When Native Office 365 Falls Short, FLEX Saves the Day

Yesterday, I decided to use the new Microsoft tools to create a simple collaboration site with task lists and some basic document storage. Nothing too fancy, so it should be fairly straightforward.

I went to the Office 365 “waffle” and selected Teams from 23 different options (I knew which of the four collaboration offerings to use, so no problem there) and after a fashion, a video and one or two chats with a helpful bot, created a new Team.

I was a bit confused over what a channel was and where buckets fitted in but hey, no biggy. There did not seem to be any option to create a task list, so I worked out that I needed to create a new “plan” within Teams. It seemed like overkill for a simple shared task list but hey-ho, I was still feeling confident.

The planner, it turned out, was just a series of cards laid out on the screen with some very basic plan type info. No Gantt chart, just cards. Well, that was not what I wanted, so maybe if I went to the planner app directly then I could get my task list laid out like a task list. So, off I went.

A man with a plan…

When I opened the planner app I saw that my Team was already there. Great, I thought, the test content that I’d created in my plan tab in Teams was already there. Only, it wasn’t. It was just the Team name. Which, admittedly, was a bit irritating.

I re-created the same test tasks and discovered that I still couldn’t lay them out like a task list. I realised that if I had over 20 tasks the card layout would be a nightmare to navigate.

So, regretfully, I was out.

You’ve got mail!

I went back to Teams to see whether I’d missed anything that would be of help. Nope. Though I noticed that the test tasks I had just added in planner, within my Team, did not appear in the plan tab. Fantastic.

Just at the point where I was about to give up entirely, I received an email from Groups. It told me that it had set up a SharePoint site for me. Okay, I thought, I hadn’t asked for that and I wondered, not for the first time, what an ordinary user would make of all this.

Anyway, SharePoint had a new modern team site skin so I figured, “let’s do my simple task list and document store in SharePoint.” Sledge hammer and nuts sprung to mind but success was in sight. My enthusiasm was restored.

Back to “basics”

I got into SharePoint and created a new list. A task list, it said. Well, it produced something that didn’t much resemble a task list, so maybe I had missed something. After further investigation, I realised that I should have created an app. I had thought that option was for third party apps, but apparently not.

I chose a task list app. It created a “list” with just two headings, no start date, no end date, and no assign.

I was getting more than a bit fed up now.

I confess that I’m somewhat familiar with SharePoint from days gone by, so I left the safety of the “Modern Team Site” and dove straight into the SharePoint menu in an attempt to get the other headings added. Dear god, this was complicated.

I gave up.

I had wasted around two hours trying to get a simple task list, laid out like a task list, with some document storage.

Keeping it simple

Out of curiosity (and because I still didn’t have my task site), I decided to see how this would have worked in FLEX – which is installed but not yet rolled out internally in ICS. (We’re waiting for the FLEX Lite v.2 update).

After a minor hiccup with permissions, I was in FLEX. I head to the store and decide which of the 50 plus sample apps was closest to what I wanted. Easy.

I chose one, filled in the information it required, and it built me a nice looking, simple site. I went in and easily changed it to what I needed within a few clicks.

It took me about 10 minutes in total and as a result I had a great looking, easy to use site. I haven’t attended any FLEX training courses and do not demo the software, so I am as close to a normal end user as you can get.

If anyone doubted the value of FLEX because of the new Office 365 features and workloads… DON’T.

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