Image: monticellllo/Adobe Stock Somedays, it seems like our entire workday is filled with manual tasks like passing information back and forth between people or departments. For many IT support specialists, Continue Reading
Somedays, it seems like our entire workday is filled with manual tasks like passing information back and forth between people or departments. For many IT support specialists, for example, their days are filled with compiling IT issues from emails, texts and voicemail and then entering that information into a tracking database.
Often, someone must be called to get more information about their request, and by then, you have more support calls coming in. It’s tedious work that’s open to problems such as losing a request or not having all of the necessary information to quickly solve issues. To address these problems in support workflows, consider creating a submission form that automatically passes updates via a Power Automate flow.
SEE: Hiring kit: Microsoft Power BI developer (TechRepublic Premium)
In this tutorial, I’ll show you how to create a simple solution for this scenario that involves Microsoft Lists, Microsoft Forms and Microsoft Power Automate. You’ll also need to be part of your organization’s SharePoint environment. If you have these apps, then you’re on SharePoint even if you don’t realize it, but you might need to talk to your administrator about your current user permissions.
For this tutorial, I’m using a Windows 10 64-bit system. All three apps we’re talking about are free with some Microsoft 365 licenses.
Setting up your Microsoft Lists feed with Microsoft Forms
Instead of losing IT issue requests through an archaic system of phone calls, texts and email, we want a system that collects and stores IT issue requests automatically. To that end, we’ll create an online form that allows users to submit a problem using Microsoft Forms. When a user sends data using the form, Power Automate will update a list created in Microsoft Lists. IT will use this list to track issues.
SEE: IT management software: The ultimate buyer’s guide (TechRepublic)
The list might seem unnecessary because Microsoft Forms collects data using a Microsoft Excel workbook; you could simply use the underlying .xlsx file and skip this step. However, that won’t always be a good solution, so we’re going to use these apps to be safe.
The first piece of this solution is the list that IT will use to track issues.
How to create a list in Microsoft Lists
The easiest way to get a list up and running in Microsoft Lists is to import content from an existing source or to use one of the app’s templates. Feel free to work with your own data, but for this demonstration, we’ll use a template to reduce the amount of preparation:
- Sign-in to your Microsoft account, and use the App Launcher to launch Microsoft Lists.
- In Microsoft Lists, click New List at the top.
- In the resulting window, click Issue Tracker (Figure A).
- The next window displays the template structure (Figure B) with sample data. Take a moment to review the columns. When working with your own data, you might add or remove columns, but that’s much easier than starting from scratch. Click Use Template.
- In the next window, enter information about the new list. You can change the name if you like, add a description and change visual properties (Figure C). For demonstration purposes, you can keep the defaults, but I entered a simple description.
- Click Create to create the list shown in Figure D.
Before you leave the list, here’s a tip that will serve you well when using Power Automate with SharePoint files. I recommend you copy the SharePoint URL to the Clipboard or into a text document — you might need it later.
SEE: How to use Microsoft Lists with Power BI (TechRepublic)
In Microsoft Lists, click the Settings gear in the top-right corner, and then, click the List Settings link. Then, copy the Web Address shown in Figure E. Copy only the SharePoint address, up to but not including the /List component in the path.
At this point, it’s fine that the list is empty. We’ll use Power Automate to update the list, but first, we need data.
How to create a submission form using Microsoft Forms
We’ll be using Power Automate to update the list you just created, but we need data to make this work. There are many ways to gather data into a Microsoft Lists list, but Microsoft Forms is one of the easiest to use.
If you’re not familiar with it, don’t worry. Once you’ve worked through this simple example, Microsoft Forms might become one of your favorite apps.
With your list in place, let’s create a form to collect data for two columns:
- Click App Launcher, and choose Forms. If necessary, click More Apps at the bottom of the first apps list. You can access Apps Launcher from your new list, so you don’t need to travel around trying to find it.
- In the next window, click New Form.
- In the following window, name the form, and enter a meaningful description (Figure F).
- Click Add New, and define the first control as Text.
- Enter a title for the first question: What is the issue?
- Click the Long Answer and Required settings (Figure G).
- Click Add New.
- Using the above instructions, add a second text field for the issue description, except in step five, enter the following text: Please describe the issue you’re currently experiencing. Be sure to enable both settings if necessary.
In step six, you should have enabled the Required setting. Because of this selection, the form won’t send collected data until the user enters a value. This forces the user to send all the information you need in the first request, limiting the number of callbacks per ticket.
For our purposes, passing two text values is enough to get the gist of how Power Automate and Microsoft Lists can work together. The next step is to build a Power Automate flow that transfers the information from the form to the list.
How to create a flow using Power Automate
We currently have a form to collect information and a list to store that information. Now, let’s create a Power Automate flow to move collected form data to the list.
If you’re not familiar with Power Automate, it’s powerful and flexible but also easy to implement. If you want to learn how to use Power Automate, spend a little time discovering the different connectors, triggers and actions that are available.
We need a flow that a user triggers when submitting data. Here are the steps to create that flow:
- Using the App Launcher, launch Power Automate.
- Click Create in the left pane.
- Browse down, and click the Microsoft Forms connector.
- In the first card, choose the new form from the When A New Response Is Submitted dropdown (Figure H).
- Click New Step.
- For our purposes, enter get response details in the search control to update the list of actions and triggers (Figure I).
- Choose the tracking form from the dropdown.
- The Response ID will be unique for each form submission. For this reason, we’ll use the dynamic control to identify this value. Click the Add Dynamic Control hyperlink if necessary to display a list of possible settings. There’s only one, so click Response ID to enter it as the Response ID value (Figure J).
- Click New Step.
- In the next search control, enter Create Item to identify what Power Automate will do with the passed response values — it will create a new item in the Microsoft Lists list created earlier.
- Click Create Item in the lower pane, making sure it’s a SharePoint action. Microsoft Lists doesn’t have a SharePoint connector, but Microsoft Lists and SharePoint lists are the same internally, so the SharePoint connector also works with Microsoft Lists.
- The next card offers a lot of options. First, choose your SharePoint site. If your SharePoint site isn’t listed in the dropdown, copy the URL you saved earlier into this control. Alternatively, you can return to your list and get the URL using the Settings if you didn’t copy the URL earlier. Remember to delete everything from /Lists to the end.
- Using dynamic fields, map the form fields to the list fields (Figure K).
- Click Save.
At this point, we have three components, and we’re ready to use them to automatically move collected form data to a list.
How to update your list in Microsoft Lists
Now, we’re going to use a Microsoft Forms form to update a list in Microsoft Lists. We’ll do this by triggering a Power Automate flow when the form submits new data. To see how they all work together, open the issue tracking form in preview mode, add the values such as those shown in Figure L and click Submit. If the tab is still open, click the tab, and then, click Preview.
Using the App Launcher, open the issue tracking list. If your tab is still open, just click the tab to view the list shown in Figure M. As you can see, the flow copied the data you entered into the form to store in the list.
Putting it all together
Using three components to pass IT issues might seem like overkill, but if you’re in a busy organization, it doesn’t take long for calls, texts and emails to start falling through cracks.
SEE: Hiring kit: Platform engineer (TechRepublic Premium)
Many organizations have a ticket-type tracking file. And that’s essentially what we’ve created here; although, there’s no ticket number exchange, which is something you might want to include. For instance, you might want to send an email to someone on the IT team every time a record is added to the list. These are things you’ll want to consider adding when customizing a flow for your own work.
Read next: Top data integration tools (TechRepublic)