Banner - Business User Group meetup

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).

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.