Microsoft Lists makes tracking information easier and smarter

Amidst a huge list of announcements at Microsoft’s Build conference last week, one surprise that we were excited to hear about is a new app launching in the next few months.

Lists will be a new Microsoft 365 app that will supercharge SharePoint lists. The app will bring these features out of SharePoint, making it much easier to create, share, and configure information for yourself, your team, and across your organisation.

Employees will longer need to create a full SharePoint site – and battle the learning curve to understand all of the features that comes with that – just to start tracking and organising information. This is a time and sanity saver for employees whose business may require a laborious and slow approval process to create a SharePoint site. They can create a list straight away and share the information with who they want. (Rest assured… all the new features in the Lists app will also be available in SharePoint too!)

New opportunities to streamline work

This will create heaps of new opportunities to streamline how businesses work. From building a staff marketplace, to crowd-sourcing ideas, to tracking the whereabouts of your team as we begin to return to work (but not all at the same time), the functionality available in Lists could power lots of previously complex systems.

We love this because we have clients asking for these kinds of features. For example, we recently created a staff marketplace on an intranet. To do this, we used JSON list view formatting and Power Apps to achieve this. The end-result looked nice, but it took a bit of effort to create, test, and maintain, the solution. The new card view promised in Lists (coupled with a powerful format editor) would have allowed us to easily solve this problem without any code!

A calendar view is a popular requested feature for modern SharePoint that will be easily met with Lists. This will be a great for use-cases for project teams visualising important project dates, company events, training, upcoming marketing campaigns, and comes with colour-coding (often a showstopper for calendars).

Lists of data are not created in a vacuum and often have discussions happening between team members. Tracking project and planning activities will become easier using the new commenting feature. This will allow conversations to stay in one location, and provide the ability to mention your colleagues to notify of important updates. At the moment you need to build this out yourself without being able to mention anyone – this will soon be available out-of-the-box!

People involved in on-boarding new staff members can find it difficult to have a re-usable staff on-boarding checklist. One of the new templates caters for this specific scenario, which should be received with cheers from human resource staff around the world.

Previously to achieve a some of these features you’d need to have speciality knowledge in JSON, know how to configure a Flow, or create a Power App. These capabilities are still here, and enable power users to extend and customise the list experience, however bringing some of those capabilities in a more accessible feature brings value to a wider group of people.

What was announced?

Rolling out during our winter (southern hemisphere), and building on-top of the existing SharePoint Lists functionality, here’s a summary of what was announced at Microsoft Build 2020:

Lists home app | You can create and manage lists within the one location, with mobile app is coming later this year. You can create lists for your existing Teams or create lists only you can access until you’re ready to share with your colleagues.

Import from Excel| Import your data directly from your excel files and into a list.

Some hurdles we find with clients is importing their data from Excel tables into SharePoint. The tools get partway there but aren’t too friendly. Having this baked into the creation experience makes it a much easier conversation to get data out of Excel, which would benefit from all the additional features from lists. No more needing to manually type and manage all the details of someone’s name, email, department, manager, etc., when all that data exists in their user profile.

That data can still be exported to excel for analysis, however the creation and processes around the data can be more easily managed in lists.

Templates | Save time needed to create a spreadsheet or list for common scenarios by using pre-built templates. This has all the fields and formatting already applied for you, and you can customise from there if you need to. Some of the templates so far are:

  • Issue tracking
  • New hire checklist
  • Event itinerary
  • Business trip approvals
  • Team evaluations
  • Asset tracker
  • Project planning
  • Social media calendar

Even if your use-case isn’t specifically one of the listed ones, you can always choose one that fits closest and modify it to fit your use-case

Lists and Teams | Lists can be created and managed directly in your existing Teams. Before you needed to create a SharePoint List first, then go back into Teams, and then add the list as a tab to your channel. This saves all that time

MS List - Microsoft Teams - Engage Squared

Customise how your list looks | Change how your information is presented by using list, calendar, and card views. You can format it even further by using the format designer to display exactly the information you want to present.

Event Itinerary June Conference - Microsoft Teams - Engage Squared

Create processes with Rules | Start a process when an item is added, modified, or a column value changes to something specific, and notify someone based on the data in your list. This brings the capabilities of Power Automate into an easy creation tool.

Want to send an email when an item progresses to a certain stage? Want to be notified if the budget ever changes for a project? This makes it easy to set these processes.

MS List Rules - Microsoft Teams - Engage Squared

Get others’ attention with comments | Comments in items allow you to mention your colleagues to provide feedback, give status updates, and keep everyone in the loop.

Adding Comment - Microsoft Teams - Engage Squared

I haven’t used SharePoint Lists, what are some good use-cases?

Think of any list of information you store in a word doc, excel file, PDF, OneNote, etc. Any information you use to store, track, or manage, for a business process, is a great fit for Lists.

A few common use-cases are:

  • Project tasks
  • Project issues
  • Tracking the status of projects
  • Staff on-boarding checklist
  • Leave requests
  • Asset management
  • Safety and audit checks
  • Employees holding a Work Health and Safety role
  • Planning marketing newsletters and events
  • Tracking staff expertise across the business
  • Idea tracking

Isn’t this just SharePoint Lists?

Yes, but an evolved form.

SharePoint lists is still the data storage for Microsoft lists. Now lists are even more accessible to users, saving time by reducing the time needed to create a SharePoint site first to start creating lists. This can be a challenge for organisations that have long approvals to get a site created in the first place, when all you wanted was a simple list to get started.

People would instantly turn to an Excel file instead, when their situation would have been perfect in a list with all the features provided that Excel isn’t built to address.

What about my existing SharePoint Lists?

If you’re already using lists in your Teams and Team Sites, that’s great! They’ll automatically get the new features when they’re rolled out.

I use classic SharePoint lists, what about me? Are they getting deprecated?

Microsoft has no plans to deprecate classic lists. If you’re ready to change your lists to the modern view though, they’ll automatically receive the new benefits

I have more questions, where can I find more information?

Reach out to us if you have any questions and here are some resources to learn more:


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