Microsoft recently released a tool called “Power Virtual Agent” that will help us create a bot without writing any code. With this release I am sure lot of citizen developers were happy – more addition to #NoCodeLowCode tools. This tool is still in preview at the moment.

To begin with Power Virtual Agent, you have to navigate to https://powerva.microsoft.com and login with your Office365 credentials. If you do not have Office365 license you can still try this feature by creating a trial license.

I have also created a video on YouTube which guides you through entire process screen-by-screen. If you rather prefer watching a video then click here else continue reading.

If this is your first time signing into this page then you will be presented by an option to create your bot. This is shown below.

Here you provide your Bot name and select your environment. Once system finishes creating the Bot; you will be presented with a home screen (shown below). On this screen, you can find information on ‘Getting Started’ as well as links to documentation, support community and idea forum. On the left-hand menu you can find “Topics” – clicking on that will reveal all the Topics. Topic is nothing but you’re scenarios. For example, if you want your bot to handle order status check then that can become one topic but if you want to handle product return then that can be another topic. So, on your Bot you can have multiple Topics.

There are two types of Topics: System and User. System topics are OOB topics that cannot be deleted but can be modified. User topics can be deleted, copied and edited. They can also be turned on & off. You can also test your bots and can have a live debug view of the flow (which is really cool).

When you hover over any User topic you get couple of options, one is Bot Authoring Canvas – this is where you create your Bot’s flow based on the user interactions/selections and another is Analysis – which provides you with insights on how your Topic is performing.

When you start a new Topic, you will have to give the name of your Topic, Description (optional) and most important provide some key phrases which are also called as Trigger Phrases. These are very important because based on what you provide as the key phrases the Topic is going to be triggered. You need to provide at least 5 phrases with different variations to have more coverage. You can improve your phrases based on the analysis generated. Once you have provided the phrases, then click on “Go to authoring canvas”.

Phrases should be short and diverse

On the authoring canvas you can start adding your nodes. Nodes are of different types:

  • Question
  • Message
  • Call an action
  • Go to another topic
  • End conversation

In my case, I added a message and a question. When you add a node of type Question you can provide what type of response are you expecting from the user. The response type is captured on a field named “Identify”. There are several options like Multiple Choice Option, Boolean, City, Temperature, etc. For my example I have selected Multiple Choice Option. When you use Multiple Choice Option, you can add few Options that will be presented to your users. This is shown below. And based on the number of options your provided there will be those many branches created for you automatically.

You can add more nodes to each branches and can also branch out even more.

Once you are done with your flow you can use “End Conversation” node type to complete the Flow. End conversation node type is a System Topic that takes care of usual scenario of ending a conversation. There are two options for ending a flow; end with survey and another is to transfer to an actual agent. I have not tried transfer to an agent flow yet but once I do I will be writing another blog on that. In this blog to keep things simple (as we are just starting with Power Virtual Agent) I have used end with survey option.

As you have branched out you need to ensure you combine all your branches to a single End Conversation node. To do this please see a small clip below.

Once you have completed authoring your bot you can then test it. See below video for testing my completed bot.

Hope this helps.

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LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/danishnaglekar/
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GitHub: https://github.com/Power-Maverick
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