QnA Maker

Bots and AI are all the rage these days as the next technologies promising to improve productivity, build efficiencies and capabilities that don’t exist today, change how humans engage with technology, and change the world.

You can see these technologies in play today in Alexa, Google Home, Siri, and Cortana.  These technologies have been integrated into laptops, tablets, and phones.  These same technologies have also spawned whole new families of consumer devices such as the Amazon Echo and other personal assistant devices.  These Bots and AI will eventually be deeply integrated in every device, application, and service.

The most basic and common use of bots has been developing Question and Answer solutions, such as Knowledge Base information and FAQs.  You often see this in adds for the new class of personal assistant devices…”Alexa, what’s the weather tomorrow?”, “Google, who won the Super Bowl?”, “Siri, how far is the north pole?”.  In these cases, the knowledge bases are Search Engine results, which are queried, indexed based on relevance, and read/written back to the user.

The thing about bots is that they can outperform a search engine. Search engines don’t generally give you answers to questions. They give you the source of the answer to your question. You still have to read through the sources to find the answer.  A bot, on the other hand, can actually answer the question directly, providing a link to the source for reference.

As for Office 365 and other Microsoft applications and services, they released the Bot Framework for developers to integrate into their applications.  The first service that Microsoft natively integrated bots into was Microsoft Teams (using a variation of the Bot Framework). Rest assured that it wouldn’t be long before they are integrated into all of Office 365 and other Microsoft products (including SharePoint on premises) for basic application and service based questions.

What’s most important to businesses (i.e. Office 365 customers) however is that bots will allow employees to add frequently used, business relevant and critical knowledge bases to Office 365 (including Teams, SharePoint, Outlook, etc.).  This can all but solve the age-old findability problems for most of their business-critical content, resources, and other assets without employees taking the time to search and identifying relevant results.  This is a game changer for most businesses as they can see huge productivity gains!

Up to now, implementing the Bot Framework or bots into Office 365 requires a developer to implement a bot.  This is why most organizational bot development examples thus far have been FAQs.  Although developing bots allow for big capabilities and potential for business beyond Question and Answer problem, it is a too common use case to need development efforts at each organization.  Microsoft has recognized that re-inventing the wheel here for every organization isn’t wise and has come out with the “QnA Maker” (in preview) to address this common need.  It also allows organizations to start building bots without needing development projects.

With the QnA Maker, the time-consuming part is populating the list of questions and answers to start. Once it’s set up, it’ll be smooth sailing. And you’ll save massive amounts of combined searching time within your organization.

QnA Maker

I first learned about the ‘QnA Maker’ from the good people at BIZZY.  They have SPFx solutions to integrate bots into SharePoint Online, take a look…

Starting Microsoft Teams conversation on items from SharePoint list

For as long as I remember, users have been asking for the ability to have conversations on SharePoint list items and documents.

And for years we have had not so good hacks to get this to work…Wiki Pages, Appending Comment Fields, Lookup Lists, SharePoint Newsfeed, Yammer, 3rd Party tools and Apps, and a ton of other kludgy solutions.

Finally Microsoft Teams comes to the scene and all of a sudden, you can have a conversation and tag a document from SharePoint or even embed the document in a conversation…Hallelujah!

But wait…What about SharePoint list items???

Well we still don’t have a simple coherent out of the box solution just yet.  However it looks like Microsoft didn’t ignore the problem.  It’ll take a little work, but a coherent solution is now here…

Starting Microsoft Teams conversation on items from SharePoint list

Best practices for user feedback methods in Microsoft Teams

The adoption of a new collaboration experience is about changing the behavior of your users. Human change requires training, encouragement and positive examples. It is also critical for people to feel heard during the transition.

See also…

Inconvenient no-script sites and SharePoint Framework

By disabling custom script on their sites, organizations using Office 365 can increase the security of their data and improve the governance of their portal. But how reliable is it actually?

The only way to tell, if a solution that states that it doesn’t require custom scripts to work, truly doesn’t allow users to embed them, is to review its code. This is tedious and inconvenient but required, if you don’t want to expose your organizational information to risks.

Create and use custom SharePoint site designs in Office 365

It is the focus of IT and content managers to enable the business to achieve their outcomes while staying in compliance with company guidelines and preferences. And now you can with the ability to further customize the ‘modern’ SharePoint sites experiences in a repeatable, programmatic way. We are pleased to announce that the ability to create and use custom site designs is rolling out to Targeted Release Office 365 customers.

Also see…