Preferred Parterner Announcement

Engage Squared Recognised as “Microsoft Preferred Partner” for Business Applications

Microsoft Preferred Partner Microsoft SharePoint Business Apps Partner Program Charter Member PowerApps Flow SharePoint Microsoft Teams

Joins exclusive ranks as a “Charter Member” in the Microsoft 365 Business Applications Partner Program – one of just 37 companies worldwide and the only Australian consultancy to make the list.

Engage Squared is excited to be recognised for our innovative work with PowerApps, SharePoint, Microsoft Teams and Flow.

As a preferred partner, Engage Squared has access to Microsoft resources that will help us deliver even more effective digital workplace solutions to our customers. These resources include connections to Microsoft advisors, access to product roadmap information that informs the technology strategies underpinning our implementations, and exclusive technical knowledge bases.

We’re particularly excited by this program because it reinforces the value we see in Microsoft’s holistic approach to technology solutions – deploying the power of Microsoft 365 to achieve easy to implement automation, applications and knowledge management.

Seen from a product perspective, these three things map to Microsoft Flow, PowerApps and Power BI (which create the “Business Applications”, in Microsoft parlance) and SharePoint (which provides the knowledge management). When we combine these approaches into a single solution, rather than leaving them siloed within distinct projects, we can fuel transformative business change.

Case Study: ATO

Productivity soars as ATO wins back 55,000 hours a year with “Intranet Accelerator”

In the words of our CEO, Stephen Monk: “It’s gratifying to be recognised by Microsoft for our innovative work with business applications.

We believe when you make people’s work lives more enjoyable and productive, you make their organisation stronger and more effective. It’s extremely rewarding to work with Microsoft’s app technologies because they can solve so many different problems so quickly. 

We’ve helped our customers implement solutions ranging from a PowerApps engagement that saved more than three days of effort every week, to more holistic solutions streamlining a diverse range of business processes—such as front-line health and safety, procurement and the project management and delivery of portfolios worth billions of dollars. 

It’s exhilarating to be part of this program and to continue working closely with Microsoft in solving new business problems as they emerge. Having exclusive access to the Microsoft product team is particularly rewarding. 

“Combining powerful technologies to solve problems for people is why we’re here. It’s about bringing people and technology together.”

Case Study: Aboriginal Legal Service

Connecting and Empowering Community Legal Workers with Office 365 

“Our community teams now have a system that will radically improve their efficiency as they deliver services and work with Aboriginal community members in our 26 locations across NSW and ACT”
– Michael Higgins, Chief Operating Officer, Aboriginal Legal Service

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Event recap: “Bots in the Real World: Truth, Hype and Demos”

A lot of us long for the day we can kick up our feet and let Cortana manage our professional lives. Or we worry that our jobs will be stolen by bots.

This month at the Melbourne Office 365 Business User Group (BUG), they took a shot at cutting through the hype and getting to something practical.

Facilitated by Engage Squared and hosted at Microsoft’s office at Southbank, they had 90+ registrants and a full house on the day.

Host Jack Hendy (an adoption specialist at Engage Squared) kicked off the session with…

“What’s new in Office 365”:

  • Cortana can be tagged in emails to help arrange meetings (Your personal assistant, just @Cortana)
  • New Q&A functionality in Yammer (Lets you mark answers to questions)
  • Microsoft Whiteboard App (Allows you to add reactions, integrates with SurfaceHub and has “ink beautification”: Bad handwriting? No worries)
  • PowerPoint-designed slides (Make your company’s branding consistent using custom templates and automated suggestions)
  • New customisable and unified Microsoft Search (A reason to use Bing)

AnswerBot: Going with the Flow

Their first presenter, Jason Soo from law firm Hill and Wilcox, introduced us to the basic Question and Answer (QnA) bot, enhanced with Flow. The bot solution leveraged Flow’s approval workflow, allowing the bot to update its QnA knowledge base with new answers to new questions.

This bot/Flow duo:

  • Captured questions from a Yammer group (this could be any ‘front door’/entry point, such as an intranet or website)
  • Answered questions parsed through the Azure QnA Maker
    • If the question is “like for like” or the answer has a high degree of confidence (an adjustable setting in QnA Maker), the response is posted in Yammer
  • If the confidence score is low or no match has been found, an approval flow is triggered which then presents a subject matter expert with the question, a potential answer and an option to submit another answer
    • This can be extremely powerful for enterprise-wide bots, as subject matter experts can be tied to different knowledge bases (owned by different portfolios/organisational groups), all connected to one bot
  • The answer, once accepted in Yammer, is automatically added back to the associated knowledge base

Apart from the ‘learning’ AnswerBot is capable of, she can be used to drive uptake and draw audiences to platforms like Yammer.

Jason also showed how he was able to set up AnswerBot (Flow not included) in 5 minutes using an Ignite video found here.

Codee: Journey from FAQs to Teams Governance

Next on deck was Adrian Tan and Sarah Aquilina from the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). Codee started her journey as an Office 365 FAQ assistant and is currently on the road to becoming much more, starting off with Teams Governance.

How do you transition an organisation of 13000 people[1] off Lotus notes and onto Office 365 while keeping up with basic (but necessary) queries?

The answer was Codee (formally known as BAE).

Codee is a basic QnA bot (living in Teams) that also leverages the Azure QnA Maker. Sarah, a non-technical stakeholder, showed how she was able to use the QnA maker to manage and improve the bot without needing help from the rest of her team.

The related cost of Azure consumption and virtual machines in the cloud was also discussed. The group agreed that different business problems called for different levels of investment and the free options provided by Microsoft to trial bots made it easy to get started. Generally, the ROI associated with the automation of answers to high-volume, repetitive questions was seen to pay for the initial outlay quite quickly.

Adrian, the program manager at DHHS concluded that paying the monthly cost to maintain Codee allowed his team to focus their efforts on activities more impactful to the business.

Codee is currently being developed to have the ability to create Teams at DHHS and asking for Teams names, owners and settings during the provisioning process.

ZELA: The Truth and the Hype

Elaine Van Bergen finished off with the (not so cold) hard truth: bots are just apps.

They’re apps that can be used to supplement other content in areas such as websites, Yammer and Teams.

In its more advanced stages, a bot:

  • Can be used to greet and attempt to assist users (and refer them to humans if sentiment analysis or the specificity of the questions warrant it)
  • Can be used with voice recognition or integrated with IVRs to provide feedback and activate workflows

While these examples are exciting, Elaine emphasised that while it’s easy to create bots and get immediate returns, any complexity or customisation will find you needing developers. It was also recommended to run basic bot projects before delving into more technical projects.

Elaine then introduced ZELA to the group.

ZELA is Microsoft’s internally built bot that assists with high-volume, low-risk queries to the legal department which previously lead to bottlenecks. ZELA helps with:

  • Answering self-help queries such as “where can I find…”
  • Client requests for support
  • Answering general, front-line questions from clients

The group agreed ZELA was a good example of fast value-for-effort and was intrigued by its use in a department as critical as Legal.

 

The session concluded with a prize giveaway, thanks to sponsorship by Logitech.

If you’re in interested in future Business User Group meetups, please join them and us at the next meeting!

Melbourne: https://www.meetup.com/Melbourne-Office-365-Business-User-Group/

Sydney: https://www.meetup.com/Sydney-Office-365-Business-User-Group/

 

 

[1] DHHS, ‘People Strategy 2020’, Department of Health and Human Services, Victoria, 2017, p 15, https://dhhs.vic.gov.au/sites/default/files/documents/201708/People-strategy-2020_2017-07-03.pdf, (accessed 4 July 2019).

Banner - APIs

Using APIs with Microsoft Flow

Most modern cloud-based software provides APIs to enable you to connect to your data and integrate with the software as required. Microsoft Flow is a great tool to help connect to these data sources to automate repetitive workflows and tasks. Outside of the wide range of default connectors that are available, Microsoft Flow provides the flexibility to connect to any API utilising the HTTP action within Microsoft Flow, and can even be triggered by ‘listening’ to a third party webhook that would conduct a HTTP Post request to your Flow.

Some examples of internal business process that we have automated, that you might consider doing as well, include:

  1. Creating and sending scheduled weekly summaries or reports
  2. Triggering business processes such as beginning the finance process when a sales opportunity is closed
  3. Following up on overdue sales opportunities in a CRM

This is a multi-part series, on how we at Engage Squared use Microsoft Flow to integrate with third-party APIs and how you can benefit from this approach.

In this article, learn how to connect to a simple API and send compliments to your co-workers every Friday morning by following the step by step guide below.

Triggering the Flow

All Flows begin with a trigger. Flow provides hundreds of trigger options,
Including a HTTP webhook that is triggered by real time information.
To keep our Flow simple, we use a ‘Recurrence’ trigger.
Microsoft Flow Recurrence action

Finding an API

Next, we would need to find an API we wish to connect to. There is a nice compliment generator here https://complimentr.com.
Here we can find the following:
URI:
https://complimentr.com/api
Sample Payload:
{ “compliment”: “9 out of 10 doctors say you have fairly heavenly clothes” }
Complimentr API

Making a HTTP call

Going back to our flow, we will need to add an action to call this API.

Click the ( + ) button and add a new ‘HTTP’ action.
Set the Method as GET.
Set the URI from above ( https://complimentr.com/api )

Http Get call

Parsing the HTTP call response

The HTTP action will send your request to the API endpoint and then return with a response in JSON format.

Add a ‘Parse JSON’ action that will help transform the response from the HTTP GET call into something more meaningful. To do this we add the “Body” from the HTTP GET call as the content. Flow makes this content available to us in the dynamic content selector.

Parse JSON
Once we have selected the content, we would need to provide a schema which will act as a key to translate the response into usable variables in the form of dynamic content.

The easiest way to do this is to click on the ‘Use sample payload to generate schema’ hyperlink at the bottom of the action card and then paste in the sample payload from earlier in the following pop-up.

 

Generate Schema
Flow will do the heavy lifting and do its best at converting the sample payload into a schema.  Schema generated

Using the data

At this point we can use the data that is parsed through to automate any business process we want. For this example, we are going to keep things simple and send the compliment as an email.

Use the ‘Send an email’ action, providing the ‘To’ address, Subject and Body of the email, including our compliment – again using the dynamic content selector, this time to select our compliment from the Parse JSON step.

 Send Email
Save and test the Flow to make sure that everything works.  Success

Collapsed flow

And then check the results in Outlook!  Result email

Once we are happy with the Flow, make sure to give the Flow, triggers and actions meaningful names and leave comments where necessary!

Add Comments

Wrapping up

This is a very simple example of how to connect to a third-party API, make sense of the response and use the response in a subsequent action. With Microsoft Flow, we can build upon this to meet much more complex business needs with useful automation.

So, unless your job is as simple as sending compliments to your coworkers every Friday, I would suggest checking out the next blog post on how to automate your job, one scheduled report at a time!