Planning For Interaction Process Automation (IPA)
What is IPA and why is it needed?
By now, everyone recognizes the new facts of life about business communications, especially when it applies to customers. It is getting less about conversations and messaging just between people and more and more about interactions between people and business process applications. This shift is primarily being driven by the rapid consumer adoption of mobile smartphones and tablets, which, in effect, makes users able to directly access business information as well as be more accessible to others.
This trend is helping reinforce UCStrategies’ perspective of “unified communications” (UC), as optimizing business process performance through more flexible and timely communications. For this reason, it is important to include all interactions with people involved with a business process, when defining, evaluating, and automating performance management of high value business processes. Business Process Automation (BPA) has typically been focused on internal workflow management, but now must accommodate all participants in a business process. That is why Interactive Intelligence developed their IPA offering.
- Direct access to existing information
- Entry of new information (transactions)
- Automated “notifications” of time-sensitive issues to involved persons
- Contextual and flexible contacts between people who are involved with a business process issue wherever they may be located
Because business processes often include persons outside of an organization, i.e., business partners and customers (existing, prospective), it is now becoming more important to ensure that flexible communications and interactions be available to all parties involved in a business process, not just internal users.
The easier and faster that these interaction activities can be performed, the more efficient a high-value business process can be managed and successfully completed.
Business communications now require concurrent information exchange as well. Whether it is online information, documentation, pictures, or video clips, these sources of informational detail must be immediately shared for maximum workflow performance efficiency, not just mentioned or described for later follow-up.
What has been most difficult and challenging has been the integration of business process applications with all modes of contact and interaction with people. This includes both inbound, where end users gain access to an applications process, or, vice versa, where the application wants to notify an end user about a situation that they should respond to in a timely manner. This last capability has been referred to as Communications Enabled Business Processes (CEBP), and is just now starting to become practical because of end user mobility and communication flexibility.
From a performance efficiency perspective, the more direct the contacts between people and business process work flow applications, the more timely and efficient the results will be. Such direct interactions between people and business processes will also minimize the amount of human error that can cause time delays and extra costs to the process.
Workflow efficiency has always been viewed as maximized when all participants are readily available on premise for quick access. In today’s world of increased user mobility and teleworking, that efficiency can be replaced with better and more flexible ways to communicate and exchange information that multimodal unified interactions can provide.
IPA Use Cases For Vertical Markets
When we look at business process work flows, they obviously will vary depending upon the specific kind of business that an organization is in. Even within the same vertical, there will be other differences that must be supported in a global economy that must accommodate language differences, cultural differences, and regulatory requirements for security and privacy. However, the basic infrastructure approaches will be similar.
The list of vertical markets is long, as is the potential list of key business processes that can be automated with IPA. Below are some typical key vertical market IPA use cases:
- Sales lead management – Tracks new policy lead (call, web site) through quoting process to sale close/lead closeout.
- Insurance claims – Manage routing of Voicemail to Claims Examiners.
- Health care – Manage hospital post-discharge requests from patients. Manage automated appointment reminders, after- hours on call routing, patient referrals for surgical practice.
- Retail customer services – Track customer complaints (Call, we site) through resolution and root cause analysis. Manage “same day” order/installation of home security systems. Manage refund processing.
- Utility services – Manage multi-tenant housing orders via fax.
- Collections – Manages manual dialing of mobile phones for debt collection.
- Financial services – Manages automated blocking of missing/stolen credit cards.
Where to start? Identifying priority “Use Cases” to be implemented
A good way to start is by bringing in outside consultants who have expertise in particular vertical market applications, as well as in new communications technologies that can be integrated with automated business processes. They can help reconcile the priority perspectives of internal Line of Business management with what the new communication technologies can provide.
Operational management, e.g., customer service management, sales/marketing management, etc., can be involved to identify management and performance problems that currently exist. They will also be able to provide constructive input towards designing end user interfaces for both customers and for customer-facing staff.
IT management should be involved in order to properly plan an implementation strategy and migration from existing technology to the future environment which may well be a hosted/managed service approach in public, private, or hybrid “clouds.”
What implementation tools does IPA require?
While Interaction Process Automation requires the typical set of software tools to design, implement, and test software applications, a number of those tools and capabilities are part of the offering:
Who can implement IPA for an organization’s Use Case?
It all depends on available internal IT expertise within the organization and to what extent “cloud” services will be exploited. Since new communications technologies will be involved, it is unlikely that internal expertise will be up to doing the job. Further, it will be faster and less costly to utilize off-premise cloud service providers who will not only provide the basic interaction services needed, but will also take responsibility for maintaining, updating, and trialing any software changes in the IPA operational flow.
Clearly, such hosted/managed service providers will be able to provide proper Service License Agreements that will support operational reliability needs. In conjunction with vertical market specialists and “use case” consultants, “cloud” service providers will be able to customize IPA solutions for an organization’s specific business application needs.
What Interactive Intelligence has to offer for IPA
Interactive Intelligence has developed the software infrastructure framework for customers who prefer running Interaction Process Automation applications on their own data centers. In addition, it can offer IPA through its Communications as a Service (CaaS) offering to customers who want to use the software off their premises and enjoy the implementation and operational benefits of a “cloud” service.
This paper is sponsored by Interactive Intelligence.