CDW recently participated in a Microsoft four-day hackathon to create a proof-of-concept solution that would provide a more customized workspace and solve the problem of an overburdened IT department that uses ServiceNow as its customer relationship management (CRM) platform.
How It Came Together
CDW’s idea for a solution was twofold: First, we aimed to decrease the number of end users’ commonly asked questions that could be easily answered by automation, thereby freeing up the IT department to focus on more high-priority items; and second, we wanted to provide an interface for collaboration, ServiceNow functionality, document sharing and IM capabilities.
CDW suggested two primary ways to achieve the goal:
- Utilize the Microsoft Teams Bots and Tabs applications for collaboration
- Integrate ServiceNow with Language Understanding Intelligent Service (LUIS) for a streamlined and easy-to-use workflow
This solution allows IT to work more efficiently within a single user interface on the Microsoft Teams platform by utilizing Bots and Tabs. The key steps of the solution were to create a Microsoft Bot Framework bot that would run in Microsoft Teams. This bot activates when an end user wishes to open, update, close or delete a ticket. The ticket is then updated appropriately within the ServiceNow database via the ServiceNow Web application programming interface (API).
There were three primary pieces to the solution:
- A tab in Teams with a dashboard to view all IT tickets for the IT support staff
- MS Teams integration with ServiceNow and Microsoft Bot Framework to create a bot agent that assists the IT support staff with opening, closing, updating and listing tickets
- Use the bot agent to assist the end users with checking the status of their tickets, and finding answers to frequently asked questions
The Technical Details
The solution relied heavily on a wide range of Microsoft technologies, as well as the ServiceNow API. A complete list of technologies used are listed here:
The CDW team had varying levels of knowledge of each technology, which made the experience that much more rewarding. By working collaboratively, each member of the CDW and Microsoft teams could contribute in some way, as well as help each other learn new capabilities on the fly.
This diagram shows the high-level architecture of the solution:
Another goal of the solution was to create a user-friendly experience by utilizing natural language and methods to gracefully exit from a conversation. The Bot Framework and LUIS more than adequately provided this functionality. LUIS provides simple tools to build your own language models (intents/entities) that allow any bot to understand commands and act accordingly.
The team had the bot understanding natural language commands within a short time, once LUIS had the basic conversation data. After getting the general flow configured, it was simple to add additional features, such as cancelling out of a ticket creation.
Overall, CDW’s proof-of-concept solution was a success. The solution was truly a collaborative effort with engineers from both CDW and Microsoft contributing to the final product. Over the course of just four days, the team was able to design the solution, learn multiple new technologies and quickly integrate them into a functional Minimum Viable Product.
Bots are here to stay and will only get better as the technology progresses. Saving time and automating simple tasks is something we can all appreciate in today’s busy world.