Recent Changes to Task Management Conventions on Office 365

2015-11-13_14-20-24If you’ve been using Task Lists in SharePoint as long as I have, you will notice even the tiniest changes. Task Lists have never worked exactly the way people want them to – why doesn’t marking a task %100 complete also mark it as Completed? – but by adding a few extra columns to each list to customize them for your organization, they have always gotten the job done.

I wrote about how I generally use Tasks Lists years ago in my post Simple Best Practices for Using SharePoint Task Lists. I’m no longer a huge fan of the “best practice” term – there can be many different “better practices”; rarely is a “best practice” the best for everyone – but I’ve been following that model for Task List usage since I wrote the post in 2009. That’s through SharePoint 2007, SharePoint 2010, SharePoint 2013, and SharePoint Online.

Well, sometime in the last few weeks or months, the way Task Lists work in Office 365 seems to have changed, and my model doesn’t work so well any more. These changes seem to apply only to Task Lists that have been created since the changes, as my older Task Lists still work the same way they always have.

I don’t see anything in the Office 365 roadmap to explain the changes (I admit I didn’t pore through every item, but the prose there is difficult to follow, IMO), so I figured I’d capture what I’m seeing. Here’s what’s different:

  • If you change the Task Status from Not Started to In Progress, the % Complete column is set to 50% on save
  • When you change the % Complete column to 100%, the task is marked as complete on save

These two little changes can make a big difference. I think that they are actually an improvement, but for anyone who is used to the old way, it’ll be frustrating. This will be the case especially if you have some older Tasks Lists and newer Tasks Lists in the same site!

My new suggested model will change a bit:

  • When you start working on a task assigned to you, set the Task Status to In Progress, then immediately change the % Complete from 0% to whatever is appropriate. SharePoint seems to respect the % Complete you set rather than updating it to 50% on save.
  • When you’ve completed a task, leave the Task Status in the In Progress state, as we have before. Now, however, mark the % Complete to 99%. This will prevent SharePoint from marking the task as Completed when you save it.
  • When the person who originally made the request decides you have completed the task appropriately, they can change the % Complete to 100% or just tick the Completed box, which is generally to the left of the task, at least in the default view.

One of the main goals I’ve always had in my model is to make it an exception – rather than the norm – for people to mark tasks complete which they work on. We don’t need to enforce it strictly, but by convention. These tweaks under the new Task Lists behavior still supports the goal.

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose

Have a thought or opinion?