Microsoft Planner: Pros, Cons and Alternatives

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In the world of planning, there’s no shortage of software offerings that allow you to plan and execute your project. Microsoft Planner in particular, which is included in the Microsoft 365 platform, is a major player in the project planning and task management software space.

Microsoft Planner is a tool that helps you gather the elements of your project and create a project plan with a beginning, middle and end. MS Planner is part of a suite of tools that Microsoft offers to project managers and their teams.

But is Microsoft Planner the right software for your needs compared to Microsoft Project, another Microsoft project management tool—or should you perhaps look elsewhere, like a Microsoft Project alternative?

Before making any decisions on what tool to use when managing your next project, let’s take a closer look at what works and what doesn’t with Microsoft Planner.

What Is Microsoft Planner?

Microsoft Planner is a task management software that’s equipped with kanban boards and to-do lists. Microsoft Planner is part of the Microsoft 365 platform and serves as a to-do list app rather than a legitimate project planning software due to its lack of project management features. The Microsoft Planner interface makes use of task cards in a kanban board interface. It’s a lightweight app that can be used on both mobile devices and desktop computers.

For a truly complete project management experience, you need software that offers multiple task management tools such as Gantt charts, kanban boards, task lists and calendars that are easy to use and don’t cost an arm and a leg. ProjectManager has these and other features to help you plan, schedule and track your projects.

Kanban board in ProjectManager
ProjectManager’s kanban boards are a great alternative to Microsoft Planner. Learn more

What Is Microsoft Planner Used For?

Looking at it from a project management angle, Microsoft Planner’s kanban boards can help project managers and their teams make plans and assign tasks. Plus, there’s a chat feature to foster collaboration as well as basic task tracking charts that show progress.

Think of it as a way to organize your team and tasks, similar to apps such as Slack and Trello. Microsoft has positioned this task management tool for more casual users who have personal projects to execute. For professional project managers, MS Planner can be seen as a gateway app into Microsoft Project, Teams and Sharepoint.

Related: How to Run Microsoft Project for Mac

Microsoft Planner Features

Individuals and teams are using MS Planner to get visibility into their projects, stay updated on approaching deadlines and group and filter their tasks. These are only some of the features available—let’s take a quick tour of what else makes up Microsoft Planner.

  • Kanban boards: Kanban boards are a visual task management tool that let you assign work, track task completion and reduce lead time by using boards, cards and columns.
  • To-do lists: Simple task lists can be used to prioritize work and enter task information.
  • Schedule view: The schedule view allows users to view all their tasks on a calendar.
  • Group and filter tasks: Filter your tasks by deadline and see what work is coming due soon.
  • Collaborative task management: My Tasks shows all your tasks, and team members can comment and attach files on the task in Outlook, Outlook Groups, Teams and more.
  • Assign a task to several team members: Unlike some other task management tools, you can assign tasks to more than one person.
  • Give users access to the tool: If you’re working on a project and want to bring in a vendor, contractor or stakeholder to see what’s going on, you can add external access.
  • Import Microsoft Planner into Outlook: You can put your Microsoft Planner into your Outlook through the iCalendar feed, which helps facilitate scheduling and time management.
  • Get email notifications: There are also email notifications that keep users on track by alerting them of coming deadlines.

All combined, these task tracking features are helpful in planning and executing the project, though they don’t offer the level of control project managers need to deal with resources, budget and more.

How Much Does Microsoft Planner Cost?

As mentioned above, Microsoft Planner can be acquired through paid subscriptions, as part of the Microsoft 365 platform. MS 365 is a premium grouping of its Office applications, cloud storage, advanced security and more. It works across multiple devices at the same time, whether Windows, macOS, iOS or Android.

There is a 30-day free trial you can take to kick the tires, but if you’re interested in using the business-level subscription, there are several tiers.

Microsoft Planner Plans and Pricing

  • Microsoft 365 Business Basic: $6 user/month with an annual commitment, includes Microsoft Teams, storage and the Office suite of products only accessible online.
  • Microsoft 365 Business Standard: $12.50 user/month with an annual commitment, has the above, business email and premium Office applications across devices.
  • Microsoft 365 Business Premium: $22 user/month with an annual commitment, includes the above and greater security against cyber-threat and device management.
  • Microsoft 365 Apps for Business: $8.25 user/month with an annual commitment, includes file storage on the cloud and Office apps, but no Teams or business email.

Microsoft Planner is available on all enterprise plans, education plans, business essentials and the business premium Microsoft 365 plans.

Pros and Cons of Using Microsoft Planner

While Microsoft Planner is a suitable task management tool for simple projects, it has some massive drawbacks when it comes to project management. When you compare it to other project management software, problems arise. Here are some of the pros and cons of Microsoft Planner.

Pros of Microsoft Planner

  • You can get started quickly thanks to an easy-to-use kanban board interface. It makes onboarding your team simple.
  • Email notifications in the Microsoft planner app let you stay on top of your task list and ensure you’re never surprised by unexpected deadlines.
  • All the information you need to complete, manage and collaborate on your tasks is in one place, with a kanban card window, checklist, labels and comments.
  • The project calendar view lets you set deadlines how you want.
  • You can generate reports on tasks, progress and more to stay on schedule with the Planner Hub.
  • See all of your team’s assignments to better manage their workload and stay updated on their progress.
  • Get a unique Outlook email for communications with each plan and better organize your project work.
  • The Microsoft planner app fully integrates with Office 365.

Cons of Microsoft Planner

  • The absence of a Gantt chart makes it impossible to link dependent tasks, set milestones and view all your tasks chronologically on a timeline.
  • There is no way to set recurring tasks, which adds busy work and slows you down.
  • There is no risk management feature, which makes it challenging to identify and manage any issues that might arise.
  • There is no time tracking, which makes it difficult to stay on schedule and monitor your team’s progress.
  • The lack of in-app notifications means you have to leave the tool to get updates, which takes you away from your work.
  • There is no access to dashboards outside of the project team, which takes away a valuable tool when updating stakeholders.
  • There aren’t multiple checklists per task on the kanban board view.
  • There is no way to see team workload and reallocate data from the same page.
  • The lack of portfolio management, portfolio roadmaps or dashboards means you can manage only one project at a time.
  • There’s no way to check team availability, making it more difficult to assign tasks because managers don’t know who’s free.

Microsoft Planner Alternatives

Here are three common alternatives for users who are looking for a more robust project management software than Microsoft Planner.

1. ProjectManager: The Best MS Planner Alternative

If you’re looking for software like Microsoft Planner but want more features and more robust project management tools, try ProjectManager. It offers all of the same functionality as Microsoft Planner with the added bonus of robust project management features.

A screenshot of a kanban board in ProjectManager, an alternative to Microsoft Planner

More Planning & Scheduling Features

It’s like taking the powerful kanban board from Microsoft Planner and adding in Gantt charts, real-time dashboards and powerful collaborative tools for a complete project management experience. ProjectManager is online software so progress is updated in real time. It even supports large remote teams at a better price.

ProjectManager's Gantt chart

With an easy-to-use, user-friendly interface, there’s no training required. Business and Enterprise plans have onboarding fees included in the listed price. You can get your team up and running fast! Plus, you’ll have access to a top-notch customer support team to help.

2. Microsoft Project

Unlike Microsoft Planner, Microsoft Project allows you to plan, schedule and monitor your projects with multiple project views such as Gantt charts, kanban boards, task lists and calendars.

Microsoft Project used to be the most common choice for project managers for years. However, Microsoft Project has drawbacks that haven’t improved over time. For example, this project management software is notoriously hard to use, isn’t compatible with Mac computers, and can be expensive.

3. Project Online

Project Online, also a Microsoft product, is a good choice for those who want to manage their projects online without the steep learning curve of the traditional versions of Microsoft Project. This project management tool has the advantages of online software, but just like Microsoft Project, can be expensive.

A disadvantage of Project Online is that users need to choose between pricing tiers which limits their alternatives. On top of that, they need other Microsoft products to use all the features Project Online has to offer.

Microsoft Planner FAQ

Choosing the right task management tool to manage your team’s work is an important decision for a project manager or team leader. Here are some Microsoft Planner FAQs to learn more about this software.

Is Microsoft Planner Free?

Microsoft Planner is not free. It’s part of the Microsoft 365 platform and it’s available for business, education and enterprise subscriptions.

Is Microsoft Planner the same as Microsoft Project?

Microsoft Planner and Microsoft Project sound similar but are two different things. Microsoft Planner focuses on task management and planning while Microsoft Project offers a wider range of project management features.

Is Microsoft Planner a Project Management Tool?

Microsoft Planner is a basic project management tool that relies on kanban boards and to-do lists to manage work. That simplicity might be a good fit for beginner project managers, but it lacks the features to be considered a robust project management software.

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