebody and then play around technology, yeah.

    Mike McLean: Yeah, yeah. So it’s been a great job.

    Dux: Awesome. Well, Mike, before I let you go, I gotta ask you this. Other than Project and Planner, if you’re a Microsoft product, what would you be and why?

    Mike McLean: All right, so other than Project, if I was gonna be any Microsoft product, this might sound a little boring at first but I’ll explain why.

    Dux: Okay.

    Mike McLean: I would probably be Excel.

    Dux: Excel, okay, okay.

    Mike McLean: Okay, all right. But here’s why. Because I think if you look at Excel and the types of things you can do with it, I think people do anything from hardcore number crunching, right, that scales up to millions of rows to very, very simple forms that they need to create…

    Dux: That’s true.

    Mike McLean: …for their classrooms or whatever, right?

    Dux: That’s true.

    Mike McLean: Just drop in a few numbers, drop in some pictures. And I try to be agile at what I do. It’s like I jump in, do a little thing here, do a big thing here, and navigate between different scenarios.

    Dux: Right, right.

    Mike McLean: So I think Excel can fill that niche.

    Dux: It’s the flexibility of Excel, right?

    Mike McLean: Yeah, it’s like the flexibility, right. So I try to be flexible at what I do at work.

    Dux: That works out with your whole prospecting too. Anyway, well great. Mike, thank you again and…

    Mike McLean: Great. Thanks for having me.

    Dux: I’m gonna catch you later. But, guys, check out Planner, check out Project. Mike McLean. Until the next episode, thank you.

    Mike McLean: Thanks.

    What else did you miss at Ignite?

    Join our panel of experts for our Lessons Learned at Microsoft Ignite webinar to recap announcements from the conference and a deeper discussion about what it all means for you.

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