Microsoft Planner is a task management tool developed by Microsoft. As part of their Office 365 suite of products for business and enterprise it provides an easily accessible way to track, distribute and collaborate on projects. With an online and mobile version available it is a great entry level task management tool for people already using Office 365 within their organization.
The screenshot below is an example plan for helping a team keep track of Power BI dashboards in development using Kanban Cards. The software supports multiple additional views and has a number of key features designed to help multiple users collaborate.
Let’s take a look at some Key Features of Microsoft Planner and look at who this product is designed for.
What is Microsoft Planner?
Microsoft offers a set of project and task management tools. Ranging from Microsoft Project for large, complex projects for use by professional project managers to Microsoft To Do, a simple to do list app. Microsoft Planner fits in the middle of these two.
Planner is a mobile and web-based task management tool included in most Office 365 business subscriptions. Designed for tracking multiple small to moderate-sized projects, it enables teams to create plans, assign tasks, discuss progress, and view performance charts, all while easily sharing boards within their organization.
What are Key Features of Microsoft Planner
There are a number of key features of Microsoft Planner that set it apart from other task management tools available from Microsoft.
- Task Management – Create new tasks, set deadlines, assign them to team members
- Boards and Buckets – A Kanban Card style view of projects to track progress categories.
- Labels and Priorities – Track groups of projects and set priorities shared with your team.
- Start Dates and Due Dates – Keep a team on the same page with start date and due date tracking
- Automated Notifications – Team members receive e-mail notifications when project statuses change
- Cloud-Based with App – Accessible through the Office 365 Cloud and a Mobile Phone App
As you can see from the key features, one of the biggest benefits of working with Microsoft Planner is the level of collaboration that it enables with your team. This also highlights how Planner is targeted at Business and Enterprise users who often work in teams.
What Sets Microsoft Planner Apart?
The biggest differentiator of Microsoft Planner compared to other productivity and task tracking tools is the level of integration it supports with other parts of the Microsoft Ecosystem. Tasks can become part of bigger workflows that involve, Outlook, Teams, SharePoint, and even Power Automate for an added level of integration with external systems.
For many IT departments tired of onboard and supporting additional vendors, it’s an easy addition to a Microsoft 365 license, but many organizations will already have access with it as it comes included with many of the most popular Business and Enterprise Microsoft 365 Tiers.
In addition to being part of the Microsoft Ecosystem, there are some additional stand out features that many people will appreciate.
Compared to other more comprehensive task management tools like Asana or Monday.com, Microsoft tasks lacks many of the bells and whistles of these platforms allowing users to focus on the core components that are most important to them.
The interface is clean, modern, and is free of clutter, which unto itself is a benefit. There are no advanced routing features or places to add extensive notes for bigger projects. Some people may lament the lack of these features while others may appreciate the simplicity.
Versatile Viewing Options
Planner offers users several different ways to visualize tasks and progress. Beyond the standard Board view, Planner provides Charts and Schedule views, allowing users multiple views of the same set of tasks.
- Grid View – A list of tasks, ideal for a central view of status, due dates, and assignments.
- Board View: Displays tasks as visual cards within categorized columns or buckets. Users can drag and drop cards, add notes, and sub-tasks.
- Charts View: Offers graphical representations like pie charts and bar graphs for quick insights into task statuses.
- Schedule View: Places tasks on a calendar for a time-based overview.
Enhanced Collaboration Features
Planner promotes teamwork by enabling multiple users to collaborate on a single task card. Team members can attach files, keep track of to do lists within tasks, and update statuses collaboratively. It’s a way to keep all team members instantly up to date on not only projects that they are working on, but project statuses that might impact their own work.
Understanding Kanban Cards in Planner
Kanban Cards originated as a task management system in Japan. In Microsoft Planner, tasks are broken down into manageable pieces and are categorized into different buckets, which essentially act as progress checkpoints. As tasks get completed, their corresponding cards move to the next status column.
The picture below shows what a traditional Kanban Board would look like in an office setting. Sticky notes are used to keep track of smaller tasks, and are moved from one phase to the next by physically moving the note from one bucket (column) to another.
The Transition from Physical to Digital Boards
While Kanban Cards and Boards were initially physical entities, the shift to digital platforms has made them more accessible and adaptable, especially in today’s distributed work environment where some people are in the office and some work from home.
The Microsoft Planner view of Kanban Cards are also much easier to read than sticky notes.
This is the view of two groups or columns, Project Scoping and Data Access. As a phase of a project is completed, it the card is moved from Project Scoping to Data Access. Notes and the to-do lists on the card are updated as components of the project are completed.
The visual nature of tracking tasks and projects in Planner make it very easy to spot problems.
Visualizing Workflow Bottlenecks
The system makes it easier to identify process bottlenecks. When too many cards accumulate in a single bucket, it serves as a visual cue that there is a potential problem in that part of the workflow. It could either indicate that part of the process is not working well or there are too many projects assigned to a single person.
Accountability and Transparency
A side effect of collaboration boards like Planner is that it adds transparency and accountability for teams working on projects. It gives an instant view of who is completing projects and who is falling behind, keeping an entire team informed. This fosters a sense of accountability among team members and provides everyone with a clear understanding of individual contributions to a project.
Who is Microsoft Planner for?
Microsoft Planner is ideal as a task and project collaboration tool if you are already part of the Microsoft 365 Ecosystem. Because it’s packaged with many popular Office 365 business and enterprise subscriptions it will come at no cost for a majority of users.
If you’re new to collaboration and planning tools, it’s worth checking out. The easy-to-use interface makes it quick to learn, but we find that many users eventually outgrow it. The collaboration features also have limited value for very small teams or if you want to use it for your own individual tracking.
People who are not already working in the Microsoft 365 ecosystem, or need more powerful features might find other solutions are a better fit.
Notion is the Best Alternative to Microsoft Planner
Even with integration with the Microsoft Ecosystem, and the inclusion of Planner in many Microsoft 365 subscriptions we find that it’s still pretty limited when it comes to team collaboration or improving personal productivity.
We recommend Notion as a Microsoft Planner Alternative, new users can sign up for a free account to try it out.
It’s simple to use like Microsoft Planner but has the ability to leverage AI to help you actually complete and track tasks. There’s also support for including screenshots and mixed media as part of the planning process and the entire
These are some of the features that Planner lacks and sets Notion apart for.
Comprehensive and Customizable Collaborative Workspace
Notion serves as a one-stop platform uniting tasks, notes, wikis, and databases, all while allowing extensive customization. Similar to Microsoft Planner, it enables real-time collaborative editing, where team members can work on the same page simultaneously, enhancing immediate information sharing and teamwork.
Notion supports a broad range of content forms, such as videos, code snippets, and images, lending versatility to both creative and technical projects.
Searchable Data and Notes
The platform’s robust search functionality makes it easy to locate and access various data and notes. While Planner only lets you keep track of small notes on a card, Notion lets you take extensive notes which become searchable and easy to access. With an AI add-on your notes can also be automatically summarized and put into logical order.
AI is the future of productivity. The more that you can start working with AI in your day to day, the more productive you can be and the more prepared you will be for change. Notion’s AI features come as a paid add-on, but you get a lot of value out of it.
- Automated Summaries: AI can distill lengthy documents or meeting notes into concise summaries.
- Task Prioritization: AI algorithms analyze past behavior and task deadlines to intelligently suggest prioritization.
- Content Suggestions: AI can offer topic ideas or even draft portions of content based on provided keywords.
The inclusion of AI in Notion automates repetitive tasks, provides insightful analytics, and enhances overall productivity, making it a multifaceted tool for diverse project requirements.
If you’re looking for a task tracking and planning tool that’s not overwhelming and embraces AI technology, check out Notion as a Microsoft Planner alternative.
For people already working within the Microsoft 365 ecosystem, Microsoft planner is a great introduction to productivity and collaboration software. It’s simple and quick to learn. Planner’s integration with other Microsoft Office applications and the low price point of being in most Microsoft 365 subscriptions are its biggest selling points.
the biggest drawback is that after using it for a while, you may find yourself wishing for a few more features that just aren’t there. The ability of tools like Notion to incorporate extensive notes taking, tracking, and organization with AI make it much easier to tell exactly what is going on with a task and even makes you more productive by not having to convert project notes into a to do list, or brief note update.
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