At ITEXPO East in February, an official with an Indianapolis-based unified IP business communications provider talked to me about a software-based product – still several weeks away at the time – that her group was launching, one that would help businesses find ways to cut costs without cutting key services.
The so-called “Interaction Process Automation” offering, or “IPA,” Interactive Intelligence Inc.’s senior director of product management, Rachel Wentink (News - Alert), told me, would tie interactions with the business processes that surround them so that companies can author a work-flow and route the process as if it were an “automatic call distributor,” or “ACD” task.
It sounded extremely promising – especially with the way this economy was and still is going – if still a little abstract.
Then last week, the senior vice president of worldwide marketing at Interactive Intelligence (News - Alert), Joe Staples, came to brief our editorial board here at TMC about the IPA product, and his presentation brought it to life.
Announced today, Interactive Intelligence is targeting a fourth-quarter release for IPA, which is highly scalable (it’ll be sold through annual subscriptions of $400 to $500 per user, with some variation for higher-placed workers who require more oversight of a business) and is expected to challenge the software-based BPA offerings from Oracle (News - Alert), SAP and IBM.
IPA essentially accomplishes two things: It keeps employees on-task, and it eliminates the chance for errors – and it does those things by focusing on people-centered tasks in areas such as IT, human resources, finance, legal sales and support.
If those areas sound familiar in an article dealing with InIn, it’s because they are. Staples told us the company – in its upcoming roll-out – is tapping its current, extensive list of clients, including many contact center companies, who are expected to add the IPA system to their Interaction Center Platform as another layer (which may already include PBXs, ACDs, IVR systems, voicemail, dialers and more).
Resellers and others will tailor Interactive Intelligence’s IPA to each specific client’s need, and the product works – as many BPA solutions do – intuitively.
Consider an insurance company’s call center agent who is taking information about a prospective new client. That agent – that human being – will gather critical data about the client’s identity, for example, and choice of plan. Using a paper-based system, there’s a chance that the agent will take down the wrong social security number, for example, and then send the file to the wrong state – Missouri instead of Mississippi, say.
With the IPA software, the agent’s own system could cross-check that SSN against the prospective client’s name, and send up a red flag. The system could do the same by cross-checking the individual’s ZIP code against the state in which he or she is seeking to be insured.
Here’s the list of benefits that Staples presented to TMC (News - Alert) during our briefing:
- Decrease the cost of a given process;
- Increase organizational efficiency;
- Reduce the amount of time required to complete a process;
- Eliminate latency in processes;
- And minimize human error.
And, on that same slide, this sentence was in bold, red lettering with parts of it underlined: “Delivering the hard ROI for unified communications by enabling companies to accomplish more with fewer required resources.
It occurs to me that another benefit of Interactive Intelligence’s system is that it’s destined to reduce the amount of paper that companies consume. We all know by now that “green technologies” – those that benefit Mother Earth by doing things like reducing carbon footprints and power consumption – often dovetail with cost-savings. Think of telepresence saving on an airplane ride, for example, or mobile solutions that save workers’ on gas-guzzling commutes.
A similar side-product of IPA is that by reducing the amount of paper that’s used in a specific process, the software saves trees and waste and helps the environment.
I talked to Staples about the fact that some processes that involve humans and paper – having a new employee sign an I-9 form, for example, which tells the federal government that the new worker is qualified, from an immigration standpoint, to the work in the United States – are a sort of necessary part of the workday, as they’re required by federal regulations.
But we see the IPA product as the wave of the future in this regard, as the feds – yes, even the government – embrace technology in new ways and create the kinds of digital systems (think about what’s happening with electronic health records, for example) that lend themselves to BPA.
We’ll keep an eye on the IPA product as the fourth quarter launches.
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Michael Dinan is a contributing editor for TMCnet, covering news in the IP communications, call center and customer relationship management industries. To read more of Michael's articles, please visit his columnist page.
Edited by Michael Dinan