In our previous two blogs within this three-part blog series, we talked about what exactly is Microsoft Lists, and we gave thorough instructions on how to create them from Lists app. In this last part of this trilogy, we are going to take a deep dive into when to use it with other Microsoft 365 apps to manage them even better.
As a part of Microsoft 365, Microsoft Lists easily integrates with other Microsoft 365 apps. Whenever you’re in a list, the option to integrate is always just a few clicks away:
Click this and you have three options:
Create an app
Click Create an app to manage data within the list. You can connect to data sources such as SharePoint, Dataverse, or other data sources:
There are also templates for a range of use cases. From onboarding tasks and fundraisers, to help desk and leave requests. Simply click a template to get started:
See all apps
Click See all apps to go to your app-building environment. You’ll see many different options and dropdowns to help you get up and running quickly. These include data and flows, to chatbots and AI Builder:
Click Customize forms where you can customize a form for a SharePoint list (or SharePoint document library).
For example, imagine you’re using a form in an issue tracker. You might want to add specific fields such as date reported, assigned to, or enable users to upload photos of the issue:
Here’s where Microsoft Lists can be configured to build automation workflows.
Any time a list’s column, cell, or any value changes, have Power Automate send an automatic notification. It’s a powerful way to save your organization’s time and transform operations – as you’ll see below.
Click Create a flow to get started:
This opens up a set of templates you can use to create automated tasks. These include:
- Sending a customized email when a new item is added
- Starting the approval process when a new item is added
- Requesting approval for an item
- Requesting approval in Microsoft Teams
- Requesting manager approval
There are lots more too. Just click Show more to view the full selection:
This enables users of Microsoft Lists to quickly explore and visualize data. What’s more, the reports are dynamic, and update as your data changes. So if you change information in a list item, Power BI automatically changes accordingly.
- Open your list, and click Integrate > Power BI > Visualize the list
- This generates an initial report, which you can quickly customize and filter your list data, and refresh to visualize any newly added data:
When to use other Microsoft 365 apps as alternatives to Microsoft Lists
With real-time updates, SharePoint integration, and easy sharing, it’s clear that Microsoft Lists offers many collaboration options. Then again, not all data, lists or spreadsheets require collaboration.
Microsoft Lists also offers plenty of customizable templates for different use cases. However, sometimes you don’t need customization, you just need something you can “plug in and play”.
Creating visuals in just a few steps is a game-changer in Microsoft Lists. But sometimes your data will need more calculation and less visualization.
With that in mind, here are some benefits, drawbacks and “good to know’s”, for helping decide when to use other Microsoft 365 apps:
- Editing & collaboration
Lists stored on SharePoint can have multiple people editing it at the same time. Consider if this is an advantage or not. Particularly when you compare it to Excel, where a file is locked when one user has it open and may be editing.
For its array of advanced formulas, Microsoft Excel outperforms Microsoft Lists.
- Pivot tables
There are Power BI-connected pivot tables in Microsoft Lists. However, if you just want built-in pivot table functionality, this is already available in Excel.
- Team & project management
If you need to quickly assign tasks to your team, Microsoft Planner offers this functionality out-of-the-box. You get Kanban boards for tracking specific tasks, making it easy to monitor real-time progress. There are also options for calendar and board viewing options.
- Personal tasks
For managing your daily activities, Microsoft To Do is your best option. Anything assigned, or that you assign, automatically appears in your dashboard.
- Security & obscurity
A list you build in Microsoft Lists will be stored in a SharePoint site. This means other users may be able to gain access to the underlying data. Decide if taking steps to obscure the data in SharePoint is enough, or whether the data would be better secured in a standalone Excel file.
- Relational databases
Yes/no filtering queries aren’t suited for Power Apps. A better option is Microsoft Dataverse, which offers more functionality for complex filter views and multiple tables.
SharePoint lists vs Microsoft Lists: What are the differences
Yes, Microsoft Lists was launched after SharePoint lists. But it’s worth pointing out that Microsoft Lists shouldn’t necessarily be seen as a replacement for SharePoint Lists. So if you have created SharePoint lists for legacy applications, with custom extensions, these will carry on working. You won’t have to migrate or manage any “end of life” challenges just yet.
Instead, Microsoft Lists can be seen more as an extension of SharePoint list capabilities. After all, the data in Microsoft Lists is still stored in a SharePoint site, and permissions are also inherited from the same SharePoint site’s location. Having said that, there are some differences to consider.
Microsoft Lists offers easy integration with Microsoft Teams, as highlighted above. For speedy collaboration, the ability to @mention someone directly is a big bonus.
As you probably guessed by the name, SharePoint add-ins are available in SharePoint. If you’re already using these to extend your SharePoint list ribbons or menus, these may not be available or easily integrated into Microsoft Lists.
While SharePoint offers an API, Microsoft Lists gives easy access to Power Apps, plus the Lists API. This opens up possibilities to connect list data as a source via Microsoft Graph.
Microsoft Lists has a dedicated mobile app, whereas SharePoint may need configuring for mobile devices. Alongside all the list-related features you’re likely to need for smaller screens, there’s also dark mode and landscape orientation support.
Staying in control of your lists
Wherever your data resides, you can be sure that volumes will soon build up. After all, a list can have up to 30 million items. Of course, that sort of volume would impact syncing and performance – and is why Microsoft recommends limiting to a more manageable 300,000.
At the end of this extensive and meticulous three-part blog series, we are sure we can agree that Microsoft Lists is an extremely flexible and powerful tool for creating effective, user-friendly, intuitive and functional workspaces.
However, that’s still a lot of data to manage, govern, and secure. To support you, SysKit offers SysKit Point. This tool gives admins and site owners a complete overview of the Microsoft 365 environment. Control user access, empower users to reduce tenant clutter and create clear security reports – from one simple and effective interface. See how easy it is to manage Microsoft 365 (and your lists) – book your demo today.