Microsoft added a planning app in Office 365, but is it a waste of time or a replacement for Microsoft Project? Will it live up to the hype as a premier project management tool? The corporation made Microsoft Planner generally available just over a month ago, so let’s take a look at just how useful it is to project managers.
What Does It Do?
Microsoft says Planner is a tool meant for team collaboration that will allow you to keep your work organized. The main features include:
- a visual planning tool,
- a task tracking tool that lets you assign tasks to team members,
- file sharing,
- chat client.
One of the seemingly most useful features of Planner is called the “Hub.” The Hub tracks overall progress on your project. It also breaks down tasks to show which are on schedule, which are running behind and what tasks belong to you.
Trello users will be familiar with Boards, a concept for work organization. Each Board consists of multiple Cards. You’ll find due dates on each Card, which can also contain attachments, messages and conversations. Additional organization takes place by organizing Cards into Buckets that can have colors and pictures assigned to them to make them easier to identify.
Users of One Note will be happy to find out that Planner can be easily integrated. Each plan created in Planner has a notebook that is created along with it. This allows full One Note functionality within each plan.
Along with One Note, all of the other Office apps are invited to the party. Word, Excel and PowerPoint files can all be attached to Cards. SharePoint integration keeps all of those attachments in a document library, which can also be made available offline if a need exists.
Right now Planner is still in its infancy. This means that it lacks many of the features of its more mature third party competition. As of this writing, there are no mobile apps for Planner. Remote access is done through web login. Other missing features include reusable templates, access outside of Office 365 and having multiple users assigned to a task.
Microsoft Project Killer
Is Planner a Microsoft Project killer? Not likely. Project is a robust tool that is great for planning and tracking large profile projects.
But Project has a pretty steep learning curve. Hours of work and effort can be lost if you are unfamiliar with its nuances. This frustration has led many users simply to abandon this more complex software and track projects in other tools such as Trello or even Excel.
However, for offices in which someone functions as a project manager along with other duties, it could be a simpler way to manage tasks and people within the Office 365 suite. If a business doesn’t already use Office 365, Microsoft Planner by itself wouldn’t be a reason to add the office suite.
You might want to check out this video session from Microsoft Ignite Australia in February 2017 to see how Microsoft Planner is used: Meet Planner: Team Collaboration Built on the Microsoft Graph
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