Project Management & Planning Articles

Microsoft Planner vs Trello vs Asana: Small Business Project Collaboration Apps Compared

by Vanessa Rombaut
Published on 23 June 2017

Microsoft Planner vs Trello vs Asana

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.

Microsoft vs Trello vs Asana: how do they match up?

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:

  • Signing up: how easy is it to sign up to the software, and how much will it cost you?
  • Dashboards: what do the project dashboards look like, and how do they work?
  • Setting up your projects: how easy is it to set up projects in Microsoft Planner, Trello, and Asana?
  • Tasks: what does task management look like in these project collaboration apps?
  • Due dates: how can you set deadlines and track projects against a calendar?
  • Collaboration: what features are available for things like conversations, files sharing, and notifications?

Signing up

Microsoft Planner sign-up

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.

Microsoft Planner signup

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 sign-up

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 sign-up

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.

Dashboards

The Microsoft Planner dashboard

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.

Screenshot of Microsoft Planner's dashboard

The Dashboard in Planner gives you an overview of all of your favorite plans, including the status of tasks.

The Trello dashboard

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.

the trello dashboard

The Asana dashboard

Like Microsoft Planner, Asana's dashboard gives you a quick overview of all of your projects, including the status of tasks.

Screenshot of the Asana dashboard

Setting up your projects

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."

Screenshot showing how to create a project in Microsoft Planner

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.

Screenshot showing the Plans view in Microsoft Planner

Project creation in Trello

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.

Screenshot showing how to create projects in Trello

Project creation in Asana

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.

Screenshot showing how to create a project in Asana

Like "Plans" and "Boards", "Projects" act as a corkboard on which you pin your "Lists".

Tasks

Tasks in Microsoft Planner

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.

Screenshot showing tasks in Microsoft Planner

Tasks in Trello

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.

Screenshot showing tasks in Trello

Tasks in Asana

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.

Screenshot showing tasks in Asana

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.

Due dates

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.

Due dates in Microsoft Planner

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.

Screenshots showing due dates in MIcrosoft Planner

Due dates in Trello

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:

Screenshot showing Trello calendar

You can remove or edit the due date if it's no longer relevant. You can also archive tasks that are completed.

Due dates in Asana

Asana gives you an overview of due dates next to the task on the project board, as well as within the task card itself.

Screenshot showing due dates in Asana

Asana also has a calendar for deadline overviews.

Screenshot showing Asana calendar

Progress overview

Microsoft Planner progress overview

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.

The Microsoft Planner favorite plans panel

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.

Microsoft Planner progress graph

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.

How to view progress in Microsoft Planner

Trello progress overview

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 progress overview

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.

Asana progress overview

Conversations, file sharing and notifications

Collaboration in Microsoft Planner

Microsoft Planner has a notifications drop-down menu which lets you know when you have changes in any of your plans.

Planner screenshot

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.

Collaboration in Trello

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.

Collaborating in Trello

Collaboration in Trello

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.

Trello also has integrations with Dropbox and Google Drive, while Asana has an integration with Box and Google Drive so that you can easily store and share files

Collaboration in Trello

Collaboration in Asana

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.

Collaboration in Asana

Conclusion

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.

What to do next

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:

  • GetApp's software comparison tool lets you compare Microsoft Planner with other project management solutions.
  • Check the Category Leader ranking of the top project management apps to see how they compare in terms of popularity, mobile support, integrations, and security.
  • Go read reviews of Trello and Asana to find out what the GetApp community thinks.
  • Tell us what you think! Have you tried Microsoft Planner yet? Use the comments box below to let us know how you think it compares to other project management tools that you've tried.

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.

About the author:Vanessa Rombaut is the Digital Communications Marketer at PieSync. @PieSync helps you to sync your customer data bi-directionally between your favorite cloud apps and your CRM.

This post was originally published June 29th 2016, and has since been updated.


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