If you’ve ever worked for a big company, you probably used Microsoft Office.
If you haven’t used it, here’s a recap: Microsoft has followed all of the consumer trends with software, but have marked their product up big time for their enterprise clients. They tag on a lot of names to their products, like OneDrive, Office365, Edge and whatever else. It’s hard to keep track.
All of their most popular apps, like Word, Excel, and PowerPoint have moved to the cloud, which is to be expected. But beyond just offering those core products, Microsoft has moved into the team collaboration space.
First up was Microsoft Teams, the Slack alternative that Microsoft hopes can keep them relevant in the battle with Slack. This is to keep their enterprise clients from jumping ship while still offering bulk discounts on the Office essentials.
Which is where Microsoft Planner comes in. Project management software in the cloud has “disrupted” the market share of Microsoft Project. MS Project is the clunky old guard, has a steep learning curve, and is usually reserved for project managers or dedicated team leaders.
Microsoft Project is not a system that everyone can contribute to easily. Usually, that means the project manager is combing through emails, comments and meeting notes to keep the project plan up to date.
But that full disruption hasn’t come to complete fruition yet. Almost ⅔ of small businesses, ostensibly who Microsoft Project isn’t for, use it. Sure, rivals are nipping at its heels, but it’s insanely popular.
To ward off competitors and to protect the flank, Microsoft has rolled out Planner, which is packaged with Office365, the Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint suite.
In this post, we’ll look at how Planner works and alternatives that you can use.
How Does Microsoft Planner Work?
If you’re familiar with Kanban boards, cards or Trello, then Microsoft Planner will instantly be familiar. Rolled out in 2016 and made available to all 365 clients, Microsoft Planner has an appealing dashboard for progress reports.
Its look is based on Kanban and the popular card setup. Planner uses “Buckets” for stages and statuses, such as an “In Progress” bucket or a “Completed” bucket. Once a card is moved from one bucket to the next, then the next task can start.
This, however, leads to issues with prioritization. One team that tried it said that Microsoft Planner led them away from Kanban best practices because it was difficult to prioritize tasks.
“The main issue became too many categories to keep track of and how to rank each category by importance,” the team at Mobile Mentor said.
Another recent feature is their Calendar view which isn’t a Gantt chart (ha!). Instead, it’s just a simple look at what tasks are due when, with unscheduled tasks on the side. Time View is a feature that many other project management tools have as well (and at a lower price point to boot!).
The benefit of Planner to those entrenched in the Microsoft Project culture is that finally, project managers can assign other tasks over to their colleagues without getting into Microsoft Project.
What does that mean? Microsoft Project is too complicated for normal people, that’s what it means. Microsoft has to create a better project management tool than Project without giving up on Project because it’s too entrenched in their system. That sounds like a typical Microsoft maneuver. Why Microsoft doesn’t just improve Project is above my pay grade.
Just Because You Have Microsoft Planner Doesn’t Mean You Have to Use It.
1). Cards aren’t for everyone.
If you’re hardcore into Kanban, then Planner isn’t the tool for you. If you like cards and the simplicity of Trello, then use Trello. But guess what? You’re not everybody. Especially when you’re looking for a tool that’s meant for collaboration. Some people like cards, some people like Lists, others want their calendar all of the time. There are project management tools that can accommodate everyone’s favorite view.
2) Using Another Tool Isn’t That Hard
If you’re mainly using Planner to share links, files, and email then integrating another tool into your workflow is a piece of cake. Tools like ClickUp sync to Outlook and other popular email tools, and you can even create tasks from your email or use a Zapier integration. You can be free from the tyranny of Office 365 dominating every aspect of your work life.
9 Microsoft Planner Alternatives To Use Today
Simple task and project management that your whole organization can use.
If you’re stuck with only the pros using Microsoft Project and the rest of your team using Planner…how does that make sense?
Instead, opt for a project management software that can handle software development, marketing, sales, account management…all of it. Different teams and spaces give your company the organization they need, while still using the same project management tool. Share files, make project plans, add tasks, review deadlines and do it all within ClickUp.
- Custom Fields: Add dates, phone numbers, emails, websites and whatever new info you’d like with custom fields in ClickUp. The possibilities will help you make ClickUp function the way you want it to.
- Customized Views: Each team member or the user can include how they want to work. Easy. Get a box, board, list or calendar.
- Priorities: Remember the example above about Planner blocking priority tasks? That doesn’t happen in ClickUp. Advanced filtering and custom priority levels will help your team know exactly what to do next.
- Drag and Drop: This is one of the key features, especially if you have multiple teams using spaces and projects in ClickUp. You can drag, drop, move, and re-assign tasks to people or teams in just a few steps. There are no extra menus to click through. You can move the assigned tasks to where they need to go, from any view.
- Assign Comments: This is one of the truly unique features in ClickUp. You can assign a comment and it automatically becomes a subtask. The flow of review and ideas is natural, automatic and easy to do.
…And those are just a few of the amazing features that you get for free with ClickUp!
If you’re using Microsoft Planner for the cards and boards, you might as well go to one of the teams that does it better. That’d be Trello. Boards function as projects, and the cards reside within the boards. You can add details, create checklists, and upload files onto the card. The tasks are grouped accordingly and it’s easy to share–either within your team or publicly. This is a great feature for sharing with clients or other vendors, or even others on your team who may be stuck on Microsoft Project! Don’t let them bring you down, too!
3. Microsoft Excel
Plenty of people use Microsoft Excel for project management, but that doesn’t mean they should. It has rows and columns. That means you could put a task in the first column, describe it and then add due dates and who’s going to work on what. What’s the problem? Well, a lot. First, it’s hard to collaborate or set automatic reminders…and well, so much more.
Well, if your manager loves the staid nature of Microsoft Project, but you need something a bit more robust than Planner, then take a look at Wrike. Its folder hierarchy, dashboard, Gantt charts, and middle-of-the-road UI should bring comfort to those with sensible tastes. The folder structure allows your project structure to ebb and flow, depending on its size and how much you need to drill down. It also features a solid timeline and dashboard reporting components that will quickly provide updates on your whole team.
Asana makes sense as a Microsoft Planner alternative. Asana makes it simple to find your way around and has cutting-edge UI design with simple task management attributes. In Asana, you can create sections, much like Planner’s buckets. Asana has a personalized inbox which will help you monitor activity from other collaborators and coworkers. Asana’s hierarchy gets bogged down with the Sections and limited users.
Flow gets high marks from reviewers on Capterra for its design and commenting features. Users can update their statuses fast, with updates and notifications coming in a non-intrusive way.
Their board structure will be familiar to anyone who likes that part of Microsoft Planner. A bonus is their mobile-first approach, which presents all of your tasks and subtasks in a clear way. Flow isn’t as flexible as other project management tools because it locks you into a system of statuses and updates that you must submit to for it to work successfully.
It’s also hard to separate Flow projects from different teams–meaning that all teams can see all projects. This may not work if you need to keep workspaces apart from other business units, limiting your ability to really think big picture.
See how ClickUp compares to Flow as a Microsoft Planner alternative. Import a CSV file from Flow!
Casual takes mind mapping and cards to another level. If you like using cards but aren’t sure of the statuses, links and connections to team members and other projects, then Casual is your answer. You create and connect tasks as you go, giving you a visual representation of what needs to be done before moving on to the next stage. Your workflows are simplified with lines that are easy to change.
NutCache is a little more complex than Microsoft Planner, but not as complex as using Microsoft Project. It’s an Agile product with boards, but also has more robust time tracking and resource management that Microsoft Planner doesn’t have. Couple this with an invoice tracking feature, and it works better for smaller sized businesses that may not have the enterprise resources of Microsoft.
The value of Smartsheet is that it looks remarkably similar to Excel but with more intuitive project management features. Lots of your work is still managed in spreadsheets, but you can create main tasks and then subtasks right underneath them with due dates, assignees and more. Smartsheet offers more dashboard overviews and cost estimations. You’d have to set up all of that yourself in Smartsheet. The drawback? Better hope your team loves spreadsheets! That may not be the best way for your team collaborators to view their tasks in the most intuitive way.
More Surprises with Microsoft?
Here’s a little bit of trivia for you. Did you know that Microsoft not only has Project and Planner, but they also have another productivity software app? Yep, they also have Wunderlist!
The simple to-do list app is convenient and easy to use, but guess what? There’s no discernible way for them to all work together. Microsoft could have a powerful productivity suite, but also have users that use each product completely independent of one another. No one knows for sure what Microsoft’s plans are for Wunderlist, throwing the confusing the to-do list app users for a loop.
If that’s the case, then you should definitely think about a productivity platform that can cover all of your project needs–including personal task management.
Microsoft Planner may seem like an obvious choice since it’s automatically part of your Office suite. But the most convenient option isn’t necessarily the easiest or the best for your team. It could save you time immediately, but will it really make you productive in the long run? Think about some of these alternatives like ClickUp that could help your whole organization communicate better, smoothing out the inefficiencies that are inherent with any Microsoft Office365 product.