The Alternatives to Microsoft Planner for Office 365 Project Management
November 12, 2019

The Alternatives to Microsoft Planner for Office 365 Project Management

By Brian McHale

Every team needs a great project management tool to help them finish their projects in time.

But not all tools are made equal.

If your company is already using Office 365, Microsoft Planner might seem like the logical next step. However, Planner may not be the right tool for your team.

In this guide, we’re going to discuss the main features your team may need, and show you great alternatives to Microsoft Planner:

  • Project Central
  • Trello
  • Excel
  • Wrike
  • Smartsheet.

Let’s take a look!

What Is Microsoft Planner Used For?

Much like the entire Office 365 suite, Microsoft Planner is a lightweight tool for teams that need to stay on top of their daily tasks.

It’s typically used by project managers and team leads whose companies are already using other Office tools like Outlook and Excel to manage their day-to-day communications and organization.



Microsoft Planner has 4 key features we’ll be looking for in our alternatives:

1. Visual project management

It’s much easier to manage a project or a variety of tasks when you can clearly visualize them.

In Planner, each plan you create will have its own Kanban-style board. On it, you can organize tasks in buckets based on task status or assignments.

If you’re already using Sharepoint, you can add a Sharepoint Planner plan to your site.

Planner Kanban

For example, if you want to create a simple board with tasks that are completed, tasks that are currently in progress, and tasks that have yet to be started, Planner is perfect.

Similarly, you can filter tasks by different members they’re assigned to.

When you want to update the status of a task or change assignments, you just have to drag and drop them between different columns.

Again, this is nothing out of the ordinary.

The majority of task and project management tools (as well as the alternatives we’ll cover in this article) offer Kanban-style visual task management.


2. Microsoft Planner encourages collaboration

Collaboration is absolutely necessary for any team, but even more so for project teams.

Assign task in Planner

Fortunately, Microsoft Planner’s collaboration features are enough for teams to stay on the same page:

  • The dashboard offers comprehensive views of task statuses
  • Team members can attach files and leave feedback on tasks
  • Everyone knows who’s in charge of what.


3. Stay in the Loop

The entire point of project management tools (even if you’re not a trained project manager) is to offload as many manual tasks as possible.

You want your tool to alert you to any problems, giving you ample time to focus on what matters.

When it comes to Planner, it sends 3 types of notifications:

  • Email notifications sent only to you as the project manager
  • Group emails sent to all team members
  • Push notifications.

Additionally, you want your project management solution to adapt to different devices.

If you need to check up on progress, you shouldn’t have to fetch your laptop.


4. Guest Access

Finally, tools like Planner aren’t here only to help you work with your team.

A good project management solution will help you share access with people outside of your organization when necessary.

You can give special permissions to guests, or just give them access to particular files and information.

With that in mind, it’s time to take a look at the best Microsoft Planner alternatives. Our first stop is…


1. Microsoft Planner vs Project Central

Project Central is a simple project management tool for teams using Office 365. Your team can improve collaboration, create, track and manage projects with ease.

A visual interface means you can see what you need to in your projects at a glance, with a few other tricks up its sleeve that make it a great alternative to Microsoft Planner.


Seamless Office 365 Integration (with Your Microsoft Login)

When you start using Project Central, you won’t have to train your team members or open new accounts.

Instead, you can simply use your Microsoft work account to access the plethora of features Project Central offers.

Since the tool functions as an Office 365 integration, you’re effectively upgrading instead of switching platforms.

It’s much easier to get your top management on board, as well. Choosing other alternatives to Microsoft Planner means migration.

Using Project Central means improvement.

Project Central features - Office 365 sign in


Project Central Offers Beautiful User Experience

There is a steep learning curve to the majority of project management tools. It’ll take weeks and months to train your team members, even after you’ve somehow managed to secure stakeholder approval.

Onboarding and adoption are effortless with Project Central.

Project Central is intuitive and easy to use. All the options are right where you and your team members expect them to be.

And since it’s a visual task management tool, Project Central is a great fit for teams that haven’t been trained in project management and project collaboration but still want to excel at projects.

Similarly to Microsoft Planner, Project Central allows you to:

  • Drag & drop to organize tasks
  • Assign owners to tasks
  • Set start and end dates for tasks
  • Filter between tasks to see open and closed tasks
  • Stay in the loop in the Activity Feed.


Access Your Office 365 Files inside Project Central

Because Project Central integrates with Office 365, you’ll be able to use your Office 365 files inside this tool, as well.

Other Planner alternatives will require you to set up manual integrations, open additional accounts and import all the files you and your team have been working on.

You can access your Office 365 files 1directly from Project Central.

Once you’ve connected your document library with Project Central, your files will be right there for you to use.

From there, you can use your files as you would with any other Office365 tool; share them with other team members, edit them, view and collaborate.


Get a Clear View across All Projects in Your Account

Finally, any good Planner alternative has to give you the ability of monitoring multiple projects at once (without getting a headache).

Project Planner offers a simple dashboard from which you can assess the health of all of your projects – no matter how many you’re managing.

As soon as you log in, you’ll see three key indicators of projects:

  • On track
  • At risk
  • In danger.

If you don’t have time to dig into the progress of individual projects, you can simply gauge the most important information from your Project Central dashboard.

Then, you can review project status:

  • Not started
  • In progress
  • Completed.

This can be a great indicator of your overall performance.

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If you just want to see how many projects are completed as opposed to projects that haven’t been completed, it’s simple to tune your view in Project Central.

For additional visual project management, you can also review your project health through charts:

Finally, Project Central will help you track your performance by identifying:

  • Projects overdue
  • Upcoming deadlines
  • Top project contributors
  • Recent project status comments
  • Health and progress updates
  • Project cards summarizing the projects.

You can even track updates and project activity across multiple projects in the Activity Feed.

Get Started With Project Central

Sign up for Project Central’s FREE 14-day trial & try out project management for teams using Office 365.

2. Microsoft Planner vs Trello

Even though both tools essentially help you run your projects smoothly and stay on top of your tasks, there are significant differences between Microsoft Planner and Trello.

Task Organization

In Trello, you can organize your projects with task boards.

Similarly to Planner and Project Central, Trello follows the Kanban board visual task management style.

Trello Kanban

You can add:

  • Task cards to every task board
  • Comments
  • Files
  • Checklists
  • Labels
  • Due dates
  • Members (assignees).

Trello also sends notifications whenever there’s activity in a card you’re subscribed to.

You can move tasks around by dragging and dropping, which is very similar to other project management tools.

Planner doesn’t offer the Calendar view that Trello offers.

This can be pretty problematic when you’re working on a project with a lot of moving parts.

However, Planner does offer a Gantt chart view that displays tasks spread over time.

Managing Workload

A notable difference between Trello and Planner is workload management.

Planners lets you view workload per team member so you can divide tasks between team members more accurately, as well as get a better understanding of your project performance.

Trello doesn’t offer workload tracking capabilities.

Additionally, Trello doesn’t offer different ways of displaying lists; you can only see tasks as they appear on your board, and search for specific tasks.

However, unlike Planner, Trello lets you assign multiple team members to tasks and @mention different team members when you need their feedback.


So far, Trello doesn’t offer reporting, which makes it the best option for teams that only want to track and collaborate on tasks.

However, if you need a robust tool that gauges business intelligence insights and displays them so you can improve your future performance, you’ll be better off using Planner or Project Central.

Similar Tools, Different Features

While Trello and Planner fulfill the same purpose, they take a different stance with their features:

  • Activity tracking, Planner doesn’t
  • Different filtered views, Planner doesn’t
  • Planner offers performance and progress tracking and reports, Trello doesn’t
  • Planner offers planning tools, Trello doesn’t
  • Trello offers over 200 integrations, while Planner offers only 9
  • Planner has one login for Office365 users, Trello doesn’t
  • Planner has private hosting, Trello doesn’t.

Ultimately, it all depends on what you and your team need.

Trello is a great visual task management tool for teams collaborating on a lot of (creative) tasks. If you don’t need reporting and BI features, it’s a great choice.


3. Microsoft Planner vs Excel

Despite its limitations, Excel is still technically a viable solution for simple project management. In fact, a lot of modern project teams use it to keep track of tasks and performance.

After all, if it offers an option to create a Gantt chart, it’s a project management tool.

However, Excel is very limited for project management:

  • No automated reporting
  • No business intelligence insights
  • Fewer details
  • Lack of flexibility
  • No customer support.

All in all, you could get by using Excel, but why would you?

Microsoft Planner is definitely a much better tool.

If you need extra functionality out of your Office365 package, simply opt for Project Central and get all the features you need to wrap that project up in time.


4. Microsoft Planner vs Wrike

Wrike is another web-based project management alternative to Microsoft Planner.

At first glance, it seems immediately more robust and capable of in-depth reporting.

Wrike may not be as visual as some of the other Planner alternatives, but it gets the job done.

Wrike dashboard

Wrike is a great tool for mid-market businesses and enterprises.

It expertly divides task tracking between multiple teams and departments. If you’re managing more teams than one, it’ll fit your needs perfectly.

From the overview dashboard, you can navigate to different departments and projects, branching out to get a clearer scope of all the projects you’re managing.

The interface is very intuitive, as well, if a little simplistic.

You can adjust your view by different project aspects:

  • Gantt charts
  • Tasks
  • Workload
  • Board
  • Table.

At first, this may seem like a lot of options. In all honesty, it might be if you’re only an occasional project manager.

Task creation in Wrike is more powerful than in Microsoft Planner.

You can create special forms that have to be filled before a team member can create a task, ensuring that you’re getting all the details.

If you’re working on similar projects or utilizing similar processes, you can set up automated workflows in Wrike.

You can automatically assign the right tasks to the right people, in the right order.

When it comes to project collaboration, Wrike has a visual solution similar to InVision.

Team members can drop “pins” on images and files to specify what they’re giving feedback on, @mention other team members, and participate in rich conversations.

Wrike board

Finally, Wrike shines through its reporting capabilities.

You’ll get a bird’s eye view of your tasks and projects. If you want details, it’s easy to dive in and understand the context.

Is Wrike Better than Microsoft Planner?

If you’re a project manager in an enterprise, Wrike is definitely better than Microsoft Planner.

However, if you’re an occasional project manager, you may want to sign up for Project Central.


5. Microsoft Planner vs Smartsheet

Finally, Smartsheet is another suitable alternative to Microsoft Planner.

Advertised as a work execution platform, it’s actually a great project management alternative to 365Planner.

Just some of its PM features you may love are:

  • Task visualization
  • Different views: Gantt charts, grid, card, calendar
  • External file attachments
  • Automated update notifications
  • Task tracking
  • Real-time metrics and reporting
  • Resource management.

Additionally, Smartsheet also offers:

  • Automation
  • Integrations
  • KPI dashboards
  • Forms
  • Portals.

And so much more!

Smartsheet really is a robust platform best suited to enterprises or businesses that are looking to scale while optimizing the way they allocate resources.

Project management seems to be simply a by-product of Smartsheet’s general purpose.

This tool aims to automate everything that can be automated, use technology to fuel success, and give (project) managers more time to focus on the truly important tasks.


What Is the Best Alternative to Microsoft Planner?

Microsoft Planner isn’t the only project management software in the world.

However, the alternative you will pick depends on the needs of your team.

And if you’re worried about lengthy migration processes, opt for Project Central.

It integrates with Office 365 perfectly, and gives you the project view you could’ve only dreamed of.

Get Started With Project Central

Sign up for Project Central’s FREE 14-day trial & try out project management for teams using Office 365.

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