Working with the AI Spark partner program

Engage Squared recently had the opportunity to spend two days in Hobart with our partner LiveTiles, as part of their AI Spark Partner Program.  

AI Spark is a Microsoft and LiveTiles accelerator program for partners working with the LiveTiles Bots platform. Through the program, Engage Squared will be able to build AI capabilities that we can use to help customers develop and deploy AI solutions. 

LiveTiles Bots is a ‘no-code’ bot builder powered by Microsoft Azure’s bot framework and language understanding intelligence service. It takes a huge amount of the complexity and required technical know-how out of the bot-building process, allowing users to quickly create an AI tool relevant to their needs. 

We’ve been hearing more and more of our customers talking and asking about bots and AI, and it’s clearly an area set for a huge amount of growth, with enormous opportunities for businesses to take advantage of the technology to transform the way they and their people work. 

We’ve learned so much about bots and artificial intelligence over the past few days, being able to work with a no code solution that integrates with so many SaaS based applications, utilising complementary technologies such as Microsoft Flow has clearly outlined why AI is of great focus to Microsoft. 

Using the LiveTiles bot platform means the approach to building bots becomes less about investing technical effort and navigating technological boundaries, and much more about understanding what our customers are trying to achieve and supporting them with the design thinking process that is necessary to deliver a successful bot scenario, and the creation of custom connectors to the services and platforms they use.  

This flexibility is a testament to how LiveTiles have made it so easy to configure a bot and connect into an enormous number of data sources – basically any that have exposed API’s. 

The wide-ranging two-day AI Spark workshop started off with a review of the underlying Microsoft bot framework and suite of AI services, followed by a detailed walkthrough of the LiveTiles Bot product, and how it overlays the technology to provide a far simpler interface for users.  

We talked about the value of bots and some of the many real-world use cases that they can help with, from HR Bots returning your leave balances, to a public facing bot that helps customers check the status of their order and answer complex questions instead of calling a dedicated support number.  

Through this process, it became apparent that the quality of data and inputs in a production scenario was something that needed to be reviewed and be given thought to spend the time working on retrieving quality data, and putting it into a format that works well for a bot interface.  

We also discussed some of the many lessons that LiveTiles have learned from working with customers to develop bots. For example, often there is a temptation to want to jump straight into building an “uber-bot” that can do everything, but typically a much more successful approach is to start by thinking about your most valuable use cases and starting with one or more simpler, targeted bots that do one thing well – this approach is quicker, more reliable and more likely to be a success. From there, we can start to build on this success and look to more advanced things like starting to combine bots’ abilities. 

We also got a sneak peek of some of the many enhancements and innovations that LiveTiles are continuing to work on to make the platform increasingly useful and powerful for users. Bots and AI are set to be a major growth area and both Microsoft and LiveTiles have made clear that this is an area they will continue to invest in heavily with native integration with different systems and an evolving language model. 

The second day of the workshop was spent rolling our sleeves up with LiveTiles Bots and getting into some rapid prototyping. We brainstormed some use cases that would be valuable internally at Engage Squared, and after settling on two examples started to build our custom bots. This was a great experience to put what we had learned into practice and get us practicing design thinking, solving problems and building our familiarity with the product and everything it can do. We’re looking forward to putting some finishing touches on our working bot prototypes and sharing them with the team back at Engage Squared! 

If you think your organisation could use a bot to help your staff, or it’s something you would like to know more about, we would love to chat to you about how bots can help to drive productivity and bridge gaps between systems and users, contact us to arrange an overview of LiveTiles bots. 

 

Written by Thomas Lalor & James Di Blasi

Yammer & Skype for Business integration

Another week, another round of Office 365 updates and of course, they’re awesome!

Recently Microsoft released the ability to open the Skype for Business chat module through Yammer. The browser based chat isn’t exactly a new feature available in Office 365, it was originally released to Outlook Online quite some time ago.

However, what is new is the ability to open the Skype for Business chat module while working in Yammer and this is fantastic news! The recent release further aids in collaboration, allowing you to connect with your colleagues in a consistent and familiar way.

 

So what does it look like?

If you receive a message whilst browsing Yammer, a pop-up display message will appear on the top right hand corner. You are then given the choice to either respond or ignore the message. By choosing to respond, the Skype for Business chat window appears as an overlay on the page.

If you click the Skype for Business icon, located on the top right hand side of the suite bar the yammer module loads, it allows you to get in contact with your colleagues and external organisations/users using Skype for Business.

The great thing about this feature is that it isn’t limited to desktop devices either, allowing for a feature rich instant message experience across mobile devices too.

Using Mobile devices

Not only does this show the commitment Microsoft have to enhancing and supporting Yammer, but this is another show of strength by Microsoft that you don’t always need a desktop computer with software installed to work out loud and collaborate effectively! Remember anywhere, any device, any time!

Go give it a try today, and let me know what you think!

SharePoint Framework

Automating deployment of SharePoint Framework App Package

Please note: that this approach uses Advance HTTP Operation pattern, which is not recommended by Microsoft, please read the disclaimer. However, in the time of writing this article there is no API or recommended approach, so it’s currently the only way to upload and automatically deploy a SPFx package.

You can find source code here

You can watch video here

The OOTB approach to add SPFx package to the tenant’s App Catalog.

All SharePoint Framework solutions deployed into a tenant must be approved by a user with full control permission set for the tenant’s App Catalog site via SharePoint UI.

This is done by uploading the SharePoint Framework package, the .sppkg file into the Apps for SharePoint library.

When a new solution is added to the library, the administrator receives a dialog popup requesting for consent to approve the solution tenancy wide. The dialog explains that this is a full trust client side code solution without any resource restrictions and that it executes under user’s context. The dialog also shows from what domain it will primarily get content, that is the CDN location of the SharePoint Framework scripts.

Once approved the SharePoint Framework solution can be enabled on any Site Collection within the tenant.