Product Review: Microsoft Planner

The Business Blocks

Check out this Microsoft Planner review and see if this is the task management platform you’ve been looking for.

There is an adage that if you fail to plan, you plan to fail in the business world. And while the sentiment has become a cliché, it contains a great deal of truth. Without a strategy for growth, profitability, and competitiveness, your business is flying blind.

While modern businesses use an abundance of high-tech planning tools, they must still use them effectively. Microsoft Planner is one technological tool, and it should unquestionably be included in your business toolbox.

What Is Microsoft Planner?

Microsoft Planner is an intuitive task management application that promotes team collaboration through its planner hub and movable task boards. The platform, suitable for businesses of all sizes, integrates with all Microsoft 365 products to maximize efficiency across your entire operation. You can delegate tasks to your team, assign multiple members to a single task, track their progress, and determine whether they meet their key performance indicators and provide optimal service levels.

Microsoft Planner Features

MS Planner enables individuals and teams to gain visibility into their tasks, stay informed of approaching deadlines, and group and filter their tasks. These are just a few of the features available—take let’s a quick look at what else Microsoft Planner has to offer.

  • Schedule View: This enables users to see a calendar of all their tasks.
  • Group and Filter Tasks: Sort your tasks according to their due dates to see what work is approaching.
  • Joint Task Management: My Tasks displays all of your tasks, and team members can give feedback and attach files in Outlook, Outlook Groups, and Teams.
  • Assign Multiple Team Members to a Task: Unlike many other task software solutions, you can delegate duties to multiple team members.
  • Allow External Access to the Application: If you’re working on a task or project and want to invite a vendor, contractor, or stakeholder to observe, you can enable external access.
  • Export MS Planner into Outlook: Using the iCalendar feed, you can export your Microsoft Planner into Outlook, simplifying time management and scheduling.
  • Receive Email Notifications: Email notifications also help users stay on track by notifying them of approaching deadlines.

When combined, these features assist in planning and even execution, but they lack the level of control required by project managers to manage resources, budgets, and more.

How Does It Work?

The platform uses Kanban boards to enable you to create a team’s workflow, assign and manage activities, and attach various media. The boards can be readjusted within a column or a section of a column, enabling you and your team to create interactive to-do lists. Additionally, you can use the boards to post checklists to keep track of the daily, weekly, and monthly agendas.

Microsoft Planner uses analytics to visualize team performance. It keeps track of various types of data, such as project status, each member’s productivity level, and the number of projects received by the team over a given time. The data extracted from the charts is especially advantageous when writing progress reports or planning future projects.

Specific industries require employees to work in the field, which means they will be away from their computers. This scenario is addressed via the mobile app for Microsoft Planner. It includes all the core functionality of its web-based equivalents and enables real-time data entry. Users of Android, iOS, and Windows Mobile devices can download the application.

If you require additional platform functionality, you can leverage the platform’s seamless integration with other Microsoft applications. You can communicate directly with your team via MS Teams or send emails to your contacts via Microsoft Outlook while accessing and managing the applications above from a single location. Microsoft Planner is included as a component of the Microsoft 365 suite of products. To access it, you must subscribe to Microsoft 365, which includes Planner and Microsoft OneDrive, Microsoft Teams, Microsoft Outlook, and Microsoft Forms.

Pros and Cons

Microsoft Planner is Microsoft’s response to the project management system in design, setup, and task creation. Planner is included as part of your enterprise subscription to Office 365. Here are some pros and cons to consider when purchasing the MS Planner.

The Pros:

  • It is simple to understand and set up, the UI is highly intuitive, and it is easy to figure out how to create plans.
  • Any updates/changes to plans are automatically communicated to all plan members via email, ensuring that everyone is kept informed.
  • Adding team members to activities and boards is straightforward; simply begin typing their name, and MS Planner will display them for selection.
  • Each task item includes space for a description, a checklist, labels, and comments.
  • The built-in calendar feature makes it simple to assign due dates to tasks.
  • Planner includes a screen called Planner Hub, which allows you to break down your tasks and time into comprehensive reports on tasks, progress, and where time was spent.
  • You can view your team members’ delegated tasks across all boards, determining if any individual is overburdened.
  • Due to the native integration with Office 365, you can communicate the plan with all team members via Outlook; each plan is assigned an email address, which all members receive.
  • You do not need to log in separately to MS Planner because it is integrated with Office 365.

The Cons:

  • MS Planner does not support the addition of non-team members. If a user is not connected to your organization via Office 365, they cannot participate in Planner.
  • No @tagging; one of the most valuable features of the interactive planner is tagging any member of the board to send them a message.
  • Each task may have a maximum of one checklist with twenty checkboxes.
  • Comments on tasks in MS Planner have a much smaller character limit than in Trello; you may find yourself attaching lengthy comments as separate documents or stretching your content across multiple comments.
  • There is no automated way to transfer content between tasks, buckets, or plans; instead, you must copy/paste.

Who Is the Product for?

Numerous businesses already use flexible frameworks to iteratively complete tasks. Microsoft Planner provides the necessary flexibility for this purpose. You can construct the plans however you wish, for example, according to phases, topics, or areas.

Microsoft Planner is a versatile tool that can be used by any professional or team for the following purposes:

  • Management of small projects
  • Using agile approaches such as Kanban or Scrum
  • Where no dependencies between the tasks are required
  • Where no capacities or resources need to be managed
  • Connecting the Project Online Client via a standardized interface or through the use of third-party tools

Pricing

Microsoft Planner is included in the Business Essentials Plan for Microsoft Office 365. MS 365 is a premium subscription service that bundles Microsoft’s Office products, cloud storage, and advanced security. It is compatible with multiple operating systems, including Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android.

A 30-day free trial is available to test the waters, but several tiers are available if you want a business-level subscription.

Plans and Pricing for Microsoft Planner:

Microsoft 365 PlanCost per user per monthInclusion
Business Basic$5with a yearly commitment, includes MS Teams, storage, and the Office 365 suite of products
Business Standard$12.50with a yearly commitment, has premium Office applications and business email across devices
Business Premium$20with a yearly commitment, enhanced security against cyber-threats, and management of devices
Apps for Business$8.25with a yearly commitment, includes cloud-based file storage and Office applications, but excludes Teams and business email.

Microsoft Planner is included with all enterprise, education, and business essentials Microsoft 365 plans and the business premium Microsoft 365 plans.

Conclusion

Microsoft Planner includes a plethora of features suitable for your business. The most challenging aspect of maximizing any project management solution is not the tool itself but developing a strategy for structuring your projects repeatedly. This may require some trial and error, but refinement can ultimately assist you and your team stay on track with the hundreds, if not thousands, of activities necessary to finish a project.

MS Planner appears to be geared toward being a ‘lightweight’ project management software, but this may change as it is updated. With the addition of Microsoft Teams as a central hub for teamwork and the ability to combine Planner’s ‘plans’ into Teams, this combination has become a much more robust offering capable of competing with other same tools. And with Microsoft’s ongoing investment and roadmap, Planner will continue to grow in strength.