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What’s new and planned for Power Virtual Agents

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Power Virtual Agent

In January 2020 Microsoft announced new features for the Power Virtual Agents and in this blog I am covering them all and discussing what it possibly means to us all. This blog is based on this information from Microsoft

Add a Power Virtual Agents bot into Power Apps canvas app

Being able to insert a bot directly into a canvas app will open up multiple options for makers and shakers in the Power Apps world. Now we can provide the users with one solution in an app that will also include a chat bot, so no need for users to jump between multiple apps or screens.

Create and manage Power Virtual Agents directly from Power Apps

When we create apps we are also users at the same time, we are using a system to accomplish our goals by building an app to perform a given set of actions. Just as it is very helpful to have a chat bot in the canvas app it is also very helpful to be able to work with virtual agents directly in the Power Apps creation page. No need to jump between Power Apps and Virtual Agents.

Customizable bot behavior when no topic is triggered

Those who are developers or have development background will immediately recognize this kind of a “Default” condition in a Switch/Case statement. If your chat bot will not be able to find a topic based on the input from the user it will now be possible to display generic information and some default questions or topics. This can be very important to guide the user to the information that he or she is looking for. For a product sales web site this can mean more sales and we don’t need to think hard if that will be helpful for companies.

Single Sign-On

Automatically sign in to the bot solution when you sign into the hosting web page. Single Sign-On is something we all use each day without even thinking about it. When we start the computer in the morning, evening or when ever we normally start to work we don’t need to sign into our Office 365 applications to name one example. Single Sign-On also allows us use use one account for all the apps and systems we use during our working day. When I started in IT many, many, many, many years ago this was not the case OH NO.

Import and export bots or their content

Companies and Microsoft partners delivering various solutions to their clients will need to have different environments for creation, test, QA, UAT, SIT, SAT etc. Did you notice I did not say DEVELOPMENT???? I did that because you don’t have to be a developer to create and maintain Power Virtual Agents, you just need to learn how to use the tool. Export/Import enables the creators to move their creation from one environment to another. This also allows ISV’s (Independent Software Vendor) to export a solution from their Azure tenant to the clients Azure tenant.

Improved Power Automate flow integration in Power Virtual Agents

If you want to let your chat bot respond to the customer on the other end of the wire/fiber using Power Automate is the way to go. Needless to say the better the interaction between those sibling is the better it is for the creator. Being able to hook your chat bot to a flow you have created opens up a whole host of options and actions you can let your bot do.

Multiple users can edit topics at the same time within a bot

Just like collaborating on on Office 365 documents, collaborating on the elements of the Power Platform will also be available after this feature will be released. If you have a complex Virtual Agent that needs to be created splitting the work between two or more people will make a big difference. Not just because it will likely take less time to finish the end product, but the actual act of collaboration is the benefiting factor. In my almost 23 years in IT and multimedia work I know for a fact it is through collaboration and working with others that we learn the most.

Pass context to a bot from the calling site

Soon you will be able to send information from the host website or portal that is calling your bot and pass along vital information. One quirk example would be to send an item number to the bot when a customer wants to get more information or get the stock levels.

Use global variables across topics within a bot

Information gathered under one topic can now be used in other topics if your bot takes your user into another topic. This could be a store location for the customers local outlet. Based on that information the new topic the customer navigates to will also know the local outlet and can base the response on that value.

Add images and videos to topics

Did someone say product videos and explanations? Show your customer a “How-To” video to learn more about the business, product, service or what else it is you need the customer to know. If a picture says more than thousand words then a video says more than million words

Support for additional languages

We live in a global and widely connected world where we can expect people from different backgrounds interacting with the portals and web site we make and provide them. Being able to provide a user a a chat bot assistance in their own language is very important. We can’t always expect all the users to know English, Hindi, Chinese or what ever dominating language surrounds us.

Adaptive Cards

Adaptive Cards are platform-agnostic snippets to create interactive interfaces that will automatically adapt to its surroundings. The Adaptive Cards helps you to design and integrate light-weight UI for all major platforms and frameworks. If you are interested in User Interface design then I strongly recommend you to look at the Adaptive Cards from Microsoft.

AI-assisted authoring – Topic suggestions from bot sessions

As soon as your chat bot goes to work it will start to learn about things you have not taught it already. When people use the chat bot it will log down topics and suggestions that the bot does not recognize and make suggestions to its authors. In this way the bot and the makers are constantly making the chat bot better and increasing the service to the end users.

Connect bots to voice and phone call interactions

Your bot does not have to be limited to only web sites and portals. You can connect the bot to a phone system or a call center. The chat bots will be able to use Microsoft Cognitive Services (such as text-to-speech and speech recognition) when calling a phone number. Like mentioned in previous paragraph the bot can pass along what it has learned from its past interactions and use it going forward. This feature will reduce the need for humans to fill the call centers on 24 hour shifts every day of the year and the employees can now have holidays over their main holiday season

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