Microsoft Project vs. Microsoft Planner

“Those who plan do better than those who do not plan, even though they rarely stick to their plan.” –  Winston Churchill

In Project Management, clearly defining and setting the goal one hopes to achieve is a concept shared by all.  However, the process of achieving that goal is an area where we, as Project Managers, tend to vary. Even though Project Management methodologies share similar concepts, projects by nature, and the tools at one’s disposal to support those projects come in great variety. Some projects are characterized by a need for deep analysis requiring time-phased data and resource planning. Other projects may be simpler, and therefore the requirements for tracking detailed data are not as stringent. There is flexibility in tools to choose from to fit your organizational and/or portfolio/program/project needs.

Microsoft Project is an exceptional tool for project scheduling that dives deep into its relational database, while Microsoft Planner provides lightweight task organization for a team. When assessing which tool to choose, there are some key questions you should ask yourself before deciding which to utilize for your next project.


Both Microsoft Planner and Microsoft Project are project scheduling and task management tools. However, they are dramatically different in how they are commonly used. Planner features a Kanban board methodology for simple task management geared towards ad-hoc projects and teams that allow team members to work together on the board and update tasks. Project, on the other hand, has deep, complex integration where the project manager can track detailed and time-phased information regarding their project.

Microsoft Project 

Microsoft Planner


Every tool has its price. When choosing between Planner and Project, it is essential to assess the differences here for each. Microsoft Planner is a free tool that is utilized within the Office 365 subscription licensing package. Where Microsoft Project requires a separate license to be purchased just for the tool itself. If you have access to Office 365, great, you can use Planner right now! An additional feature of Planner is the ability to invite guests into your Plan who do not have an Office 365 license. As a result, this provides a cheaper alternative to Project, which requires a separate license for each team member if they need to update their tasks.



When deciding between Project and Planner a pivotal question to ask yourself is how much control do you require for the plan you are creating? Do you need your team directly involved, creating, updating, resolving tasks with the tool? Or would you rather maintain the project plan, progressing the tasks yourself? Project Online allows your resources to interact and track time against the tasks that they are assigned. By using Planner, you can invite team members within your organization (or outside of your organization using O 365’s Guest Access features). And provide them the fluidity of task management as they work on the project.

Project Updating Tasks

Easily invite members and guests into your MS Planner Plan



The last question (and arguably the most important) is how much information do you need to capture? Understanding the amount of detailed information you require is essential. You don’t want to fall victim to the mistake I outlined earlier, where the tasks and/or projects are so small that the effort to create the schedule becomes more complicated than the project itself.

When trying to decide which application to choose, consider the following:

  1. Do you need custom information? (custom fields calculated through formulas)
  2. Do you need baselines?
  3. Do you or your organization need to monitor resource and capacity planning using an enterprise resource pool or seeing overallocation across multiple projects?
    1. This includes the ability or necessity of recording hours or days spent on finishing tasks.
  4. Do you need to monitor assigning predecessors and successors to tasks?
  5. Do you measure the success of the project with views and reporting?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, we recommend utilizing Microsoft Project.

Microsoft Project’s level of detail is unmatched


Bottom Line

In summary, there is a significant difference between the two tools Microsoft Project and Microsoft Planner. By evaluating the constraints of each tool between cost, team usage, and details required for planning the project, you will know which tool will work best for you.

Remember that Planner is a free product within the Office 365 subscription option. It is geared towards ad-hoc teams as a centralized hub for team collaboration. Project is a more powerful tool using time-phased scheduling through its relational database. It focuses on large projects and accurate estimating.

If you would like to try a free trial of Microsoft Project, please visit our contact page and write “Free Project Online Trial Request” in the Message box.

Additional Resources

Check out Advisicon Academy for more Project and Planner related video tutorials as well as other great Office 365 and Project Management courses.

Quick link: Project Manager’s Guide to Planner

Quick link: Project for the Web vs. Planner

Quick link: Project for the Web – What You Need to Know