Exploring Power Platform: Virtual Agents

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For anyone with a technical background, AI tools aren’t exactly new: there’s been some form of support available for workflow logic and decision making for decades, with varying degrees of sophistication (as anyone who’s had to wrestle with an automated phone service could tell you). Recent developments in generative AI and Natural Language Processing (NLP) have changed the conversation, though, making Natural Language Processing AI more mainstream and easier to leverage across a broader spectrum of use cases, like for virtual chatbots.

Often interaction with a chatbot can be somewhat like talking to a robot in the customer service world, and that’s led to a bit of a negative reputation associated with their use. However, Microsoft has rolled out a virtual agent component of the Power Platform that leverages technology from ChatGPT models to create an experience for users that is as seamless as it can be at the moment.

Having worked with the tool in the past, there are a few key things you should know regarding Microsoft’s Virtual Agents offering:

It’s Not as Technical as Expected

Microsoft’s Power Platform is designed to be a “low code/no code” solution, which means that it’s supposed to be accessible to nontechnical staff. These kinds of solutions enable stakeholders and power users, non-technology related employees with solid knowledge of how applications work, to build tools within the Power Platform without needing to be trained in formal coding languages and scripting.

Is the Power Platform a replacement for technical staff? Not really, because even though it democratizes the ability to create software solutions, there’s plenty of nuance to design that may require a technical eye to implement. While a nontechnical person could leverage the Power Platform to develop simple solutions, a programmer may use Power Platform to extend the functionality of your critical process software environment in innovative ways.

There have been many Hammer Dev clients who have used or implemented a Power Apps based solution then have engaged our technical experts to enhance and extend that base application. In some cases, these enhancements have led to massive changes to the way organizations operate, like in handling service tickets.

It Streamlines Service Tickets

Virtual Agents are often used to handle customer service requests, but they can also be leveraged to manage internal operations, like the creation of service tickets. Where some support teams use forms or a shared email to manage their service requests, Virtual Agents are able to ask a series of questions to help clarify a service request, attach a priority level to it, and ensure it makes it to the right team member.

As part of the Power Platform, Virtual Agents can integrate with Microsoft Teams collaboration platform and leverage Power Automate to help users reach out to the support staff and submit tickets to the existing help desk system. On the face of it, this may seem like a minor enhancement, but when it’s applied to a company that has a relatively small support team supporting dozens of offsite workers, this simple enhancement yields valuable guidance. Virtual Agents can easily connect with SharePoint and other platforms, which means that organizations can facilitate their business workflows to yield even greater versatility and ease of use.

It can Serve the role of “Document Concierge”

When a business is small, documentation and intranet resources are often easy to keep track of because information is structured in a relatively simple way. But as an organization grows, these repositories can become complex and sometimes difficult to navigate.

Take, for example, a cyber charter school that’s grown to the point that their SharePoint environment was filled with far more policies and procedures than anyone could quickly find. While this increased sophistication is a good sign that the organization is healthy and the use of the platform is widespread, also it comes with increased difficulty locating supporting reference documents for the internal team.

The solution in a case like this could be to develop a virtual agent that team members could interact with to guide them to the documents they needed. With the deployment of the virtual agent, the cyber charter school would have a virtual librarian that could help them access the documents they needed quickly and efficiently, which is especially relevant when employes are located across a wide geography and often work independently.

Virtual Agents Democratize AI-Driven Chat

Three years ago, someone interested in developing a model to handle natural language chat functions needed to possess advanced technical skills to design and build even the simplest solution. Now, with Microsoft’s Virtual Agents, the barrier to entry is significantly lower, making it possible for individuals to deploy a chatbot to help with organizing documents and automating workflows without needing to know how to write script or deal with the complexities of Natural Language Processing.

Having technical knowledge can still be an asset despite the ease of deploying virtual agents. The Hammer Dev team has leveraged years of experience with Power Platform and the Microsoft environment to integrate chatbot functionality into organizations’ existing technology stack, leading to increased efficiency across the organization and improved scalability. If you’re curious about how virtual agents could be integrated into your own organization, visit the contact us page.