Planning project templates
January 6, 2022

Which Microsoft 365 Tools Are Best To Track Projects?

By Niall Lenihan
Even if you aren’t a certified PMP and have no training as a professional Project Manager, sooner or later you will be called upon to manage a project at work.

Large or small, we know you’ll want to do your best and help your team to succeed.

It looks like a Microsoft 365 project may be in your future.

You’re already familiar with the core products in the Microsoft 365 suite: Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.

You’ll most likely need all of those to complete your project, but none of them are really right for managing the project itself.

 

7 Microsoft 365 Project Management Tools

A project is a collaboration of work between different people or groups with a common aim.

While you can easily email Word documents and Excel spreadsheets back and forth between everyone working on the project, these programs won’t help you keep track of which docs are done and which spreadsheets still need to be edited.

Here are seven applications and services that will help you to manage a project using Microsoft 365. It’s worth noting many of these integrate with each other and other Microsoft 365 apps such as Teams and Power Automate.

You can check to see which of these applications and services are included in your business package here.

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1. To-Do

Microsoft To Do is a cloud-based task management app that allows users to create lists, reminders, and notes for personal or professional use.

The app is free and accessible on mobile or desktop.

In terms of project management, collaboration is limited. You can share a list with other users but they must have a Microsoft To Do account to view or edit the list.

 

2. Outlook Tasks

Outlook Tasks makes it easy to manage a small project from within your email app. Tasks also sync with To Do.

You can look at your tasks in terms of status, priority, level of completeness, category, and more.

You can even display your tasks on a calendar and share them with other team members.

However, it’s not a tool that’s easy to pick up and learn on your own.

Your tasks, events, and meetings can all get mixed up and make your display messy and hard to follow.

It takes a lot of effort, even with some training, to arrange your tasks and make each one clear.

 

3. Microsoft 365 Planner

Planner is a Kanban-style task management app.

Using very familiar agile tools like buckets and boards, Planner gives teams a visual way to organize project tasks.

Planner allows teams to create detailed tasks with owners, color-coded labels, file attachments, checklists, and comments.

However, Planner offers little reporting, especially across projects, and all users must have a Microsoft 365 Business Premium, Business Essentials, or Enterprise account to view project plans.

 

4. SharePoint Task Lists

SharePoint itself is a full project management tool. Companies have built entire websites and applications using the sites, libraries, folders, and tagging features of SharePoint.

The SharePoint task Lists tool enables users to create lists of tasks and subtasks and see their distribution on a project timeline.

Other views including Gantt charts allow you to see which tasks are late or upcoming, giving you a visual overview of the state of the project.

Unfortunately, you can’t add multiple timelines within one task.

Customization is also needed to allow for reporting, so this too is a tool best used on smaller projects.

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5. SharePoint Project Sites

Setting up a SharePoint project site gives you one central place to manage your project.

You can use task lists to capture actions, to-dos, and deadlines, calendar features to handle events, and document storage to keep everything straight.

All of it can be accessed from your site homepage allowing everyone on the team to co-edit docs.

You can sync team calendars and other events with Outlook.

You can also integrate your SharePoint Project site with Microsoft Project, the standalone project management software that certified Project Managers use.

The downside to a Microsoft SharePoint Project Site can be costly.

While there are some templates available, if you have any specific customization requirements, getting them built into your site can be costly upfront.

 

6. Microsoft Teams

While most of the options we’ve talked about so far center on the data and tasks sides of your project, Microsoft Teams is the communications hub in Microsoft 365.

It includes individual or group chat functions that act as message boards to keep your team working smoothly.

Each team can also have different channels and hosts can record conference calls.

For example, if your company has a creative team that works together on all your client projects, you can create a team for those people and different channels for each client.

Using Teams can be a little confusing at first because of the way things are named within it.

That’s because the first thing you do is set up “teams” for both one-to-one chatting and group chats.

 

7. Microsoft Power Automate

Microsoft Power Automate isn’t really a tool in itself, but if you are going to use Microsoft 365 as a project management platform, it is a useful add-on.

Power Automate is a no-code/low-code automation tool used to tie different programs together.

For example, you can add a task to To-Do when you get an email from your boss, or send a digest email of all your outstanding Planner tasks in response.

You can also save Microsoft form responses to SharePoint, or automatically save email attachments to OneDrive.

It is a free add-on with dozens of templates to help you make the necessary connections between applications.

 

Integration Is the Answer

Sometimes being armed with too many tools can be just as bad as having too few.

Microsoft 365 is a productivity software package. It was not designed to provide a very visual view of your work or provide simple project management solutions.

Using a solution like Project Central, which is built on Microsoft Azure and integrates directly with your Microsoft 365 environment, is an easy way to leverage Microsoft 365 for project management. 

With Project Central, you can: 

  • Access your account with single sign-on (SSO).  
  • Manage your team and guest users with Azure Active Directory. 
  • Control access to sensitive information with Private Projects.  
  • Track progress across all projects in a single dashboard.  
  • Collaborate in Microsoft Teams. 
  • Assign and track tasks in the List, Boards, and Gantt Chart views.  
  • Add detailed descriptions, checklists, and files to tasks.  
  • Streamline communication with @ mentions, comments, and automated reminders.  
  • Connect a SharePoint Online document library to a project for easy access to files. 
  • Balance your priorities with the ‘My Tasks’ view and the Outlook calendar integration.  

Get Started With Project Central

Sign-up for your free 14-day trial and see how Project Central can help your teams to plan, manage, and collaborate with Microsoft 365.

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