Power Virtual Agents: Development Tips

These are simple tips, but ones that I’ve found to be extremely useful when developing Power Virtual Agents (many of which are helpful whether you’re using Power Virtual Agents for Teams or Power Virtual Agents Premium).

#1 Always launch the Power Virtual Agents for Teams app by popping it out

This tip is specifically for when you are authoring your bot with Power Virtual Agents for Teams.

  1. Right-click the Power Virtual Agents icon in Microsoft Teams
  2. Select “pop out app”

This is my favorite PVA for Teams tip and the one I recommend the most; while this action seems small, if you don’t do this, you’ll end up loading the Power Virtual Agents app in the primary window of Microsoft Teams, and as soon as you go to a Team, chat with a colleague, check on your activity, etc… you’ll unknowingly be navigating away from Power Virtual Agents, and can easily end up losing work. By opening it as a separate app, however, you can safely develop in one window, while collaborating as usual in the other.

#2 Pin the Power Virtual Agents for Teams app after installing it

This tip is specifically for when you are authoring your bot with Power Virtual Agents for Teams.

  1. Right-click the Power Virtual Agents icon in Microsoft Teams
  2. Select “Pin”

This is a tip I’d recommend for any app within Teams that you use regularly. You can drag and drop the icons in your left-hand menu to find the order that works best for you.

#3 Be modular with your topics

As you’re building out your topics, think about using sub topics, whenever your primary topic starts to get large, that can be broken out into their own topic and redirected to from the main one. This will do a few things for you:

  1. Make it easier to manage your topic (too many actions on a single topic can cause problems with the UI when you are editing your chatbot)
  2. You can easily redirect to your subtopic in the appropriate part of the main topic, making it a seamless experience for your end users
  3. If you opt to, and it makes sense, you can add distinct trigger phrases to a sub topic that would allow a user to jump right to it (if you don’t want users navigating directly to the sub topic, you can always author a trigger-less sub topic that is only accessible when you choose to navigate to it)

#4 Design an accessible bot

Often times when we’re building a bot, it could be primarily to serve a handful of specific purposes – i.e. a bot that is able to help you “request time off”, “modify requested time off”, and “view time off.” In situations like this, think about presenting options to your users that allow them to see this menu of features, as opposed to making your bot dependent upon trigger matching to capture intent from open-ended text entry. If your bot can’t handle 90% of what a user is typing, this will only frustrate end users. Instead, a bot with options makes for a much more guided experience that helps a user understand what your bot is capable of doing. This can be done via multi-choice questions that all redirect to the necessary topic within your bot and/or adaptive cards or buttons if you’re using Azure Bot Composer Framework or the new Unified Canvas.

#5 System versus custom topics

Refrain from redirecting to your custom topics from within system topics (i.e. ‘Greeting’) as doing so will change the conversation to an engaged session, which can also affect billing if you’re utilizing premium capabilities. Instead, modify the system topics so that you’re able to share the appropriate messaging with your users without utilizing a custom topic.

That’s it for now – I hope these tips were helpful and expect to see a lot more content about Power Virtual Agents right here on this blog in the near future!


Matt Jimison

Microsoft 365 Geek - Husband, father, lover of basketball, football, smoking / grilling, music, movies, video games, and craft beer!

One thought on “Power Virtual Agents: Development Tips

  1. Great article, I also thought of showing options to the user to select then redirect them to a topic in that way the design of your bot will good. Otherwise you as the developer will have a difficult time building it yourself. I preparing to build my capstone project at school where I will be building a chatbot with PVA.

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