Together We Persevere – Responding to COVID-19

In times of crisis, we at PowerObjects band together for our customers – whether it’s designing a better work-from-home configuration, opening up critical lines of communication for urgent news, or implementing the latest technology to battle the COVID-19 pandemic right on the healthcare frontlines, we are here for you.

Remote Working and Uncertain Times

Across industries like Life and Health Sciences, Financial Services, Manufacturing, Utilities, and Local & Regional Government, our goal is to keep our customers up and running throughout the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic.

We’ve built a Crisis Communications Power Apps solution based on the Microsoft template to help your organization share information and collaborate with team members during this time of crisis. There are two applications within the solution that allow admin rights and end user rights to communicate timely and relevant messages to employees, host and share knowledge base articles, and link into any RSS feeds you select. To help with the current situation, the app itself – as well as initial setup and ongoing support – are free of charge.

There are several ways PowerObjects can customize and extend the app’s functionality to meet your organization’s unique needs. For example, we can add customer service capabilities as well as other notifications specific to your business. Learn more here and let us know if you wish to build this app out more for your unique requirements.

App for Planned Easing from the Lockdown

Once local governments and commercial organizations begin to ease COVID-19 restrictions, you want to provide your staff with clear visibility into your operating capability as you re-open your doors. This Power Apps solution helps streamline that transition to reinstating a more normal way of doing business.

Covid 19 Lockdown Easing Application

Preconfigured Automations for Remote and In-field Service

Remote capabilities and insight for your staff and field employees are of utmost importance during this time. With a simple SLA management, pre-configured case management process, optimized chatbot experience, and remote assist capabilities, your customer service teams will streamline operations and increase their collective bandwidth.

Microsoft Health Bot

If you are a healthcare organization, you need to know about the Microsoft Healthcare Bot – the latest Bot technology developed by Microsoft that is HIPAA compliant and can be quickly implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Within the Health Bot framework, Microsoft created COVID-19 Response Templates based on real-time data from the CDC, covering areas that improve case deflection and help you better serve your patients, virtually.

Patients can engage in a chat-like manner with the Bot to learn more about COVID-19 and go through a CDC-approved symptom self-checker. This results in reduced call volumes and increased speed and accuracy of COVID data to patients. We can quickly work with a client to stand up this Health Bot experience using the COVID-19 template or a customized version.

COVID-19 FAQs is a preapproved list of 175 questions from the CDC and can also index other FAQ databases. The QnA Maker functionality is a great example of Cognitive services leveraging Artificial Intelligence.

Check out the bot yourself! And as always, let us know how we can help you implement the Bot at your organization.

Emergency Response Power App

During this pandemic, Microsoft released this Power Apps solution that provides a set of capabilities for healthcare organizations to collect data for situational awareness of available beds and supplies, COVID-19 patients, staffing, and pending discharges. Providers are using this Power Apps template to track and gain visibility of critical but scarce resources like available beds, ventilators, and masks. We can quickly work with our clients to stand up this Emergency Response Power Apps solution and fine tune it for your specific needs – just let us know when you’re ready to implement.

Critical Item Replenishment App

Distribution has become a global issue during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Critical Item Replenishment App ensures your network of locations across the globe maintains real-time insight into inventory and can update needs centrally and quickly. The App is built on CDS, has a streamlined user interface, and takes just days to set up with a business intelligence layer included.

Critical Items Application

We’re Here to Help

With any of these solutions, the team at PowerObjects is here to help make them fit your exact business needs now and throughout this unpredictable time. PowerObjects brings you the most advanced technologies that can be quickly implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic. We continue to stay committed to driving success for your end-to-end journey with our four pillars of service, support, education, and add-ons.

Above all else, PowerObjects hopes for your continued good health. Please stay safe and know that together we will overcome this – and we will come out the other side stronger and more resilient.

Creating a "No Code" Chat Bot With QnA Maker and PowerApps

Over the last few years, we’ve heard quite a bit about chat bots. Chat bots are basically an IM type service where anyone can ask questions that are promptly responded to by an automated service. The idea is that by automating the process of providing responses, the person doesn't have to wait to get connected to a "live" support person (which can sometimes take a long time) just to get answers to basic questions. Also, there are times when the same types of questions are asked repeatedly, often by the same person! This can also be addressed by a chat bot.

If you work with customers or employees who typically ask questions that have standard responses, you can quickly set up a chat bot using the QnaMaker service to automate the process of answering questions. Let us show you how:

Go to and log in with your Office 365 credentials. If this is the first time you are logging in, you will not see anything under My knowledge bases. If you've created knowledge bases before, you will see all of them listed in this area.

QnA Maker My knowledge bases to it

These "knowledge bases" consist of questions and responses that are surfaced in the form of a chat bot. On the top of the screen, click Create a knowledge base to create a new one. This should take you to the screen below:

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You will notice that this is a 5-step wizard-like process. Start with step 1 by clicking the Create a QnA service button, which takes you to the Azure portal.

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Notice that now you are creating a Qna Maker service. Complete all required fields and click Create.

Note: Make sure to get familiar with the pricing! Just so you know, F0 is the free tier and all the rest are paid.

Now go back to your portal.

Step 2: Choose your Microsoft Azure Directory ID, Azure subscription name, and the Qna service that you just created.

Step 3: Give your knowledge base (kb) a name.

Step 4: This is where you populate your kb. Typically, you will take an Excel file and have two columns in it – one for questions and the other for responses. You can also choose pdf, doc, and a few other formats, too. We have seen it work extremely well with .xlsx files. Alternatively, you can just specify a URL if you have your FAQ-style kb in an online location.

Step 5: Click Create your KB!

Knowledge Base

The kb you just created should look something like this:

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Notice how for each question there is a response available. If you'd like, you can add alternative phrasing for your questions to make sure the bot gets the most accurate responses to questions worded in different ways.

Note: we will address "follow up prompt" for responses in another blogpost in the near future.

On this screen, you can add more question-and-answer pairs manually by clicking the Add Qna pair on the top.

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You can also test this kb right here! Click the Test button in the top-right corner. A new window opens up on the right where you can type your question.

Note: Clicking Inspect will show you how confidently QnA Maker understands the question and is able to get the right response for it.

Once you are ready to start using it, Click Publish on the top and then the Publish button.

Your Qna Maker chat bot is now ready!

After you click Publish, you will see some information displayed under Postman. We will use this information to surface this bot in Power Apps and to get answers to our questions.

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Qna Maker in PowerApps

We will use a collection to store all the questions that a user asks and the responses they get back from QnA Maker. In order to do that, let's create a collection in OnStart of the app using the following formula:

ClearCollect(chat,{id:0,name:"Alex",text:"Welcome "&Left(User().FullName,Find(" ",User().FullName))&"! How can I help you today?.",chattime:Now()})

Basically, we are calling our bot "Alex," and we are giving it an id = 0. Whenever we get to the bot screen in our app, we want Alex to welcome the user by saying "Welcome, [user's first name]! How can I help you today?"

Chattime is for tracking when a question or response is posted.

Create a new screen called Bot. Add a Gallery to it and set its Items property to the chat collection we just created.

Add a textbox to the same screen that will be used to input questions.

Finally add a button that will submit the question to QnA Maker and get responses back.

Your screen will look something like this:

Ask Me Anything!

Next, from View > Data sources, click Add data source and add the QnA Maker data source to your app:

Tree Ask Me Anything!

On OnSelect property of the Ask button, enter the following formulas:

Collect(chat, {id: 1, name: User().FullName, text: txtQuestion.Text);

Collect(chat, {id: 0, name: "Alex", text: First(QnAMaker.GenerateAnswer("","","EndpointKey 05cgetthisfromqnamaker too",txtQuestion.Text).answers).answer}); Reset(txtQuestion)

And that's pretty much it! When you run this app, you can easily ask any question to the bot and get responses back in a matter of seconds!


If you work with employees or customers who repeatedly come to you with the same questions that typically have the same responses, you can easily set up a QnA Maker bot and surface it in Power Apps!

In our next blog, we will also show you how to surface the same bot in MS Teams, Skype for Business, on your website, and through SMS/text messaging!

Be sure to subscribe to our blog and happy Power Apps'ing!