Microsoft released their planner service last June for Office 365 Enterprise subscriptions. It is another way to address how we manage tasks and digitally experience teamwork. If you’ve googled Microsoft Planner, you probably have read comparisons with tools like Trello. Most bloggers come up with a conclusion that Planner is simpler than Project Online and it falls somewhere between Office task list and Microsoft Project Online with regards to simplicity, features, and overall usefulness. I agree with this middle road placement, but is it appropriate when we are in an environment that also employs Project Online? This blog’s purpose is to help you figure this out. If you are unaware of what Planner is, refer to another blog or go to the Planner product page.
If you are a part of an organization with an Office 365 enterprise subscription and the application isn’t disabled by your administrator, then you will see the Planner icon in Office 365 application list as below.
There is no additional licensing cost for Planner. While Project Online is a separate application that requires licensing based on types of users. With that said, if you are just interested in having a central list of projects, each with a dedicated document library and ability to track the completeness of tasks, go with Planner.
Planner and Project are two very distinct products, but both address project collaboration and teamwork. They’re not integrated so you cannot simply start with one, then seamlessly move to the next like we can with SharePoint task lists to create Projects. Planner is easy to adopt, as it’s quite simple to use and without customization ability.
As a comparison, refer to the following table to highlight major differences. I also put together a capability matrix. These two references should help clarify when each application perform best. Please note for the sake of this comparison, I will use the term plan and project interchangeably.
Major differences between Planner and Project
|The Main page is the “Planner hub”. A simple list of plans/projects. One sees only the plans that are public or he/she is a member of.
||The main page is the Project Center. One sees only the projects that one has access to, there are a lot more granular permission controls.
|Basic data structure is a fairly loose and uses the following terminology.
||Basic data structure is loose or rigid. Projects can also be subprojects to master projects.
|When you click on a plan, it shows a mobile friendly interface with drag and droppable view of tasks.
||When you click on a project, it shows a configuration of detail pages that is less mobile friendly. A project level schedule is typically shown in gantt view of tasks.
|A single task can be edited via a dialog. There is no custom field support except for 6 coloured labels.
||A single task can be edited in browser via the task table or in Project Professional. Custom fields are supported.|
|Each plan/project always generates a SharePoint site used to house documents. Unfortunately, this SharePoint site is generated just for the “Shared Documents” library.
||Each project can generate a fully functional and customizable SharePoint site.
Planner and Project capabilities Matrix
|CAPABILITIES||PROJECT PLANNER||PROJECT ONLINE|
|Manage Project Level Information|
|List projects across organisation|
|Mobile-friendly list of projects||(with third party apps)|
|Can create custom views, groups, and filters|
|Allow collection of custom project fields|
|Control who can view project/plan|
|Control who can edit project/plan|
|Upload and associate documents to projects|
|Project level discussion/posts||
(via site micro-blog)
|Provide Mobile-friendly view of tasks across projects||(possible with third party apps)|
|Provide graphical view of tasks at a project level view||
(just one but a pretty one)
|Provide a My task summary view across all projects|
|Assign a single task to multiple people|
|Associate effort and cost related values|
|Task level discussion/posts|
|Associate files to individual tasks|
|Calculate completion date based on completing proceeding or subsequent tasks|
|Associate external data like risk, issues, and deliverables|
|Link and populate employee timesheets|
|Additional Capabilities / Features|
|A web based API exists for programmers to extract data|
|Information can be managed offline|
|UI can be customized||
(using Project Professional)
|A mobile app exist||(coming soon from Microsoft)||(available with third party)|
If you have Project Online and have been using it for a while, your organization probably has criteria for when a project must be entered into Project Online. However, when a minor initiative exist, Planner may be a better alternative. I personally see Planner to be useful in non-major event planning, small office initiatives (like a team office move), and other internal Agile’ish projects. If both Planner and Project are options, a practical project online configuration will generally provide the most value.
I imagine one of these days, if Planner becomes more adopted, we may see integration between Planner and Project Online. I think a special Enterprise Project Type may be a good idea for a theoretical Planner – Minor Work type of projects. If you come up with ideas, ensure to voice them via https://planner.uservoice.com/forums/330525. We will likely see the product evolve, so some of the facts in my comparison may need an update in the near future.