Your toolbox included with the Microsoft 365 subscription gives you access to some amazing tools. This post is going to talk about Microsoft Forms, Microsoft Power Automate, Microsoft SharePoint and Microsoft Teams.
We are a five-person company — so we don’t have the budget or need for any kind of big software systems. We’re also not going to drown ourselves in paper forms and fill the office with lateral file cabinets. The goal was to have an easy way for our employees to complete self-evaluations and send the information for us to review. Once submitted we could add our own comments to it to complete their yearly evaluation.
No, we’re not going to make a Word form or something else equally bad. We’re going to use Forms!
What’s Forms you ask? Forms is a very nifty form creation tool. It is basically a drag-and-drop builder (like InfoPath was) that will collect all of the data for us. You can have it tabulate the data or use tools like Power Automate to take the submitted data and do other things with it.
Let’s fire up Forms!
All of the forms you’ve created will sit here. Click on New Form and the fun begins.
When you click the + you get all of these options to place onto the form designer:
From this point on, the design of the form is dependent on your business needs and personal design preferences.
Give it a title and description by clicking on the title (“where it says Untitled form”):
Now lay the rest out with sections, choice fields, text fields and whatever else you want. Don’t worry about saving either — it saves as you go!
Two comments about the sections feature. First, the sections act like page breaks for the forms. Your user will click Next when using the form to go to the next section. This helps to break it up. Second, create your first section how you want it to look and then click the three dots in the grey section header bar. You’ll get an option to duplicate the section. Save yourself clicks.
When you’re done with your form, preview it. Click the Preview button at the top. You’ll get to see how it looks on desktop and mobile! Neat!
As you can see, the designer is very intuitive to use.
Last steps for our form: permissions and notifications. Click the three dots next to the Share button at the top. Click Settings. You’ll get all these nifty options — here is what I used:
If you want this to go outside of your organization, then select “Anyone with the link can respond.” For our purposes, this is internal only, so “Only people in my organization…” is selected. There’s options for a timeframe to allow submissions and to turn on/off the ability to respond. Plus, you can set a nice thank you message when they submit.
Notifications are nice for both the person submitting and the recipient, so I left both of those checked.
At this point, we could be done. Forms collects all of the responses and gives you details, some nice charts and graphs and percentages. That’s nice and all, but we have bigger plans. We want to store the submitted evaluation, add our comments and see all of it in one place. So, we are going house all of it in SharePoint. Yay!!
Wait…how do you get the data into SharePoint? With…
POWER AUTOMATE! YAYYAYAYYYY! So, let’s fire up Power Automate now!
This is the simplest part since it’s already built for you! There is an out-of-the-box workflow that watches for submissions from Forms and saves the data to a list in SharePoint.
Just search for “Forms” when creating a new workflow from a template in Power Automate.
I created the destination list in SharePoint before starting with Power Automate first. Here is how the rest of the workflow is set up.
First, I pick the self-evaluation form I created in the When a new response is submitted step:
Then in the Apply to each step, select “List of response notifications” from the form. In the Get response details step, select the form again and then select “List of response notifications Response Id”:
In the Create item step, this is where everything is saved to the SharePoint list (there’s more fields than this showing here, just omitted). Just set each form field to the appropriate SharePoint field:
Between these two steps, I added another step — Convert time zone:
Why did I do this? By default in any SharePoint list, the Title field is a required field. This is also the default field that is the view and edit link when viewing the list, so to make it a clickable field that was unique, I used the submission date/time of the form, converted it to Central Time (the time zone we are in) and used it for the Title field when saving to the list:
See how I snuck that in?
Save and test your workflow and let’s get to the final step — how to let your users access the form!
In Microsoft Teams, we have an HR channel in our company-wide team (notice the teamwork affirmation graphic):
At the top, hit the + to create a new Tab. Pick Forms. Select the existing form that was just created and (important!!) pick “Collect responses.” There is the checkbox to post to the channel about the tab. I unchecked it because I wanted to do the super-cool notification you see above instead. A lot more eye-catching, right? Hit Save.
The users see this when clicking the Self Evaluation tab (hint: it’s our form we created):
Our users never have to leave Teams to fill out their evaluation. SUPER COOL.
Just using Microsoft Forms is awesome by itself — you can make some nice looking data collection forms. But adding it to Teams AND getting to save everything to SharePoint…MIND BLOWN.
In Part 2, I’ll show using the same form data in SharePoint and then creating a PDF of the final evaluation back to the user! Whoa…