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What’s new with Power Virtual Agents at Ignite

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This year at Microsoft Ignite 2021, we are announcing new capabilities within Power Virtual Agents to continue empowering everyone to create intelligent conversational bots – from citizen developers, business users to professional developers alike – to seamlessly build secure and scalable virtual agents.

Today we’re announcing new features in several categories:

  • Drive collaboration with fusion bot development through Office-like collaborative comments that can be added directly inside the authoring canvas (preview)
  • Build an all-in-one contact center supported by bots that can be connected to phone call interactions through interactive voice response (IVR) for Dynamics 365 Customer Service (generally available)
  • Extend existing Bot Framework bots by adding Power Virtual Agents as a skill (preview)
  • Several enhancements and updates with bots in Microsoft Teams including:
    • Microsoft Teams proactive messaging: Bot makers will be able to send a proactive message to a user or group within Microsoft Teams with full context, based on external trigger events (preview)
    • Sharing bots with colleagues via security groups, with easy management of who should and shouldn’t have access to the bot (generally available)
    • Direct mention/interaction capabilities with bots in Teams. Makers can create and add bots directly to a Teams channel while allowing other people in the channel to see the bot’s responses (coming soon)

You can begin your bot building journey with Power Virtual Agents and learn more about the Wave 2 releases through the Ignite sessions and the remainder of this blog.

Office-like collaborative comments in Power Virtual Agents (preview)

In a previous blog, I had shared about the future of bot building being driven by fusion teams. Since then, we are announcing office-like collaborative commenting in the Power Virtual Agents authoring canvas.

Comments let you contextually add notes, feedback, and have conversations with others directly in your bot, just like you would in Word, Excel, or PowerPoint.

Comment on a topic in your Power Virtual Agents bot to bring colleagues into the development process such as reminding them about a specific topic node that might need to be changed or ask a pro developer to add an advanced function through the Bot Framework Composer.

The experience is designed to align to the familiar controls in Microsoft Office today to make it easy to add or edit comments, reply to threads, and resolve or delete threads as appropriate – all to help everyone keep aligned whilst building your intelligent bots.

Screenshot of Power Virtual Agents Commenting

You can get started with this feature in preview by simply creating a bot in Power Virtual Agents, navigate to the authoring canvas and open the “Comments” pane to add a comment to a topic or to specific nodes within a topic to truly collaborate on building complex bots.

In the coming months, we will enable @mentioning other bot makers in comments with notification emails to further enhance collaboration in the bot building process. In addition, we are also investing in adding office like commenting into the broader Power Platform.

Be sure to sign up to Building Bots using Fusion Teams roundtable session where you will have an opportunity to share your thoughts on the collaborative bot building process.

All-in-one Contact Center – bots can be connected to phone call interactions through interactive voice response (IVR) for Dynamics 365 Customer Service (generally available)

Conversational IVRs are state-of-the-art for phone interactions with callers removing the need to navigate tedious and never-ending phone prompts. Now, callers can describe what they need using their voice and the IVR will route them to the correct topic and solve their issue.

Power Virtual Agents can now be configured to work with Dynamics 365 Customer Service and provide your organization with these conversational IVR capabilities. With Microsoft’s state-of-the-art natural language and speech capabilities, you can quickly build and maintain a bot that answers your companies’ phone calls and has voice conversations with your customers on their phone, quickly answering their questions and lowering your cost to serve.

Screenshot of a Power Virtual Agents topic being used with voice for Dynamics 365 Customer Service

When a caller interacts with the bot, speech services recognize your callers utterances with high accuracy and talks to the user using neural voices which are almost indistinguishable from a human voice. Power Virtual Agents’ AI capabilities match your callers requests to your topics, providing a seamless voice experience.

Callers can interact with the bot naturally using their native language with support from Power Virtual Agents’ 19 languages. There is no need to have your customers dial a different number based on the language they speak – your bot can transfer to any other language bot as needed, allowing callers to communicate in the language they feel most comfortable.

If for some reason your caller needs to reach one of your human agents to resolve an issue, they can be easily transferred to your live agent in Dynamics 365 Customer Service using a simple escalation action in your topics.

With Dynamics 365 Customer Service, you can quickly get started by acquiring a new phone number to associate with your bot or bring your own existing number using Direct Routing. No matter if you are starting your IVR experience from the scratch or moving from an existing system, Power Virtual Agents can be your solution for intelligent, conversational IVR.

This new capability allows your callers to spend less time on the phone navigating prompts and more time getting their issues resolved, minimizing the need to escalate to a human agent.

Sign up to the Introducing Voice Channel for Dynamics 365 Customer Service breakout session for more information. Also, read these step-by-step instructions on how to use Power Virtual Agents bots to power your conversational IVR using Dynamics 365 Customer Service.

Power Virtual Agents as a skill for Bot Framework bots (preview)

Today, bot makers can use Microsoft Bot Framework skills in Power Virtual Agents. Announcing at Ignite, you can now easily extend any Bot Framework bot by adding Power Virtual Agents as a skill and invoking their functionality at runtime. This new feature is in Public Preview and allows bot makers to use the tools that work best for their needs by having the option to use both bots as skills bidirectionally.

Business users and subject matter experts can create Power Virtual Agents bots and make them available as skills to the developers, enabling the maker to easily expand the Bot Framework bot ecosystem with Power Virtual Agents functionality.

If a Power Virtual Agents bot is added as a skill, the Bot Framework bot will determine if the user’s query matches any of the trigger phrases in the Power Virtual Agent’s bot.

If there is a match, the Bot Framework bot will invoke the Power Virtual Agents bot and pass the entire user utterance to it to extract any entities and automatically start the right Power Virtual Agents topic.

Bot authors can download the Power Virtual Agents bot skill manifests and use them to create a skill connection in Bot Framework Composer and SDK. Power Virtual Agents bot skill manifests are automatically generated based on the bot content.

Bot Authors can also explicitly control which Bot Framework bots are allowed to connect to a particular Power Virtual Agents bot.

Screenshot of Power Virtual Agents as a skill

For more information and step-by-step instructions on how to get started, visit Power Virtual Agent bots as a skill.

Enhancements and updates with Power Virtual Agents in Microsoft Teams

There are several features that are included to improve the experience of making and consuming PVA bots within Microsoft Teams. You can see these features in action in the future of business is ​seamless collaboration​ breakout session.

Notify team users with proactive messages (public preview)

Power Virtual Agents can now send proactive messages and cards to users through personal chats in Microsoft Teams. This capability unlocks a rich set of scenarios from notifying users that their expense report has been approved to reminders to update their emergency contact information. The best part is you can include topics in Power Virtual Agents to reply to their follow-up questions such as “How is my emergency contact information privacy protected?”.

Screenshot of Power Virtual Agents adaptive card sent

The integration is achieved with existing Microsoft Teams actions to post messages and cards in Power Automate. You can leverage all the rich trigger and actions in the Power Platform ecosystem and use your PVA bot to send messages to users at the appropriate step of the workflow.

PVA supports sending proactive messages and cards that takes a response from the user. Select ‘send as Power Virtual Agents (preview)’ in the Power Automate Microsoft Teams action to choose the PVA bot that will be sending the message. Learn more about this feature here: notify Teams users with proactive message.
Screenshot of posting message as a bot through Power Automate

Share bots with colleagues (generally available)

It is very common for departments or a sub-organization to build bots for a dynamic group of users that is not part of a specific team. For example, may have different field agents for different products that are spread across multiple teams, but they all share the same need to look up customer contact information. How can Contoso have a bot that is only accessible to field agents?

We are pleased to announce you can now share your bot with specific security groups. Users can find and install the shared bot directly from the Microsoft Teams app store in the “Built by your colleague” section, or directly install the bot via installation link and email notifications. There is no need to worry about data leakage as only members of the shared security groups will be able to install and chat with the bot. Learn more about the feature here.
 Screenshot of sharing a Power Virtual Agent bot in Microsoft Teams

@Mention bots in teams channels (Coming soon)

Bots built for Microsoft teams today need to be installed by each teammate as a personal app to chat privately in Microsoft Teams.

Power Virtual Agents will now allow bots built-in Microsoft Teams to be directly added to the team that the bot is created in. Team members can directly interact with the bot via @mentioning the bot’s name in their team’s channel where everyone can see the bot’s response. In a product design team and need to share product design best practices with your teammates? Simply ask the bot in channel and everyone can see the response!

While bots in channel provides amazing collaboration, there are also times where users want to interact with the bot in private without spamming their teammates. When adding a bot to a team, you can allow the bot to also greet every team member in personal conversation. This way your teammates can have personal conversations such as asking questions about how to install design software without needing to install the bot for themselves.

This feature is planned to go live in the coming months.

Screenshot of mentioning capabilities of Power Virtual Agents within Microsoft Teams
As some of these Power Virtual Agents features are in preview, we are eager to hear your feedback in the community forums at https://aka.ms/pvacommunity

Learn more

You will have the opportunity to learn more about these updates over the course of Microsoft Ignite, so be sure to check out all the sessions below.

Power Virtual Agents sessions:

Other Power Platform sessions:

  • Day 1 Keynote with Scott – Power Platform and Fusion Teams
  • Day 1 Keynote with Charles and Alysa
  • Day 2 session with Julie – Power Platform and Fusion Teams
  • Day 2 session with Power Platform Leadership team – Into focus: Business applications
  • On demand session – RPA and Process advisor
  • On demand session – Build secure solutions in the Power Platform
  • On demand session – Empower organizations to build apps faster with fusion teams
  • On demand session – In-depth overview of what’s new for Power Apps
  • On demand session – Add intelligence to your business with AI Builder
  • On demand session – Return to the workplace confidently with low code solutions

Sign up to the Power Virtual Agents in a day events: