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Ask the Expert: Communications-Based Process Automation (CBPA)

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April 06, 2009

Ask the Expert: Communications-Based Process Automation (CBPA)

By Tim Passios, Director of Product Management, Interactive Intelligence

This article originally appeared in the March issue of Customer Interaction Solutions Magazine.
As the economy has slowed down, companies have focused on cutting expenses, increasing efficiency, and maintaining quality. To achieve this, many companies are investigating ways to automate processes. To find out more about the choices businesses have, I consulted Gina Clarkin, Product Manager with Interactive Intelligence (News - Alert), Inc. Their new product, Interaction Process Automation (IPA), demonstrates a fresh look at the way businesses can automate business processes.

Q: Can you give us a quick overview of Business Process Management (BPM)?
Gina: If you think about business processes, you quickly realize that they are the lifeblood of every organization. A business process is a set of activities or “work” an organization performs, designed to create value for the customer that enables the organization to achieve its objectives. Our CEO says, “Processes make organizations tick.” BPM emerged in the 1990s as an approach companies can employ to evaluate and improve their processes. BPM focuses on how work gets done. BPM looks at the processes, people, technology, management, and even the organization’s culture.
Q: One of the problems with traditional BPM is that existing solutions often involve a high degree of cost, complexity and customization. How is Communications-Based Process Automation (CBPA) making the BPM process faster and less expensive?
Gina: CBPA takes a different approach. Unlike traditional BPM solutions, CBPA has not evolved from an application development environment. CBPA has grown from the proven technologies and techniques of the contact center industry, an industry that has developed systematized processes to handle millions of interaction and transaction flows with great sophistication… an industry that optimizes people, technology and processes to serve the customer.
With CBPA, the all-in-one IP communications system becomes the process automation platform for the company. Instead of creating a dependency on complex programming, application development and customization, CBPA offers organizations a single system capable of providing everything needed to easily automate just about any common process.
Q: How does CBPA compare to Communications-Enabled Business Process (CEBP)?
Gina: CEBP could be characterized as evolutionary, an incremental improvement. It’s about embedding communications capabilities in existing applications or processes, enabling those applications or processes to automatically trigger a communication or notification based on a change in the business environment. For example, a customer’s database record indicates a balance due greater than a defined threshold. CEBP can generate a phone call using presence to connect to available personnel. CEBP is predominantly focused on communications events, not managing the overall business process.
In contrast, CBPA is revolutionary. CBPA focuses on how we automate processes in the first place. CBPA uses proven communications technology and management practices that have been in use for decades in the contact center (queuing, skills-based routing, presence, recording, real-time supervision) then applies these advanced technologies to process automation. For example, an insurance company could queue up insurance applications for the next available Processor (News - Alert), with the appropriate state license. The Processor receives a form “popped” on the screen and pre-filled with the correct information from the relevant back-office system. Alerts notify the processor and manager of approaching deadlines, so that work can be automatically re-assigned if necessary to ensure service levels are met.
Q: What other specific advantages does CBPA offer compared to other methods?
Gina: Since CBPA relies on the power of an all-in-one IP communications platform, it offers the ability to associate human interactions (phone calls and voice and screen recordings, emails, faxes) with a business process. Imagine having a consistent way to capture customer dialog as part of a business process!
CBPA leverages industry proven technology and techniques for the “work center” that are designed to remove human latency and optimize resource balancing. Organizations can use those same advanced technologies to optimize how work gets done in any “work center.” ACD technology is recognized as one of the most powerful in the world to handle distribution, management and reporting of work activity. Contact centers use it to distribute calls, e-mail, Web chat, and other communications. When this intelligent tool is used with work activities, managers receive insight into work flow and status. It can point out gaps to help management improve processes and reduce cycle time. Workforce Management can predict the headcount necessary to complete the anticipated amount of work. Historical data can be used to predict how much work there is to complete.
All these advanced technologies result in dynamic work “push” instead of static work “pull.” This reduces the human latency inherent in many other solutions where work simply sits waiting for an employee to pick it up and take action.
Having these capabilities can help organizations automate business processes, respond faster, control costs, and increase customer satisfaction.
In future articles, we’ll see the effect of CBPA on common business practices and the effect it has on workflow. Without costly custom programming or long implementation times.
Tim Passios (News - Alert) is Director of Solutions Marketing for Interactive Intelligence, Inc. and has more than 18 years experience in the contact center industry. Interactive Intelligence is a leading provider of IP business communications software and services for the contact center and the enterprise, with more than 3,000 installations in nearly 90 countries. For more information, contact Interactive Intelligence at or (317) 872-3000.
Edited by Greg Galitzine

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