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Microsoft 365 Copilot is a powerful assistant that helps you get things done faster and smarter in Microsoft Teams. It can answer your questions, create content, and perform tasks using natural language. But did you know that you can also extend Copilot’s capabilities? You can, by creating your own plugins and connectors that use your business data.

Before we jump in, it would be helpful to explain key phrases that are used regarding this service.

  • First, the term Artificial Intelligence refers to a discipline of computer science that focuses on creating software that can complete tasks automatically. Furthermore, this software can improve itself by using lots of data to train itself on how to produce the correct outputs.
  • Another buzzword for CoPilot is Natural Language Processing (NLP). This is another discipline of computer science that aims at programming software to be able to read, understand, and generate words in a natural human language such as English, Chinese, etc. This allows for the interaction between users and computers to feel more natural, hence the word “natural” in the phrase.
  • Lastly, a Knowledge Base describes the information that a computer already knows. A very primitive example of this would be a user telling CoPilot that today is Monday. Once the user submits that response, CoPilot will add that “today is Monday” as a fact. It will then be able to use that fact to help supplement its responses.

Now that we know these key phrases we can jump into the Custom side of CoPilot. 

What are plugins and connectors? 

Plugins and connectors are components that allow Copilot to interact directly with third-party data, apps, and services. Plugins enable Copilot to provide additional features and functionalities, such as querying or creating content from an external service and inserting it into a message. Connectors enable Copilot to access data from external sources, such as SharePoint lists, Excel workbooks, or Power BI datasets. External Connectors that are outside of the Microsoft Ecosystem are also available. Examples of such connectors include Box, Salesforce, and Google Services as well as an additional 100+ possibilities. A full list of connectors can be found here

 Data Connections
Figure 1 – Data Connections

How to create plugins and connectors? 

Plugins and connectors are created using the Teams Toolkit. Teams Toolkit is a set of tools and templates that help you create, test, and publish plugins for Copilot. You can use the Teams Toolkit to create different types of plugins, such as Teams message extensions, bots, tabs, or adaptive cards. You can also use the Teams Toolkit to create custom connectors that use the Microsoft Graph API to access and manipulate data in Microsoft 365. 

What are some examples of plugins and connectors? 

There are many examples of plugins and connectors that you can use or customize for your own needs. For instance, you can use the Teams AI library, which is a collection of pre-built plugins that use artificial intelligence to provide various functionalities for Copilot. Some of these plugins include: 

  • QnA Maker: A plugin that allows you to create a knowledge base from your existing documents or web pages. Use it to answer questions from Copilot. 
  • LUIS: A plugin that allows you to build natural language understanding models that can recognize the intent and entities of user queries and execute actions accordingly. 
  • Text Analytics: A plugin that allows you to analyze the sentiment, key phrases, language, or entities of text inputs from Copilot. 
  • Translator: A plugin that allows you to translate text or speech inputs from Copilot into different languages. 

You can also create your own plugins and connectors that use your business data or logic. For example, you can create a plugin that allows you to query or update your CRM system from Copilot, or a connector that allows you to access your sales reports from Power BI. 

In terms of Microsoft Teams, Message Extensions are another option that users have in their toolkit. These extensions enable users to interact with data through the Microsoft Teams client and can be either made or downloaded. To download an already made Message Extensions, simply open the Microsoft Teams App store and select one. After it finishes downloading, CoPilot will be able to integrate into its responses without any settings changes. An example scenario would be searching for a work item in Azure or maybe identifying a bug in a code. Then use a Message Extension to assign that bug to an employee with the appropriate information. Both of these examples use two of the available command types used for the Message Extensions: action commands and search commands. More detailed information about the commands and inner workings of the Message Extensions can be found here

Conclusion 

In conclusion, harnessing the full potential of Microsoft 365 Copilot involves delving into the world of custom plugins and connectors. By understanding the key concepts of Artificial Intelligence, Natural Language Processing, and Knowledge Base, you can create tailored solutions that seamlessly integrate with your business data. The ability to extend Copilot’s capabilities through plugins and connectors opens up a realm of possibilities, from tapping into external services to crafting bespoke functionalities for your unique needs. To embark on this customization journey, leverage the Teams Toolkit and explore the myriad examples, including the Teams AI library with plugins like QnA Maker, LUIS, Text Analytics, and Translator. If you have any questions or inquiries about implementing custom solutions with Copilot, don’t hesitate to reach out to Total Solutions Inc. Our experts are ready to guide you in optimizing Copilot to elevate your Microsoft Teams experience. 

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