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  • Writer's pictureAmanda Sterner

A rookie testing the Microsoft Power Virtual Agents preview and adding it to Microsoft Teams

Updated: May 2, 2022

Updated 26th of January 2020 with information about licences.

Microsoft talks a lot about citizen developers, but I still haven’t seen this in real life and to be frank I think both PowerApps and Power Automate can be hard to understand sometimes. But that doesn’t stop me – especially when I heard during Microsoft Ignite that I easily can create my bots without code! Of course I want a bot!

Microsoft Power Virtual Agents is a new tool where you can create and maintain bots with a no-code interface – very exciting right? When I heard that Microsoft Power Virtual Agents is available in preview, I thought hey, let’s see how easy this actually is!

Microsoft Power Virtual Agents might mostly be for virtual agents for companies who use Dynamics 365 and sell stuff, but I mean all companies have processes we could create a QaA bot for.

Follow along when I try to create a no-code bot and add it to Microsoft Teams. For this simple test I will see if I can get the bot to ask me a couple of questions.

1. Open and sign up for the preview. I did it in my tenant where I’m the global admin, but it should also work if you test it in a tenant where you aren’t an admin as long as the organization accepts custom apps

2. When you’re logged in (here’s the link if it doesn’t redirect you you will directly be prompted to create a new bot

Create a new bot

3. The bot is created! Microsoft will set you in the right direction by giving lot of helpful options such as giving links to documents

Start exploring Power Virtual Agents

I clicked X and felt that Customize your greeting sounded like a great start 😊 There are basically three main settings for your bot: deciding what it should do, publish it and monitor the performance

Get started with your bot

4. This is basically your bot and it already has a lot of things there from the beginning, such as responding in a lot of different ways of saying hello

First view of my bot

The first thing I wanted to change was to change the boring welcome text, let’s make it a little bit friendlier 😉. Just click in the message box and write whatever you feel like

Changing the greeting message

To add more steps, you hoover over the line and a + will appear, when clicking it you’ll get a bunch of options.

Add a new step

I’ve noted there are different options if you click a + in the middle or in the end. If you do it in the end of the flow you can add redirect to another topic but let’s go back to topics soon.

Add a new step

I think it makes sense if my bot asks a question after the initial greeting, I’ll pick Ask a question

Adding a question

I did the bare minimum and added a question and two options 😊 You can save the response and do more advanced things but that’s too much for now ha-ha. Adding two options in a question will create two branches in my bot flow chart. So, it’s really easy to see what’s going on.

Branches in my bot flow

Another thing I like is that I whenever can test my bot by clicking Test your bot. That’s perfect for me, so I understand where things stop working <3

Test your bot

When a part on my bot flow works it’s marked with a check and a green bar so it’s obvious it works!

Instant feedback if my bot works or not

Let’s get back to topics as I promised! As it just grows bigger and bigger you can make it less big by dividing the bot flow into different topics. A topic is just what is sounds, grouping similar information to a topic.

The bot flow just grows bigger and bigger

To redirect to another topic first it needs to be created, click Topics in the left side navigation

Topics for my bot

Here you can see your topics and system topics. I’ll click + New topic in the top. Give it a nice name and description then click Go to authoring canvas

Creating a new topic

There you’ll have an empty canvas to start creating new steps again!

An empty canvas for a new topic

When you are ready click Save

Ok when I want to go back to my bot, I click the topic named Greeting that I can see under System Topics, hmmm maybe I should have added so much in it… well learning by doing.

Let’s connect my question with my new topic, I’ll click the + and pick Go to another topic, in the list I’ll see all available topics.

Go to another topic

It’s easy to see if I’m redirecting my bot to another topic

I can see if my bot is going to another topic

For my other answer I just want to end the “conversations” with the bot, so I’ll add and end.

Ending a bransch in the flow

But the standard ending is so boring, so I actually changed the system topic to be a bit more fun.

A super simple bot with a question, text and some links but nothing more. You can make connections to Dynamics365 but that feels too hardcore for me…

Let’s test my bot before I try to publish it to Microsoft Teams, to the left you’ll see the bot and to the right you’ll see the bot flow.

My bot in action

5. When the bot is ready, the next step is to publish it. I clicked on Home in the left side navigation and then Go to Publish

Publish the bot

6. Click on Publish, this is what you click if you madev any updates any to the bot as well

7. After that you have to add it to a channel, so click Go to Channels

Add the bot to a channel

There you’ll get lots of options, but I choose Microsoft Teams of course, but you could also add it to for example a custom website.

Different channels availible

Click Microsoft Teams, in the bottom there’s a button that says Add – click it!

Click Add to add Microsoft Teams as a channel

That will generate an App ID which you’ll need later.

8. Now it’s time to jump to Microsoft Teams 🌟. First thing is to install the Microsoft Teams App Studio app

The app App Studio

9. Once it’s installed open it

Open App Studio

10. In the App Studio click Manifest editor

Open Manifest editor

11. Click Create a new app

Create a new app

12. Fill out everything that is mandatory, then click Bots under Capabilities

App details

Click Set up

Time to set up the bot

Here you’ll choose existing bot and paste the App ID we got earlier

The settings for the bot

I chose Personal as scope.

13. Time to test and distribute it. Under step 3 Finish click Test and distribute

Testting and distrubuting the app

There you can first decide to try it for yourself by clicking Install

Then add it as a bot.

Adding my bot

But I’ll be bold, download it and make it available for my tenant. When I click download my bot will be downloaded as a zip file.

14. To add the bot to everyone in the tenant you open the app store, in the bottom, you click Upload a custom app > Upload for tenant

If you can’t see this, you don’t have the right permissions or settings.

Add it to your organization
Amanda Sterner is the name of "my organization"

And then just choose the zip file you just downloaded.

15. Now I wanted my bot to be there for everyone in my organization and I had trouble understanding how to make my bot available to chat with for the users.

What I decided on doing in the end was to add the bot as an app by changing the app policy for Microsoft Teams. So, I added Amanda the bot and the next time Luchi logged in the bot was there to help!

I noticed that the first time a user opens Microsoft Teams after the bot was installed the bot first messages are posted until a "stop" (in my case the question" appears. Not sure how to remove that but I guess that's fine.

Another issue I had which I haven’t been able to solve is that I can’t change the name and image of the actual bot writing. But that seems to be a limitation from Microsoft at the moment 😿. Makes it look really ugly.

For a first try I’m pleased, and it was actually a lot easier than I thought.

The bot in action

My grade?

I actually think it’s quite easy to create a bot and make it do easy things. But I struggled with getting the bot out to everyone and also to change the name of it 😰. I hope Microsoft will make it possible to easily change this in the future inside Power Virtual Agents.

A few use cases I can see for the Power Virtual Agents are:

  • FAQ as replacement for an employee handbook

  • Bot for the IT department answering easy questions for example how to order a new computer and what models are available

Then there are a lot of exciting things to do together with Dynamics 365, but I’ll leave that for the D365 lovers to write about.

I couldn’t find when this will be in general availability. The licensing model will be decided when Power Virtual Agents comes closer to GA.

I think you should try it, if I can do it, so can you!

Link to read more

Update added 26th of January 2020

I just received my first email about my free trial being over, 1000$/month gives you 2000 sessions. This isn't optimal from my tenant where there is one use - me. I wish there were some more options.


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