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!

Office 365 Matter Center

6 tips to deploying Office 365 Matter Centre

What a busy, and exciting time it has been over the past few weeks full of new releases into Office 365. Today, I’m focusing on something that may not be new and something that isn’t really an ‘official’ Microsoft product either. Introducing: The Office 365 Matter Center.

The Office 365 Matter Center was developed by Microsoft’s Corporate, External, Legal Affairs (CELA), it’s a SharePoint based document management tool making it easier for both Legal and Business Professionals to organize files by matter.

This blog article will focus on some of the key learning’s and top tips for deploying the Office 365 Matter Center.

 

Tip #1

Use Visual Studio 2015, by using 2017 the solution isn’t totally compatible and requires the solution to be upgraded. The results by upgrading aren’t very consistent and will most likely lead to a failed deployment. So for now, keep using Visual Studio 2015!

Tip #2

While the documentation lists the following as pre-requisites, it doesn’t really explain how to do so.

Make sure Visual Studio has the following features installed:

  • Microsoft Office Developer Tools
  • Microsoft Web Developer Tools
  • PowerShell Tools for Visual Studio

Download and Run Microsoft Web Installer

Once the Web Installer loads, ensure the following are also downloaded and installed;

 

Tip #3

Filling out the excel spreadsheet for the first time.

One of the pre-requisites to deploying Office 365 Matter Center,  is to fill out a spreadsheet that adds pages to the root tenant url, content types to the content type hub, and configuration lists to the app catalog.

 

Config

TenantURL

https://contoso.sharepoint.com
ContentTypeHubURL https://contoso.sharepoint.com/sites/contentTypeHub
CatalogSiteURL https://contoso.sharepoint.com/sites/apps (this is the app catalog site, make sure an app catalog has been provisioned)
TenantAdminURL https://contoso-admin.sharepoint.com

 

Client_Config tab

With the owners group and Visitors group column, add a user full name to each (example, james.diblasi@engagesq.com)

Alternatively, write NA as you cannot leave this column empty.

 

Tip #4  –

When you run the Deploy-AzureResourceGrop.ps1 you will be requested to provide a few pieces of information, these are pretty straight forward but there are some gotcha’s with names, spaces and capitalization. Below I’ve explained a few of the important bits of mandatory information.

ResourceGroupLocation – this is the location that you would like to deploy the Azure Resource Group to, for those in Australia I’ve been using “Southeast Asia”

ResourceGroupName – Obviously a simple one, but is important to get right. Choose a name with no spaces, ensure that the name you chose here is the same you choose for the next step WebAppName, completing this provides consistency.

WebAppName – The webapp name is to be the name of the web application, this will be used in the url of the Azure App, again keep this consistent with the Resource Group Name if you can.

CentralRepositoryUrl – This is the url of your app catalog, it’s not documented anywhere so this can may be confusing.

Don’t get bogged down populating the  Sample data, you can create this through the system later.

Tip #5

Not ideal, but depending on the version and when you download the package there may be a hard-coded reference to ‘Microsoft’, this does cause issues with creating matters and having matters roll up to display on the Home page. This may not be valid at the time of reading but be sure to check the createMatter.controller.js located at –

“\tree\master\cloud\src\solution\Microsoft.Legal.MatterCenter.Web\wwwroot\app\matter\createMatter.controller.js” for a hard coded Microsoft reference.

Check line 2232 if you see a reference to Microsoft, change this to cm.selectedClientName

Tip #6

I’ve only seen this happen once, but on occasion you may have an issue with provisioning matter’s and an error referring to content types. I’ve found that it’s because the content types are either not published or because the because the managed metadata fields are not mapped to a term.

If the error you are receiving is referring to managed metadata.  Browse to your content type hub, go into the site columns and make sure that each managed metadata field under the “_Matter Center” group has a term selected.

There is so much business benefit to deploying the Office 365 Matter Center, it’s definitely worthwhile the invested time to deploy.

Thanks for reading.
James Di Blasi

Office 365

How I keep up to date with Office 365

Office 365 offers a wide variety of business productivity tools and is constantly releasing new features and tools. Just in the last few months we’ve seen Teams, Flow, PowerApps, and StaffHub, all launched for general availability. This isn’t even counting the constant updates released for existing O365 tools.

With all of these releases, you might feel that it’s too hard to keep up-to-date. I’ll share a few ways I use to keep up with new Office 365 features and tools. This can be applied to other industries and topics of interest, so feel free to pick and choose what works best for you.

Follow Microsoft’s official blogs

Office Blog

Microsoft provides a wealth of knowledge in their Office Blogs, covering topics from updates, customer success stories and feature updates, to education and adoption pieces. Did you know they recently released printable Office training roadmaps? That can help save some time in creating a training plan for your team.

If you don’t want to see everything, you can filter the posts based on what tools you use, which industry you’re in, or the kinds of topics you’re interested in knowing more about.

Follow non-Microsoft blogs

While Microsoft’s blogs are a useful way to hear the official message, it’s just as important to hear from industry professionals giving insights into how they use these tools in real life scenarios. Marc D Anderson writes insightful posts on SharePoint and Office 365, with posts targeted towards end-user scenarios, best practice advice, and developer tips.

We’ll also be sharing our expertise on O365 best practice and adoption tips, so why not subscribe to our feed while you’re at it!

How to get notified about new updates (RSS feeds are your best friend)

It’s great to have a lot of blogs to follow, but I don’t like having to periodically check for new posts; I want to be able to see them all in one view. RSS feeds have been around for a while and it’s still my go-to method for staying up-to-date with topics I care about.

If you aren’t familiar with RSS feeds, you might recognise the orange wireless signal icon sites on the edges of their site. It’s a universal standard that can be used in a number of sites and apps to create a feed of the latest published news from a site.

RSS

You can group these together using different aggregators (I’m a big fan of Feedly) to make it easy to see what’s new across many sites. It’s nice just to take out my phone while I’m in line or on the bus and quickly catch-up on a few new posts.

Feedly

What about your team? What about your investment in Office 365? RSS loves Office 365 as well.

You can create a Flow that posts new updates from an RSS feed to a Yammer Group. This has been an easy way for our team to engage (slipped it in perfectly) in discussions on new updates.

Do you use Teams? You can also use the RSS connector in Microsoft Teams to send updates to your Team’s conversation feed.

Create a Twitter list

Twitter list

A Twitter list is a handy way to follow specific accounts in a single feed. I’ve added a couple of accounts I’m interested in such as Office 365, Microsoft Office and Microsoft SharePoint, and while there is some overlap with the posts from the Office blogs, there’s enough unique content and retweets featured to make it useful.

I’ve even embedded the list to our intranet’s home page so everyone can see new tweets. Just as a side-note: to embed the list you’ll need to make it public so you should either use a company twitter account to do this or feel ok with your colleagues seeing your account.

Turn on first-release for O365 tenant

Reading about new features and updates can only take you so far – sometimes you just need to start using new features to see how they’ll best work. You can turn on First Release for your O365 tenant to receive updates early. This has helped me identify use-cases for tools/features that I might not have thought about until I’ve spent some time with it.

This is great if your organisation likes to be early adopters of new tools and features. If you like to wait until the full release, however, you can always designate individuals to receive the updates first, such as an IT team or pilot group, to make sure the new features are working as expected and provide feedback to Microsoft.

Check out the Office 365 roadmap

While most of my updates come from the methods above, I do look at the Office 365 Roadmap from time-to-time to see an overall view of planned and rolling out features. It’s also a good way to find out what happened to features that didn’t make it to general availability.

O365 Roadmap

Get involved in the community

The Microsoft Tech Community connects O365 enthusiasts and professional around the world to discuss current challenges and ideas with O365 tools.

Staff from Microsoft are on the site quite often and it’s an easy way to connect with them to clarify existing/planned functionality. They also sometimes post about new features before the accompanying full blog post is created so you can get a sneak peek.

Tech Community

There’s a lot of ways you can find out what’s new in Office 365 and at times it can get hard to keep up with everything – the important part is to pick and choose which works best for you. Even if you fall behind,  at the very least it’s good to check out the Office blogs monthly features post to see the biggest highlights.