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IPA: A Different Breed of Business Process Automation

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November 06, 2009

IPA: A Different Breed of Business Process Automation

By Patrick Barnard, Group Managing Editor, TMCnet

Due to the economic downturn, organizations everywhere are looking for ways to boost employee productivity and “do more with less.” As a result, many of them are searching for software solutions that can help them automate routine “people-centric” business processes, such as the on-boarding of employees, the processing of loan applications or the registering of college students for an upcoming semester.

As a result, business process automation, or BPA, has become a hot new market segment for software developers. In the past year there has been a slew of new entrants in this nascent yet rapidly-emerging market – however, most of them are providing niche solutions designed to automate specific business processes.
Interactive Intelligence’s new BPA solution, Interaction Process Automation, or IPA, due for release next month, is different from most BPA solutions because it utilizes a company’s telephone system as the framework for automating routine “people-centric” processes. The solution is built on the notion that a company’s telephone system is “common” to all employees – thus the telephone network serves as a logical backbone for automating routine tasks.

IPA is actually a module that plugs into Interactive Intelligence’s (News - Alert) Customer Interaction Center platform. Basically it harnesses the multimedia routing and presence capabilities of the platform as a framework for carrying out routine, daily business processes. IPA 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.

Unlike BPA solutions from other vendors, IPA is based on what Interactive Intelligence 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, which simply send alerts or trigger certain actions when a call is made.

The broad methodology of CBPA allows IPA to provide a comprehensive and unified experience, interacting with information and communications in real time. The fully integrated design of communications-based process automation means that IPA can identify an issue and reroute work without having to rely upon other outside applications or human intervention to initiate corrective activity.

IPA is a complete and manageable all-in-one process automation and management solution -- not just a few workflow tools designed for programmers or an adaptation of multipoint communications systems that cause more cost and complexity. Key features and functionality of this solution include:

--A graphical authoring tool that enables process authors to define information schema, design user work item forms, lay out the process flow, and specify detailed process logic
--A service-oriented architecture (SOA) that makes it easy to access Web services and provides an event-driven software bus to act as the backbone of information flow
--An orchestration engine that manages the entire process, pushing work along the defined process flow from step to step, and executing the logic specified in each step
--A presentation framework that incorporates the designed work forms into end-user environments such as Windows PCs, and Web pages; includes the ability to pop other applications and exchange information with them
--A real-time monitoring interface that gives supervisors visibility through every step of every process
--Out-of-the-box and custom reports with all process data available in an open SQL database

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 senior Web editor for TMCnet, covering call and contact center technologies. He also compiles and regularly contributes to TMCnet e-Newsletters in the areas of robotics, IT, M2M, OCS and customer interaction solutions. To read more of Patrick's articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Patrick Barnard

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