Contact center software vendor Interactive Intelligence (News - Alert) has announced that it is developing a new Business Process Automation (BPA) product, dubbed Interaction Process Automation (IPA), scheduled for release in Q4.
The new offering -- a module that plugs into Interactive Intelligence's CIC platform -- facilitates what is being called “communications-based process automation” (CBPA). Basically it enables companies to use the multimedia routing and presence capabilities of the CIC platform as a framework for carrying out routine, daily business processes. The new offering will include support for documents in a wide range of formats -- in addition to the multimedia contacts (phone, email, IM, conferencing, etc.) the platform supports currently.
Much the same way a contact center agent can route a call or other contact to any designated end-point throughout an organization, based on pre-defined rules, any worker (or automated system) in any department can use IPA to automatically route documents to any other end point on the network. What’s more, the same automated re-routing and failover mechanisms found in the contact center platform still apply: For example, if a worker is unavailable to handle a task, at any given time (as indicated through their presence), the system will automatically re-route that task onto the next available employee who is qualified to handle it.
Another way to think of it is “piggy-backing” business processes onto an IP communications platform.
Company officials claim this new offering is ideally suited to automating routine business processes – such as processing insurance claims, loan applications, student registrations, requests for government services, order discount approvals – just about any routine process you can think of that involves paperwork and people can be automated using IPA.
One of the main advantages of IPA, Interactive claims, is that it enables companies to unify their business processes with their communications processes – up until now these have traditionally been “siloed” systems. By having both on a single platform, companies will be able to make a direct correlation between all the events occurring inside the business, as they occur. For example, the phone call placed and recorded as a part of the processing of an insurance claim can be combined with other customer data, such as the online forms which the customer has already filled out (and which have perhaps not yet been processed) into a single, common process. Furthermore, just like how customer information can be passed along from agent to agent in the call center each time a call is transferred (thanks to the power of IP), all data is automatically passed on, point-to-point, to each employee responsible for carrying out a specific task in the process chain.
As such, the software gives managers the ability to create and implement customized, "communications-based" workflows based on specific business rules, as well as employee skill sets. Perhaps most importantly, the solution helps drive increased productivity, as workflows become more efficient and streamlined. Interactive Intelligence claims that with this new offering, organizations will be able to harness additional power out of their UC systems to drive new levels of efficiency and productivity.
In addition, managers and employees gain better visibility into business processes, with the ability to get detailed status on any project, in real-time, as well as detailed reports that will enable managers to track the productivity of all employees (not too unlike how a call center manager tracks the productivity of agents). As such, the system will enable managers to perform proactive monitoring and quality management of business processes.
Facilitating the document management piece is the software Interactive Intelligence acquired when it bought Columbia, SC-based software company AcroSoft in May. According to company officials, AcroSoft's document management software, which was created for the insurance industry, will be integrated into the IPA product, and this is what will enable document sharing.
This marks a fairly major change in direction for Interactive -- not only in terms of the software it offers, but in terms of the customer base it serves. With this new offering, Interactive could end up serving a much broader customer base -- and, providing IPA is successful, the company could become known for more than just contact center and enterprise phone systems it currently sells. What's more this means Interactive could find itself going up against the likes of Oracle (News - Alert), SAP, Savvion the other major business software vendors -- something which the company certainly can do, since it has already been selling contact center and telephony systems into the enterprise space for more than a decade now, and has a very established and loyal customer base.
Interactive claims IPA will give its customers “everything they need to capture, prioritize, route, escalate and track each step of a business process,” only for a lot less, compared to stand-alone or "best-of-breed" solutions, since the underlying architecture has (presumably) already been deployed. As such, IPA was developed as an affordable alternative to the more complex, and more expensive, stand-alone solutions that are already on the market. Most of these solutions require extensive up front investment, including considerable integration work, as well as the high cost of ongoing maintenance.
Interactive estimates that IPA will cost $400 to $500 per user, on average.
As explained by Interactive Intelligence founder and CEO Dr. Donald E. Brown, the key advantage of the software is that it eliminates many of the inefficiencies that are inherent with manual processes:
“IPA is a completely new approach to process automation,” Brown said in a release. “We’ve taken mature communications technology and applied it to the broader area of business process automation. IPA helps organizations increase efficiencies and cut costs by decreasing the number of employees and the amount of time involved in a given business process; by eliminating process latency; by reducing the chance for human error; and by providing standardized methods for handling business processes.”
In a recent survey of CIOs and IT leaders conducted by IDG Research in conjunction with CIO magazine, 87 percent of respondents said they saw a “clear relationship” between UC and business process automation, with 50 percent stating that they believed communications technology could effectively be used to automate business processes. Interactive Intelligence certainly hopes this research is accurate, as it is banking on the success of this new offering, with the hopes that it will bring the company to the next stage of its evolution.
Patrick Barnard is a contributing writer for TMCnet. To read more of Patrick’s articles, please visit his columnist page.
Edited by Patrick Barnard