Microsoft Tools Up For Voice Era
Written by Kay Ewbank   
Wednesday, 27 November 2019

Microsoft has released a public preview of a tool for building chatbots as well as revamping and renaming Microsoft Flow as Power Automate.

The changes were announced at Microsoft Ignite earlier this month, along with the addition of robotic process automation (RPA) features to Power Automate. Microsoft's "Power Platform" consists of Power BI, Power Apps, and Power Automate, and is the latest attempt to give business users tools to help them carry out their own analysis and automation. Microsoft Flow is a service for automating workflow across apps and SaaS services. 




Power Virtual Agents is a tool that can be used to build chatbots without the need for coding. Bots that make use of conversational AI can be used to 'talk' to customers to direct them to the appropriate part of your website without the need for human intervention, answering repetitive questions from your customers and helping them do repeatable tasks such as finding out how to return or exchange an item. They've become increasingly unpopular recently because most chatbots aren't particularly good or helpful. Microsoft says their new tool overcomes the problems of earlier chatbot creators.


Power Virtual Agents has a visual, drag-and-drop interface that users can use to create process flows and forms containing text and logic, with a real-time simulator to test the results. The tool is underpinned by Microsoft Azure AI technology, so the chatbot creators don't need to laboriously work through every question and answer combination. Instead, the tool will work out the creator's intentions and come up with the appropriate actions. This relies on a combination of entity extraction and 'intent understanding', along with the system learning over time based on user feedback.




The linking in of Flow (aka Power Automate) is designed to overcome the problem that at some point, most systems need to move to adding code. Traditional "record what you need to do" systems usually need a complete start again rewrite at this stage, but Microsoft says the Power Platform can be used to move from the initial user recorded stage to use code created by Power Automate to trigger more complex actions.

Alongside the chatbot generation, Power Platform generates analytics that can be used to see what topics customers are asking about, how they asked questions, and where the system has failed to give a useful answer, for example.



The beta is open to sign up now. 

More Information

Power Virtual Agents Homepage

Power Platform Signup

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Last Updated ( Wednesday, 27 November 2019 )