Power Virtual Agents


Keeping with the AI theme of late:

A dedicated Microsoft Cloud Search engine


Need to Know Q and A Bot

I’ve also been playing around with the ability to create bots in the Power Platform. You can try out what I’ve created here:


Again, remember this is a chat bot not a search engine. I have also been able to integrate this chat bot into my Microsoft Team but the process isn’t as straight forward as clicking a single link and I’ll try to cover that off in more detail in an upcoming article for you.

In many ways the Power Virtual Agent chat bot functions like the Q and A bot mentioned earlier, but it does have some major differences. Behind the scenes there is more flexibility programming than with the Q and A bot:


I like the ability to visually create branching logic. This makes it a lot like Microsoft Power Automate to my mind. You can also create your own custom reposes as well as import from web site information, which is what I have done in my case. I also like the follow up and after event survey responses:


Which is all built in.

However, from what I can see, it is also much more expensive – https://powervirtualagents.microsoft.com/en-us/


Given that price plus the fact that you have to invest your own time to build something, I think this isn’t likely to be too widely adopted in the SMB space as yet. I do like the platform, compared to what I have seen so far but not sure whether it is really appropriate for a ‘casual’ play. If you are serious into automation and have lots of need for this type of thing, then it is probably going to be the platform of choice. We’ll see. I need more time will all of these tools.

I can see how all of these AI platforms utilise the same core abilities that Microsoft is building underneath. They are simply layering different interfaces over the top in essence. Some are aimed more at developers, while others are aimed at power users. I am still working out where all these fit in what I am looking to achieve and I’m sure they will all continue to improve over time. That’s kinda why I’m jumping on the AI band wagon now.

I’ll be diving deep into more of what I have found and how set all this up for yourself in upcoming articles. In the meantime I suggest you go and have a think about what you’d like to automate in your business and then look at what I’ve covered so far. It is all certainly possible, but as with anything in technology, you have to determine the best tool for your own needs.

Microsoft did a good overview video on Power Virtual Agents here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nWxguR5B5-s

Need to Know bot for your Microsoft Cloud Q and A

Recently I wrote an article about using Microsoft At to create,

a dedicated Microsoft Cloud Search engine

Another form of AI that is available is a chatbot service for questions and answers. Many people have seen these already on web sites, where a helpful customer service rep appears on your web page asking if you need assistance. I have now created a similar chat experience which I have christened the CIAOPS N2Kbot.

You’ll find the N2KBot here:



When you first arrive you’ll see a page like that shown above. simply enter your question in the lower line (where it says type your message” and then press enter). I haven’t as yet automated it greet you as personally I find that annoying. So for now, you can interact manually.


You’ll see above that if I ask “what is aip” I get a response back about Azure Information Protection.


At the bottom of the page, you’ll also find a link to add the N2KBot to your Team if you want, as shown above.


You can have it as a private bot or inside a channel if you wish. Once installed you activate the bot by starting a line with @n2kbot and then asking as question, like:

@n2kbot what is aip

as shown in the above example.

What is interesting about this chatbot versus the custom search engine I created previously, is how people so far have interacted with it. Most have treated this chatbot like a search engine, expecting to give them the exact answer to the question they asked. A chatbot really isn’t that. It is basically a list of question and answer pairs. That is, if you type in this (or close to it), then answer with this. It doesn’t search the web, it looks to it’s pre-programmed question and answers pair largely.

You can prime the chatbot with your own custom questions and answers or you can target web links. Sites that have lots of FAQs (frequently asked questions) on it ingest very well into the bot. However, it is important to remember that chatbots are not search engines.

So where could I see chatbot playing a role? I think they would work well for adoption, that is people asking basic questions about OneDrive for example (i.e. “How do I upload to OneDrive”) or things like “What is Sway”. So think of chatbots more as a way to answer common questions in an automated way. When you actually sit down and have a look at how many times the same or similar questions get asked you begin to appreciate the role that chatbots could play.

I am still testing this chatbot concept out in the area of providing information specifically on the Microsoft Cloud but, as I said, I can see an initial benefit in things like adoption, which I have started working on. In an upcoming article, I’ll show you how easy it is to create a chatbot like this in Azure. However, the idea for this preliminary article is to get you thinking about:

1. The differences between chatbots and search

2. Where a chatbot may make sense in your business. That is, what information is going to help with?

Once you have that, then creating an effective chatbot will be much easier in my experience.

In the meantime, feel free to have a play with the N2KBot and let me know your thoughts. It is far from perfect and only runs on the cheapest plan, so it might be a bit slow initially when you use it. However, once ‘awake’ it should perform normally. If you have some suggestions for the questions it should be able to answer, let me know, I’m very interested to hear other people’s thoughts on this.

My aim with all this, is to get the cogs in my head turning about where this new “AI” technology can effectively be applied. They are certainly beginning to turn in mine.

A dedicated Microsoft Cloud Search engine


Recently, I have been working with the Microsoft AI tools typically provided via Azure. Personally, I don’t like the term “Artificial” when it comes to AI because I really don’t believe that it is truly ‘Artificial” as yet. I therefore far more prefer the term ‘Automated Intelligence’.

Terminology aside, I have been looking at where these new “AI” style technologies can be utilised effectively. One of most common questions I hear is finding ‘good’ information about Microsoft Cloud technologies. It is all there in traditional search engines but it gets mixed in with everything else. So what I have done is used Azure Search to configure a service at:


that only searches through links that I have provided. The idea is to provide a quality set of links from Microsoft and others that provides the best information about the Microsoft Cloud. The idea being is that you get all the benefits of traditional search engines, less the advertising and across a list of high quality but specific sites. Hopefully, that means the chance of you finding what you are looking for to be much higher and of a better quality.


When you search for an item, as shown above, it works exactly like any other search engine. It supports the same query syntax (AND, OR, INCLUDES:, etc) and will return you a list of results as shown above from the material that it indexes.

Of course, any search engine is only as good as the information that it crawls, and I continue to add sources on an ongoing basis. However, if you wish to suggest a URL to include in the CIA Search then you can do that via:


I’ll review each submission and all to the engine if it is of a high enough quality.

The more people that use the CIA Search the better it will become, so please share this with others whom you believe may receive benefit.

Need to Know Podcast–Episode 242

In this episode Brenton reports back on his encounters with the AZ-900 certification exam. Spoiler alert – he passed! Congrats. I also speak with Nicki Borell all about information protection and labelling in Microsoft 365. of course Brenton and I bring you up to date with everything in the Microsoft Cloud. We hope you enjoy the listen.

This episode was recorded using Microsoft Teams and produced with Camtasia 2020

Take a listen and let us know what you think – feedback@needtoknow.cloud


Subscribe via iTunes at:


The podcast is also available on Stitcher at:


Don’t forget to give the show a rating as well as send us any feedback or suggestions you may have for the show.




YouTube – Technology and Me

Nicki Borell – – Linkedin





Announcing OAuth 2.0 support for IMAP and SMTP AUTH protocols in Exchange Online

Making it easier to stay caught up with Cortana in Microsoft 365

General availability of Azure Files on-premises Active Directory Domain Services authentication

Security baseline (DRAFT): Windows 10 and Windows Server, version 2004

AZ-900 exam

Windows 10 2004 update


Need to Know podcast–Episode 241

FAQ podcasts are shorter and more focused on a particular topic. In this episode I’ll talk about the importance of checking your inbound Exchange Online policies to improve security.

This episode was recorded using Microsoft Teams and produced with Camtasia 2019

Take a listen and let us know what you think – feedback@needtoknow.cloud

You can listen directly to this episode at:


Subscribe via iTunes at:


The podcast is also available on Stitcher at:


Don’t forget to give the show a rating as well as send us any feedback or suggestions you may have for the show.


CIAOPS Patron Community

Configure SPAM policies in EOP



CIAOPS Need to Know Microsoft 365 Webinar–June


labelling your data in Microsoft 365 provides multiple benefits for protection as well as retention. This month I’ll take a look at these option and show you how to set it all up and make best use of it. I’ll have the  the latest Microsoft Cloud updates plus open Q and A as well.

You can register for the regular monthly webinar here:

June Webinar Registrations

The details are:

CIAOPS Need to Know Webinar – June 2020
Friday 26th of June 2020
10.30am – 11.30am Sydney Time

All sessions are recorded and posted to the CIAOPS Academy.

The CIAOPS Need to Know Webinars are free to attend but if you want to receive the recording of the session you need to sign up as a CIAOPS patron which you can do here:


or purchase them individually at:


Also feel free at any stage to email me directly via director@ciaops.com with your webinar topic suggestions.

I’d also appreciate you sharing information about this webinar with anyone you feel may benefit from the session and I look forward to seeing you there.