by Vanessa Rombaut
Published on 23 June 2017
The recently launched Microsoft Planner is the latest project collaboration tool to hit the market, and if you're an Office 365 subscriber, it's worth a look. With Planner, Microsoft has finally caught up with the ongoing digital trends by offering an intuitive project collaboration tool based on the kanban-management style, popularized by other project collaboration tools such as Trello and Asana.
Microsoft appears to have developed Planner as a tool for those who find Microsoft Project to be too complex, and Excel not complex enough. Many of us have turned to other tools such as Trello or Asana to fill the gap of easy project collaboration and organization.
But how does Microsoft Planner shape up against these other visually-appealing online project management apps? Below, we'll take a look at Microsoft Planner vs Trello vs Asana to explore how they work, and compare the differences.
We'll look at some of the core features, functionality, and the user experiences of Microsoft Planner, Trello, and Asana to answer the following questions:
In order to access Planner, you'll need to have an Office 365 account (we'll get to that below). Assuming that you have one, simply go through your apps screen by clicking the top-left corner of your Office 365 home page and then the Microsoft Planner button.
Planner has a native integration with the Office 365 suite, so you don't have to log in to third-party websites to access your projects. The downside is that it's an enclosed system. If you're going to be adding team members (and we advise that you do- after all, this is a collaboration tool), they will also need to have an Office 365 account. They will receive an invitation via Outlook to collaborate on "plans" that you add them to.
Trello doesn't require you to pay for a subscription to access the app. You can simply sign up for a free account, either through Google, or with your email. Trello's free account is most interesting for small businesses, but if you are a part of a larger corporation, one of the paid accounts is likely more suitable.
Trello offers two paid pricing plans: Business Class is $9.99 per user per month, and is suitable for up to 100 users, while the Enterprise plan is $20.83 per user per month and is suitable for businesses with more than 100 users. Each plan includes features such as more integrations, file attachments of up to 250MB, privacy and security controls, and priority support.
You can add members to a Trello board, even if they don't have a Trello account, by sending them an invitation.
Asana has a limited free plan for teams of up to 15 people. It includes some basic features such as unlimited tasks, projects, and conversations. The next tier, the Premium plan, costs $9.99 per user per month and includes more features such as unlimited dashboards and admin controls. Asana offers a handy pricing calculator which tells you exactly how much it'll cost your business to upgrade your team.
There are many useful integrations for both Trello and Asana, and both have public APIs to help you integrate them into your software stack. Microsoft Planner doesn't have native integrations, but you can use the Office 365 API to sync the project management solution with your other apps.
Microsoft Planner has a sober, minimalist design that fits any business or enterprise. It's great for those who just want the tool to do what it should, rather than wow with quirky features and a rad design.
The Dashboard in Planner gives you an overview of all of your favorite plans, including the status of tasks.
Trello's dashboard gives you a basic overview of your boards, with your favorites at the top. Unfortunately, there's no task overview unless you have a paid account.
Like Microsoft Planner, Asana's dashboard gives you a quick overview of all of your projects, including the status of tasks.
Project creation in Microsoft Planner
To create a new project in Microsoft Planner, you create a "plan" and give it a project title, for example "Content Calendar."
You can then create an email address for the plan, which links to conversation threads about it in Outlook (more on this later), make the plan public or private, and add a description. You can also add team members by dragging and dropping their icons into the plan.
"Plans" essentially act as a corkboard and represents the broader project you'll be working on. Pinned to the plans are to-do lists, or "buckets", as they are known in Microsoft Planner.
Trello works with "boards" too, and it's pretty much the same deal to set them up as in Microsoft Planner. The difference is that you can't add a description or create an email address for the board. You can add team members to the board by typing their name and sending them an email.
Creating a "project" in Asana is super easy- simply click the '+' next to 'Projects' in the menu on the Dashboard. Again, you can add team members by typing in their names and sending them an email. You can then decide it the project is for a team or kept private.
Like "Plans" and "Boards", "Projects" act as a corkboard on which you pin your "Lists".
In all three apps, tasks allow you to become granular with projects.
In Planner, you can create tasks to pin to the buckets and assign who will be completing these tasks. You can see the status of the tasks as "in progress", "late", or "completed". What's really cool is that you can drag and drop your team members' icons into the task to assign them.
Trello works with "cards", and within each card, you can can assign multiple people to one task and nominate a project leader (compared to Microsoft Planner, where you can only assign one person). Trello's also released a bot that can help clean up and organize your board through automation. Trello's got more info out that works here.
Asana's tasks also have great features. Not only can you assign tasks to team members or to yourself, but you can also use tags to group tasks together. You can assign a task to one person and then add a checklist, or create subtasks which can be assigned to multiple people. You can also mark tasks as complete or incomplete.
Within all three project management tools, you can add notes, links, files, create a checklist, and add color-coded labels. You can also move tasks to different lists
One advantage of Asana is that it lets you copy to-do lists to another card. This is great for repetitive tasks.
Another interesting feature in Asana is that you can merge duplicate tasks; when merged, the tags, hearts, and followers are moved to the other task.
All three tools allow you to set a due date. Microsoft Planner and Asana both give you the option of marking the task as complete. The task gets archived once complete by being hidden, and you can check a box to bring it back.
Planner and Trello both show you how many tasks have been completed from the checklist on the task or card cover.
Planner goes one step further than Trello by allowing task previews on the task cover. If you check the "Set as preview" box on the checklist, you will see the checklist on the plan board, under tasks. This means that you can check off tasks without having to open the task card.
In Trello, you can use a Power-up to help "Age" the cards as they go past their due date. Trello also has a Calendar "Power-up" so that you can get an overview of all tasks that need to be completed:
You can remove or edit the due date if it's no longer relevant. You can also archive tasks that are completed.
Asana gives you an overview of due dates next to the task on the project board, as well as within the task card itself.
Asana also has a calendar for deadline overviews.
Microsoft Planner gives you two options to get a progress overview. You can get a bird's eye view on all of your favorite plans under "Planner Hub", where task status is visualized with color-coded donuts. The yellow indicates tasks that are not yet started; red is for late tasks; blue is for tasks that are in progress; and green is for completed tasks.
You can get an overview of all of your tasks per plan by clicking on the plan and then "Charts", where you will see the donut graph and then a bar graph per team member.
The upside to Microsoft Planner is that you can easily see the progress being made on tasks, as well as which tasks have been completed. You can also keep an eye on tasks that are overdue, and if similar tasks keep being overdue, you can reassess whether or not they should be implemented differently, or assigned to someone else.
You can also see how many tasks are assigned to each individual team member, which means that you can ensure even task distribution.
With Trello, it's only possible to get an overview of all projects in the paid plans, where you'll have to enable special "power-ups." If you're on the free plan, you have to constantly click in and out of projects and view them individually to see the status. The only update available is a running list in the Activity Pane on the right-hand side of the board.
Asana allows you to quickly get an overview on task progress for all projects on the dashboard. The same information is available under the "Progress" tab on each project. You can also set an update status and set a reminder to update the status every Friday. You can also set the updates so that they automatically notify other team members.
Microsoft Planner has a notifications drop-down menu which lets you know when you have changes in any of your plans.
It also has native integrations back to the Office 365 suite, where you'll receive notifications about your plans through Outlook. When you've been added to a plan, for example, an email is sent automatically to your Outlook account.
You will also be able to participate in conversations via Outlook about plans that you're working on. Members will be able to comment on and react to tasks, add links, files and images, or simply "like" a task or plan.
In Trello, you can comment on cards, allowing you to have conversations about tasks. There is also an activity pane on the right-hand side of the board, which tracks all changes to the cards, including new comments.
In both Asana and Trello, email and mobile notifications are also possible, but to get the most out of these two apps, you should use integrations. Trello and Asana can both be integrated with other communication apps, such as Slack, and have notifications sent there.
You can even manage your Trello boards and Asana projects from the comfort of your Slack chat. Features include adding new cards, team members, boards, assigning tasks, setting due dates, and commenting on cards.
Like Planner, Asana also has the conversations feature. You can type directly into it via the desktop, or send messages from your email address to the project-specific email which Asana assigns to the conversation.
Asana, Trello, and Microsoft Project all have intuitive interfaces. If you're familiar with web applications, the learning curve isn't steep and it makes user adoption easy.
The look of Microsoft Planner will appeal to those who appreciate minimalism and, more importantly, are power users in the Office 365 ecosystem. Microsoft Planner is superior to Trello in the sense that you can get an overview of multiple projects in one glance, showing you how many tasks need to be completed. It's a great collaboration tool for conversations and file sharing.
Having said that, it doesn't bring anything revolutionary to the table, and unless you're already an Office 365 user or a first-time buyer, it doesn't offer any benefits beyond deep Microsoft integration. Notably, if you're not using Office 365, you'll be stuck with Microsoft-only integration. Asana and Trello, on the other hand, have their strength in native integrations and public APIs, allowing you to create a fully customizable stack for your organization.
Of course, Microsoft Planner vs Trello vs Asana isn't the only project management software battle going on. There are dozens of project management tools out there to help your team, and it's worth comparing them before making a decision. Here are some useful resources:
For more help choosing project management software for your company, check out our project management software scorecard, where you can find the best apps that match your company's needs in terms of pricing, features, and the devices that you use.
This post was originally published June 29th 2016, and has since been updated.