Microsoft Planner vs Project – The 5 Key Differences 
Project management is critical to keeping aa team working together and making progress on the business’s big-picture goals. And while most major businesses use some form of project management software, there are a few very good options out there, including Microsoft Office 365, Microsoft Project, Microsoft Planner, and Atlassian’s Jira.
But the Microsoft evangelists wanted to find out which was the best choice between Microsoft Planner vs Project for workers, and how the program compares to the alternatives.
This article will detail everything there is to know about the two software. So, if you’re having a cluttered work schedule, then read along!
- What is Microsoft Planner?
- Does it have a free version?
- What’s Microsoft Planner’s interface like?
- Is Microsoft Planner user-friendly?
- Microsoft Planner for Project Management
- Does it have a free version?
- What’s Microsoft Project’s interface like?
- Is Microsoft Project user-friendly?
- Microsoft Project for Project Management
- User Experience
What is Microsoft Planner?
Microsoft Planner is an online tool that lets you track tasks, communicate with others on the project, and track progress toward a shared vision. You use Planner to share schedules, communicate with clients and project stakeholders, set expectations for projects, follow up on commitments, and prioritize urgent tasks.
However, it means you can only manage three projects. So if you have more than three, it’ll probably be tough to track them on this site. Unless you upgrade to another plan, you won’t be able to manage more than three projects all at once.
What’s new in Project and Planner
What’s Microsoft Planner’s interface like?
Microsoft Planner is much like Microsoft Project in terms of the interface: on the left-hand side, there’s a list of tasks for a project that you’re working on, and you can drag these tasks around to rearrange them and move them forward or backward. The right-hand side has quick links to email and phone support, and the Planner help website.
Is Microsoft Planner user-friendly?
It’s intuitive enough to understand. But if you’re used to the more conversational Microsoft Project interface, it may take some getting used to.
For example, while Planner’s navigation system gives you buttons to quickly move tasks from your current list to a list you’re working on or to a list of completed tasks, Microsoft Project offers a right-click option to move a task directly from the current list to the list of completed tasks.
Microsoft Planner for Project Management
Microsoft Planner for project management is a piece of software that helps companies and individuals manage all their project tasks from a central location.
This can be anything from a project in the workforce to household tasks, from fishing to filing your taxes, from persuading a friend to giving up smoking to just remembering to pay your water bill. over, Microsoft Planner’s interface is small, highly customizable, and manageable, and is not just for Microsoft users.
What is Microsoft Project?
While Planner and Microsoft Project are very similar in terms of how you can manage a project and communicate with others, Microsoft Project is more integrated with Microsoft’s broader suite of office software. Project is a collaborative suite of tools that are integrated into Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook.
So go for Project if you are just looking for a basic template as a stepping stone to fully understanding what Microsoft Planner is capable of.
What’s Microsoft Project’s interface like?
The Microsoft Project Online Edition is a powerful offering from Microsoft that lets users manage large projects from anywhere. It offers numerous features that are available in traditional project management products and has some unique features. Microsoft Project Online Edition has both a free and a paid account.
It interfaces with several Microsoft products, including Microsoft Visio, SharePoint, Excel, and many more that are part of the Microsoft Office family, and it offers a complete collection of tools for managing a project through a web browser.
Is Microsoft Project user-friendly?
Both Microsoft Planner and Microsoft Project manage project management tasks but they are different enough to warrant a comparison of their features and functionality.
Microsoft Planner is an app that is intended for personally managing your day-to-day planner, and in comparison to project management tools, it has a very simple interface and limited features.
Microsoft Project, on the other hand, is a comprehensive project management system that has a rich set of features and is suited for industrial-sized applications and corporations.
Microsoft Project for Project Management
Microsoft Project for project management is a time, resource, and project management software that was developed by Microsoft and is available for home and business use with a free version to use and a premium version for those that need more features.
Both Microsoft Planner and Project can be used for project management for those with small or large business needs.
What is Microsoft 365?
Microsoft 365 (also known as Office 365) is a collection of web-based productivity apps for individuals and groups designed to help users be more productive across any device.
The flexibility of M365 will allow you to choose from the list of apps that you can use depending on your business needs.
Your first interaction with M365 was with the most common office apps (Word, Excel, PowerPoint) preinstalled on your personal or work computer. However, there is a lot more to M365.
With Microsoft 365, you can edit and manage documents and files with OneDrive and SharePoint.
You can also communicate more efficiently using Teams to set up meetings.
Planner and To-Do will help you be more productive, and OneNote will let you take notes without the hassle of writing everything down on paper. With all these tools, you will be able to manage projects with ease.
What is Project Management?
Projects are more than just organizing work. When you break down a project, it is usually broken down into tasks assigned to team members.
These tasks typically have deadlines that involve monitoring progress and communication. Project management aims to achieve the best results with distinct phases.
The first phase is initiation, where goals are defined, followed by planning, where project plans, scope, roles, and responsibilities are discussed.
After planning comes execution, where the actual work is done; this includes managing project resources, building processes and workflows, and fixing issues. After execution, there is monitoring and controlling, where progress tracking is observed, and then completion, which is the result of the project.
Project management tools in Microsoft 365
If you want to make your next project a success, look no further than Microsoft 365.
With this body of products, you will have the tools to make it happen.
Whether managing meetings and communications with MS Teams, project files with OneDrive or SharePoint, capturing notes with OneNote or assigning tasks with Planner, M365 provides a simple all-in-one project management solution.
Setting up your project workspace
Organizing a workspace for each project is essential to ensure nothing falls through the cracks and everyone is kept on the same page.
Below, we will discuss all the elements needed to create an effective project workspace using the M365 suite of apps.
Managing Meetings and Communications
If you want to streamline your project communications, consider using Microsoft Teams.
Teams will help you communicate with your colleagues whether you are in the same office. You can use Teams, Channels, and Groups to discuss tasks and projects.
Setting Up Microsoft Teams to Manage Your Projects
MS Teams is a new way to collaborate with your team. The easiest way to get started is by creating a Team and inviting people to it.
You can create Channels to break information down into discrete subgroups. A general channel is created by default, but you can make other channels specific to your needs.
Vineforce has always been a team-based company. That is why we love using MS Teams to collaborate and work together. We use the default general channel for announcements and create other department-specific channels for marketing, HR, etc.
Channels are great collaboration hubs as they allow you to send messages, attach files, and create tabs for accessing other apps or websites without leaving Teams.
Another way to collaborate within MS Teams is through Groups. Groups are like teams without channels.
One significant difference between groups and teams is that groups are made for real-time communication and collaboration with all or some stakeholders within a project.
The best way to communicate with your team is through chat or messaging. It is real-time, and it will help you get rid of those long emails.
Collaboration is also faster with messaging because of the integrated apps that help you with tasks and projects.
The formatting options in MS Teams make it easy to make your text more readable. You can emphasize words by making them bold, italics, underlined, or strikethrough text.
You can also add highlighting or choose the color of the font. If you are sending a list, there is an option for adding bullets or numbers.
You can also add emojis and GIFs to the chat message to make it more conversational. Attaching files is easier too.
One remarkable thing about MS Teams is that you could edit your message if you misspelled something.
Sometimes you will need to send messages of different importance levels. MS Teams gives you an option to choose the kind of messages you want to send. Here, you can send out standard messages, tag them as essential, or make them urgent, which will send out notifications to the receiver every two minutes for 20 minutes.
The possibilities are endless with MS Teams. You can tag or mention people within team channels and groups if necessary. Options for receiving notifications depend on you, so you have the luxury to hide or mute a chat. You can turn off notifications in settings if you do not want to receive any urgent or important messages. You can also save messages and access them by going to your profile.
Meetings are an essential part of the success of a project, and you cannot get any more seamless than what MS Teams has to offer.
With the built-in video and voice meetings, you can ensure that your meetings are done efficiently.
MS Teams works in harmony with Outlook. You can create Teams meetings from Outlook or within MS Teams. The wonderful thing is, it is automatically added to your Outlook calendar regardless of where it was made.
Managing Files Notes
You cannot manage your files and notes without the best tools. With M365, you can work efficiently on a project with others by inviting them to the project, sharing files, and collaborating in real-time. It is easier to be more organized with OneDrive for personal use and SharePoint for collaboration.
OneDrive is a Cloud storage system part of M365. It allows the creation, organization, and storage of files in a secure environment accessible from anywhere on almost any device.
By default, files stored in OneDrive are not accessible by other people from your company until they are shared, making OneDrive ideal for storing your drafts or anything you are currently working on before sharing it with a colleague.
Sharing documents with teammates is simple, with the ability to share files via a secure link to one or more people while defining the level of access they will need (view, edit, and more).
It’s a joint effort
Let’s face the truth: your IT project rarely is just an IT project. New intranet? It’s a communications project. Are you deploying Viva Insights? It’s an employee experience project. How about that new CRM? It’s a sales project…
Break your IT unicycle. Build an IT-HR-Communications tricycle and wheel away!
Recognise relevant stakeholders for your IT project. Those may be pilot teams, communications department, supervisors or learning development team. Think widely about the project’s effects throughout the organization, and create a communications and engagement plan. The plan and efforts may vary for different groups. Remember to find those precious management sponsors for your project to ensure top-tier support.
Own the change!
When things go south, external consultants or project management are often the first ones to blame. Sometimes, even the project manager is a consultant. The thing is: you can’t outsource responsibility. You can’t outsource change.
Successful change requires an internal willingness to change and the ability to drive the change. An external partner can help organizations along the journey, but consultants can never be the owners of an IT project. RACI or similar matrixes may sound old-fashioned, but they are helpful. Just remember to find internal owners with appropriate resources for each field. An owner without decision-making power over a budget, schedule or human resources is not a sufficient owner. So go up in the organization chart and find those enthusiastic leaders to commit to your project.
Clarity affords FOCUS
Look at this nice new feature! Should we change the UI once again? Oops, we forgot this important user group! It’s easy to get lost in or from the project scope. It’s even easier to FOCUS just on the ongoing project and forget to think about long-term changes.
Set clear goals for all stakeholders and make sure the project scope is refined and understood by everyone. You can even go as far as to use Smart or OKR frameworks to help you to FOCUS on the right things. Finally, create a long-term roadmap that covers the whole show from the current situation to project deployment and adoption all the way to continuous support and beyond. We’re not in the 2010s anymore – once deployed means constantly changing. With engaged owners across the organization, long-term planning becomes easier.
An extra tip: take into account the power of technology. Suitable project management software and proper governance tools help everyone to stay on track with the project and the constant changes.
In the end, it’s all about employees
If we simply FOCUS on technical implementation and work inside our IT box, we may succeed in our IT project but miss the human target completely. This is because it’s us, employees, who are the end-users of our IT project outputs.
Employee well-being and engagement at work have declined during the past years. At the same time, studies show that happy employees are more productive employees. (Microsoft: Work trend index) IT applications, including Microsoft Teams, are a significant cause of frustration and lost time during workdays. Most of these issues could be solved with well-planned adoption and end-user-focused long-term roadmap. Check out, for example, the ADKAR model for an individual-focused change framework.
If IT projects take the end-users into account right from the start, we can make better solutions that respond to real problems, and our end-users know how to use them. So let’s make the world – or at least our organization – a bit of a better place with happier, effective employees.
One great real-life example of the power of change management was an extensive and very complex intranet project covering several countries, languages and time zones. The project focused heavily on human-centric planning, adoption, support and change management. The “IT” part of the project, such as technical concept and development, took about 25% of the total budget and resources. All the rest was used to ensure the end-users were happy, engaged and excited. As a result, the new intranet solution was a great success for everyone – all thanks to the heavy emphasis on change management.
The next time you plan your IT project, take a cup of coffee (or tea, if you will) and sit down for a while. Think about all the different stakeholders in the project. Think of the project owners and management sponsors. Think of project goals and long-term roadmap. And – the most important of all – think of the employees. Breathe in, breathe out. Gather a task force and start planning your project with success in mind.
A note from Rencore:
The following Rencore whitepaper: Complete visibility across Microsoft 365 provides a framework built on best practices to help you compile a combined governance strategy to aid change management projects for Microsoft 365 technologies, including Azure AD, SharePoint, OneDrive, Teams, Exchange, Yammer and the Power Platform. Download today!
Karoliina is Head of Modern Work at Meltlake and a Microsoft MVP, whose passion is to empower every employee with Smart use of digital technology. Karoliina’s specialty is inspiring the c-level and co-creating sustainable change. In the end, it’s all about excellent employee experience. Karoliina loves to share knowledge and learn from others, and she speaks actively at conferences. Community rocks!
I’ve picked Planner for a few reasons. Firstly, it surfaces assigned tasks within the Tasks by Planner and ToDo Teams app, which is going to be very useful. SharePoint Tasks Lists don’t do this. Microsoft ToDo doesn’t give you a Kanban board or a team view. it’s more of a personal organisation app. Microsoft Project is the heavy duty project management app, but it’s ruled out on account of the expensive per-user licenses.
In your channel, add a tab and pick Tasks by Planner and ToDo:
Create a new Plan and click Save:
Create your buckets. Usually To do, In Progress, and Complete:
Annoyingly, there’s no Gantt. That’s a big loss and something that is provided by Microsoft Project. I do feel it’s intentionally not present here to push users towards Project (incidentally, that’s the same reason there’s no Gantt provided by Lists, which is why we provide a Gantt component for Lists).
There’s a calendar view, though, with a nice little feature where you can drag a task onto the calendar and expand it:
There are several charts. tasks by status, priority, and broken down by team members. These are nice, but I’m not convinced they’ll be used very often:
Your dashboard is the Tasks app:
You should direct your team to use this on a daily basis to check their task status, what’s assigned to them, and so on. Each project will appear separately under Shared plans:
Users might find it useful to use the Assigned to me tab, sorted by ‘Due’:
Immediately when I assign Adele a task, it appears in her Teams activity feed:
This ensures tasks aren’t missed. Clicking on the task will launch the task editor. These notification can be turned off, but they’re on by default.
Annoyingly, it seems that there is no link to click to get from the notification to the Team Channel which the task lives in. So if the user needs to refer back to a Team conversation, or some documentation files for example, they have to do this navigation manually.
Planner by default has a number of automated reminders that it will send out. These include when a task is completed, when a user adds a comment to a plan or task, and when you have tasks that are near or past their due dates. Here’s a summary of the out of the box notifications.
As always, you can create custom notifications by creating a Flow in PowerAutomate. For example, here’s one to notify you that you have incomplete tasks.
Replicating the Team for new projects
As you have seen, there’s a lot of manual steps in setting up a new project, but if you’re following the steps above, you can probably complete it in around 10 minutes. When you are creating a Team, creating from an existing Team is an option but unfortunately it doesn’t do a great job. most of the tabs will be unconfigured. Your only option really is to set it up from scratch.
Teams includes a lot of great options for sharing externally. If your project is a Team, you can invite people outside of your organisation into the Team. To do this you first have to enable guest access in Teams. When this is done, you can add a guest user like any other team member. They will get access to all the same Team resources as that team member.
When your project is a Channel, it’s a little different. you would use Shared Channels to share your team resources. However, you can’t use Planner in a shared channel.
What is Trello?
Trello is a project collaboration tool popular for its simplicity and ease of use. With its real-time activity feed, a vast list of integrated apps, options to invite non-members, kanban boards, etc., Trello is one of the most popular choices for collaboration tools.
Some of the best features of Trello include:
- Trello Board gives you an overview of task assignments, Timeline view for project planning, Dashboard view for productivity metrics, Calendar view for time management, or Table view to connect work across boards.
- Cards help you easily manage, track, and share tasks with teammates. Packed with helpful features like- checklists, attachments, reminders, or due dates, Cards also include Комментарии и мнения владельцев and emoji reactions for team members.
- Integration Trello comes integrated with Confluence, Slack, Dropbox, Google Drive, Evernote, etc. Besides apps you already use, the hundreds of available Trello Power-Ups help fine-tune specific needs of your workflow.
- No-Code Automation Trello Butler reduces tedious tasks on your project board. From everyday actions like moving lists, creating custom buttons to building processes, or reminding of upcoming deadlines, Trello’s automation streamlines your entire workflow.
Pros and Cons
Here’s a quick rundown of Trello’s pros and cons.
- Free and easy to begin. The intuitive and fast interface has no bloat to ensure efficient work speed.
- Real-time activity feed to monitor timelines easily
- 100 tool integration.
- Comes with several Kanban board templates
- Unlimited number of checklists and subtasks that to add to your card.
- Option to invite non-members through their email addresses.
- Not suitable for large companies or businesses.
- Calendar view, exporting, time-tracking, etc., require paid subscriptions.
- Can’t be used as a scrum tool or scrum board since it lacks features such as estimation points, agile reports, user stories, etc.
- File attachments and uploads are limited to 250MB.
- My Tasks offers limited sorting and grouping, no single hierarchical view of tasks and subtasks.
What is Microsoft 365 Planner?
Microsoft Planner is a project management software that comes with the Office 365 subscription. Being quite similar to Trello in terms of functions and features, MS Planner is a competitor and alternative for Trello.
Microsoft 365 Planner allows you to easily organize and monitor your work via its simple task management. Packed with features like Checklists, Labels, Assignees, and Due Dates, this tool connects to all the applications in Office 365, making it a very convenient choice to simplify task management for teams.
Some of the prominent features of Microsoft Planner are:
- Task Organizing, you can design and structure all tasks visually.
- Schedule View lets you view the start or due date for all your tasks in the built-in calendar. Due to its integration with Office 365 software, Planner also enables you to display your calendar in Outlook.
How to Use Microsoft Teams for Project Management
- Dashboards are where you can analyze tasks according to status, get an overview of all open or completed tasks, and visualize project progress and overdue tasks with different kinds of charts.
- Task Management Integrated with Outlook and Teams, MS Planner makes it easy to track and monitor all your tasks, with options for team members to comment or attach files on the task. Besides, with Microsoft Planner, you can also assign tasks to more than one team member.
- Email Notifications Besides automatically alerting team members of any changes/updates, Microsoft Planner also sends reminders via email.
- Cross-Device Availability Microsoft Planner is available across different platforms and devices- on the web, PC, and iOS or Android as an app.
Pros and Cons
Like Trello, Microsoft Planner comes with a fair share of pros and cons:
- Simple interface, intuitive usage.
- Built-in Calendar feature for tasks and due dates.
- Deep integration with other MS software like One Note, Teams, etc.
- Customizable Kanban cards with space for description, checklists, labels, assignees, and Комментарии и мнения владельцев.
- Planner Hub breaks down tasks into detailed reports on where you spent your time the most.
- Office 365 integration offers accessible communication through MS Teams.
- Automatically notifies all members of changes/updates.
- Limitation of a single checklist per task and a maximum of 20 checkboxes.
- Lack of Burn Down charts, Cumulative Flow diagrams, etc.
- Комментарии и мнения владельцев lag feature to mention teammates by tagging, as well as character limits.
- Bundled with Office 365, you pay for the other software that you may not use.
Trello vs Microsoft 365 Planner Comparison
Microsoft 365 Planner and Trello are both valuable and efficient tools. But with all their features, similarities, and dissimilarities, making the call between Trello vs. Microsoft 365 Planner is a difficult task.
So, which of these should you select for your needs? Here’s a comparison between Trello and Microsoft Planner to help you make your choice:
Find out more about project management complexities when using Microsoft Planner in our article What are the key project planning challenges?