With the release of Microsoft Lists, many digital workers are left scratching their heads as to why another list/task management tool is needed to complete the Microsoft 365 product suite. We wondered the same thing and investigated to provide these simple guidelines which helpful list/task management application is best to use for which business scenarios.
What does the dawn of Microsoft Lists mean?
With the launch of Microsoft Lists, users have a new way to manage projects, lists, and tasks right in Microsoft 365. While it’s presented as a brand new app, Microsoft Lists is actually a revamped and modernized version of Sharepoint Lists. It enables users to track issues, assets, routines, contacts, inventory and more using customizable views and smart rules and alerts to keep everyone on your team on the same page. The new Microsoft Lists app adds a new way for Microsoft 365 project management apps to compete with task management apps like Wrike and Asana. This means users may no longer see a need to pay for these third-party apps. However, you may be wondering how Microsoft Lists fits in with the existing Microsoft 365 tools that already exist to handle task and project management: To Do, Tasks in Microsoft Teams, and Microsoft Planner. And how exactly should we be using it?
What is the difference between Microsoft Lists and Microsoft To Do?
Microsoft introduced To Do to replace Wunderlist, a third-party app they acquired. Since then, To Do has become the replacement for the long-standing tasks section of Outlook. To Do allows the user to list and track their own personal tasks in lists and groups. You can see your Microsoft Planner Tasks and any flagged Outlook emails in the To Do app, and you can add tasks from other apps (like OneNote). To Do gives you a good snapshot of your upcoming tasks across all Microsoft 365 apps, without a lot of context to the larger projects they may be a part of.
Where To Do is all about your individual tasks, Microsoft Lists exists on the Team or Group level. Microsoft Lists provides a more holistic and intensive view of a project and all its components. It allows you to build out a project and assign tasks to other users, and lets you see where individual tasks or list items fit into a project. To put it simply, To Do is for granular, day-to-day, personal task management, whereas Microsoft Lists is better for larger-scale team project, process, or workflow management.
What about Tasks in Microsoft Teams?
In Microsoft Lists you can create, manage, assign, and track Lists tasks. Tasks in Teams – another recent addition rolling out until the end of September 2020 – allows you to view all your tasks within Microsoft Teams. It is essentially a way to centralize all the tasks assigned to you in Microsoft Planner and your personal To Do list in one place in Microsoft Teams. For most users, Microsoft Teams is the nucleus of the workday, so while Tasks in Teams doesn’t actually do any work itself, it is performing a valuable function by centralizing tasks in an easy to digest format.
Right now, Microsoft Lists is not integrated with To Do and Tasks in Teams so you are not able to see any Lists tasks assigned to you in those apps. However, you can add Lists as a tab to any Team.
How about Microsoft Planner vs Microsoft Lists?
Microsoft Planner is Microsoft 365’s built-in team-based project management tool. It consists of Kanban boards to track and provide information about each task in the project (or plan) and integrates with To Do and Tasks in Teams making it simple to see whole projects at a glance, and for users to see their own tasks from the different projects they are a part of. Microsoft Planner provides set fields to create your plans and tasks, making it easy to use and easy to understand.
On the surface, Microsoft Planner and Microsoft Lists seem like they have a lot of overlap. Both do function as project management tools, but while Planner is a project management tool that focuses on tasks that need to be done to complete a project using a Kanban board, Microsoft Lists is a lot more flexible and customizable.
What is the ideal scenario for Microsoft Lists?
Microsoft Lists is perfect for scenarios where you need more flexibility and customization than Microsoft Planner allows. Use Lists when you want a customized experience where you can control the fields, options, layout, views, and more. You can certainly use it to replicate the functionality available in Microsoft Planner (although it would be more work that just using Planner), but the real value in Lists is that it can handle projects that are not strictly made up of tasks.
With Microsoft Lists, you are not tied to the Kanban board format of Microsoft Planner, so you can use it for different kinds of projects. You can use Microsoft Lists to create custom columns and tables, meaning you can use it to do things like track inventory, manage assets, make travel plans, and manage event itineraries. You can think of Microsoft Lists as a replacement for apps like Asana and Wrike from a list and table standpoint.
As an IT Admin, Should I Turn On All List/Task Management Apps?
With all different list and task management apps available in Microsoft 365, it’s can be easy for users to get confused and be unsure which they should be using.
While Microsoft Lists, Tasks in Teams, To-Do, and Microsoft Planner are all enabled by default, as an IT admin you have the option to disable them for some or all users. So how do you decide which apps to turn on and which (if any) to turn off? This, of course, depends on your specific organization’s needs and priorities. For example, if you’re a small business and your team only needs to do basic project management, it’s possible that Microsoft Planner can meet all your needs, and having Microsoft Lists enabled will only lead to confusion.
However, if most of your planning needs are non-task based you may choose to disable Microsoft Planner. And if you’re not using Microsoft Planner, chances are To Do will serve you better than Tasks in Teams, as it allows users to create personal and Teams tasks. As you can see, there are a lot of factors to take into consideration!
How do I Avoid the Confusion?
If you’re still not sure which Microsoft 365 task/list management apps will best serve your organization, Orchestry is here to help! There’s no denying the technology landscape for digital workers and organizations has become overcomplicated. This means Microsoft 365 is often reduced to a wasteland of unused and underperforming tools.
Orchestry makes work simple by delivering expert insights, best practices and practical information, from Microsoft MVPs and Microsoft 365 experts. We take the guesswork out of which Microsoft 365 tool is best to use when and for what for maximum efficiency, delivering the answers you need when you need them to make your entire organization more organized and productive. Curious about how Orchestry can help make work simple for your organization?