How Microsoft used Flic buttons, Flow and SMS to find experts at Tech Days

At Microsoft Tech Days in Stockholm attendees could ask experts for help with Azure, Windows, Office or Security. To enable these experts to be fully productive during the conference and not have to sit and wait for questions to come in, Microsoft built an application that let attendees press a button to get assistance from an expert. This was built with .NET, Microsoft Flow, Flic buttons and the 46elks SMS API.

The core of the solution is a .NET application that coordinates everything. In its database it has lists of experts for each subject. The application shows attendees a list of which experts have been requested and when they will show up to help you.

When an attendee presses one of the four Flic buttons (one each for Azure, Windows, Office and Security) the button sends a signal to the .NET application via Microsoft Flow to the Flic connector. The application then sends out an SMS to each relevant expert using the 46elks SMS API. The experts can then respond to this SMS with an SMS with an estimate of how quickly they can arrive to help out. This responding SMS is sent via 46elks to the .NET application that updates the list of active expert requests.

A complete walkthrough of how to build the .NET application, with code examples, is available at 46elks.com.

The reason Microsoft picked SMS is that SMS is very simple to implement (one API call) and a it’s a robust and secure technology. Experts can avoid the need to install a new app or check their overfull mail inboxes. They don’t even have to rely on a working internet connection. As long as their cell phone is connected to a mobile network they will be able to receive and respond to requests.

The result

  1. Attendee of the conference who wants some help and has questions about clicks the Flic button.
  2. The appropriate Microsoft expert receives an SMS notification and can make their way to greet the attendee.
  3. The attendee gets support in a way that utilises technology in a unique and appropriate way. Perhaps this experience stays with them and inspires them to create something with Microsoft, Flic or 46elks products!

To get started with the 46elks SMS API and create a similar .NET application take a look at this C# tutorial.

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