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Interactive Intelligence's IPA: 'A New Approach to Business Process Automation'

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October 23, 2009

Interactive Intelligence's IPA: 'A New Approach to Business Process Automation'

By Patrick Barnard, Group Managing Editor, TMCnet

With today’s advanced call center technologies, agent performance can be measured almost every way imaginable.

With call center applications such as workforce management, performance management and call monitoring, call center managers can find out if agents are arriving late, taking long breaks or leaving early, as well as how much time they are spending on the phone, how long it takes to complete transactions or assist customers, and how many calls are completed to the customer’s satisfaction (the much-coveted “first call resolution” rate). They can also measure how efficiently agents are using the software applications in order to serve customers – even listen in on calls to ensure the agent is sticking to the script and/or saying the right things, being polite and courteous and helpful, etc.

Integrate these technologies properly and upper management can gain almost 100 percent visibility into every customer interaction – including the ability to follow an interaction from its initiation to its end-result, be it fruitful or otherwise. In this regard, each and every call center agent, in fact all employees along an interaction chain, can be held more accountable for their actions.

In essence, what we are discussing is the automation of routine, “people-centric” processes that take place in contact centers on a daily basis. And it is the call center’s communications infrastructure that serves as the foundation for this automation.

Now imagine if you could take this same level of automation – and visibility into operations – and apply it to other routine people-centric processes across your organization. The on-boarding of employees in a human resources department; the processing of loan applications; or the registering of college students for the upcoming semester are examples of routine processes that can be automated, yet which need a human element to bring judgment and oversight to the process.

Due to the down economy, companies are increasingly investigating business process automation, or BPA, solutions to see if there are ways they can automate certain processes for the purpose of boosting employee productivity, finding new efficiencies and gaining greater transparency. Currently there are dozens of software vendors in the business process automation space – but most of them offer solutions that are geared for specific processes. None of them claims to have developed a business process automation solution that is flexible enough to comprehensively handle a wide range of business processes.

Enter Interactive Intelligence and its new BPA solution, Interaction Process Automation. Unlike BPA solutions from other vendors, IPA is based on what Interactive Intelligence (News - Alert) is calling “communications-based business process automation,” or CBPA. This is different from the “communications-enabled business process,” or CEBP solutions offered by other communications software vendors, in that it uses the call routing software of Interactive CIC platform as the framework for automating processes. This is different from CEBP solutions, which simply send alerts or trigger certain actions when a call is made.

IPA is, in fact, a module that plugs into Interactive Intelligence's CIC platform. Basically it enables companies to use the multimedia routing and presence capabilities of the platform as a framework for carrying out routine, daily business processes. IPA, which is due for release next month, includes 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.

In this regard, communications presence becomes “process presence,” meaning that at any given point in time, a manager can find out what an employee is working on, and how many more processes they have in their “queue.” Or, if an employee is available to handle a process, their availability status will result in the next work item being routed to them automatically.

With IPA, it’s possible to track the performance of all employees handling routine processes to ensure that service levels are being met. What’s more, processes can be monitored in real-time and recorded (both phone and screen capture) to ensure process quality. Finally, the systems’ end-to-end reporting capability delivers the ability to manage and measure each process attribute.

To learn more about IPA, click here, or check out this free white paper from Interactive Intelligence, “A New Approach to Business Process Automation.”

Patrick Barnard is a contributing writer for TMCnet. To read more of Patrick’s articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Patrick Barnard

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