Many of us spend most of our working days with project management tools like Asana, Trello or Basecamp. As great as they are, they don't always play well with other important applications like Slack, Dropbox or Evernote.
This is exactly the hurdle Microsoft is tackling with its latest 365 app, the so-called lists. Lists was developed in the cloud-based Microsoft 365 platform ecosystem and is an intelligent information tracking application that seamlessly connects to Teams, OneDrive and the other Microsoft apps you already use at work.
Before today's global launch of the Lists web experience and the launch of the Microsoft Teams app next month, I had the exclusive opportunity to delve deeper and see a live demo of lists in action. I also talked to Microsoft about what makes Lists so special compared to the other solutions available.
A new way of working in Microsoft 365
If you're familiar with other project management tools, Microsoft lists aren't too surprising. It's the improvements in design, usability, and integration into the Microsoft ecosystem that make Lists stand out.
As part of my exclusive demo, Mark Kashman, Senior Product Manager for SharePoint and Microsoft Lists, guided me through everything a person can do with Lists as a web app.
My experience started with the list homepage where users land when they click the new list icon in Microsoft 365 Starter. It has an easy-to-understand layout to create a list and display favorite lists as well as lists owned by the user.
With a few simple clicks, Kashman demonstrated how a user can use lists to build a list of assets, and uses a conditionally formatted selection field with color codes to better show how that asset is either in the field or in use. I was also shown how one click of a change in the field can trigger a color change and visual impact on another column to help a manager and an employee better manage or understand this asset list.
Lists are designed to be easy and flexible to use and almost like a spreadsheet.
Lists is a new app, but Microsoft 365 fans will recognize some of the features. The Lists app and experiences launched today modernize and develop an existing Lists function in SharePoint, the collaboration platform from Microsoft.
Despite more than 20 years of experience with SharePoint lists, Microsoft wants lists to fit mobile apps better. The work is done by companies in their Microsoft 365 subscriptions and in teams. Lists in SharePoint are retained.
Because SharePoint lists are already used by thousands of companies to collect data that should be shared with team members and other users of SharePoint sites, Lists builds on the experience in three important ways.
For one, Lists is designed to be much easier and more flexible to use, and almost like a spreadsheet. It is also designed to fit Microsoft teams and the way you work. Finally, thanks to their ready-made templates, such as B. Event routes and more, can be used in multiple scenarios.
Lists are already used internally at Microsoft.
Kashman switched to another selection from his list homepage to show me an up-to-date list that he manages and that consists of the people who helped create this app.
Based on the experience of Kashman’s Lists, he was able to filter his list by people he met. This allowed him to set up a rule. In this case, he wanted a rule that triggers a visual indicator to notify him when a date has passed before a feature goes into development or publication. He also showed me how he could set rules for changing the status of his list (on functions for the roadmap) so that he could receive an email notification.
In another part of my demo, Kashman showed how easy it is to create a new element in lists of templates. With the issue tracker template, users can, for example, view and then edit sample data such as priority, issue type and more.
Other templates include employee onboarding and the event schedule (which Microsoft used internally to schedule pre-Ignite 2020 meetings). Kashman told me that these templates are meant to be "accelerators" for common data types, but Microsoft is also considering whether companies can later create their own custom templates later.
Play well with Microsoft Teams
In the second half of my demo, I was included in Microsoft Teams. Here, Kashman showed the flexibility of lists that can be useful for creating an editorial task list for an online publication like Digital Trends. This feature will only be available in teams in August. However, here you can see the performance of Microsoft's 365 ecosystem.
At the beginning I was placed in a general "freelance" channel within Microsoft Teams. Kashman then clicked the "+" button at the top of the channel and added Microsoft Lists as a tab for easy access. This opened up a user interface that gave him the ability to add an existing list or create a new one without ever leaving teams.
With a single click, Kashman created a new list for me using the content planner template. Information like the company name of Digital Trends as well as a custom green color and a custom symbol was overlaid for me by Kashman.
Later, custom editorial elements such as images, documents, content titles, potential author bylines, draft status, approval, due dates, and publication intentions were also included in a simple and easy-to-understand list for me. The possibilities are nearly unlimited.
But the nice thing is that while Kashman made this list for me, it was made available to everyone on the team channel. This could be my manager or a co-author who has permission to edit the list.
Of course, the list also has filtering controls, but the list contains a special function that is useful for an editorial scenario. In this case, if something in the list has been classified as required information, a user can immediately pan down and see a symbol for "attention required".
To simulate that an author line is missing from the list as required information, Kashman called it up, mentioned a manager in teams from the list, and alerted them to the problem. Thanks to the integration in teams, the problem was quickly resolved, the list updated and the attention symbol removed.
I was really impressed with the way the teams realized that information was missing. Kashman told me that this is just the beginning of what lists can do. My experience included using templates; Working with rules, filters and views; and using lists in teams.
Kashman also explained how lists can be used to manage a managed item storefront by editing the fill and style of a column in any list, or setting up automated flows with Microsoft Power Apps to record and update the list as it goes move the elements.
He even tells me that thanks to integration with Power Apps, Power Automate, and Power BI, Microsoft customers could create powerful information tracking solutions in a fraction of the time that it normally takes to build custom apps from scratch.
“There are many different ways to be flexible with lists. There are many things we do to help you immediately. You can also configure and customize the desired end result and result, ”said Kashman.
Since lists are inserted directly into Microsoft 365, even other Microsoft 365 apps can retrieve data from them. Lists can be viewed as a searchable content type in Microsoft Graph. Just like Microsoft365 files and emails, you can find lists with a simple search and get even more personalized results. Here, too, Lists shows its Microsoft muscle.
Mobile Lists App and more coming soon
Although the Microsoft Lists homepage and a total of eight templates will be available by the end of July 2020, much more is planned. In addition to the list app, which will be available for teams in August, Microsoft is also planning a separate list app for iOS and Android.
However, Lists is not currently a consumer app. If your company isn't a Microsoft 365 Business subscriber, you're out of luck. As we all control the future of work, be it at home or in a mixed work environment, Microsoft hopes that lists have serious potential.
"Follow-up and all actions related to returning to work and the fact that we are all working together remotely means that part of the personal interaction that you have received (no longer) exists," said Seth Patton. General Manager, Microsoft 365. "The way we stay connected is in teams and it is very powerful to only work together on lists in teams rather than just another system or app."