Interactive Intelligence to beta business process over IP

Indianapolis-based unified IP business communications provider Interactive Intelligence Inc. is working on a communications-based solution for automating business processes.

The add-on software application, Interaction Process Automation (IPA), is designed to sit on top of the company’s existing Customer Interaction Center (CIC) IP communications platform used by roughly 3,000 organizations worldwide.

IPA is currently in beta and scheduled for release in the fourth quarter of 2009. Pricing is estimated at $400 to $500 per year, per user. The product will be sold under a software subscription model.

Since it is all software, it is easy to activate, noted Tim Passios, director of product marketing for Interactive Intelligence. “This is one advantage we have over our competitors,” he said.

Another key difference is IPA’s communications architecture. “Ours is built on top of the communications platform, so inherently, it involves people. Inherently, it communicates to other people,” said Passios.

Enterprises seeking to do a better job of analyzing and streamlining their process flows receive a “much bigger picture” with IPA, according to Passios.

“There are several different types of process engines out there today, but they eliminate communications and are very complex and difficult to deploy … our solution is to come at it from a different angle,” he said.

IPA is targeting “any organization that has process flows that are manual in nature,” said Passios. Insurance, health care and financial industries are likely clients.

Interactive Intelligence will assist clients during their initial use of the software, but “after we train them on it, they should be able to start doing the workflows themselves,” said Passios.

“One of our main goals with IPA was to make sure it was intuitive enough that (clients) can do it themselves eventually, so they don’t have to go after consultations or professional services,” he said.

The ultimate goal, according to Passios, is to have a type of “process app store” where clients can shop for typical processes, such as an expense approval process flow or a time-off request process flow.

“You find it, you plug it into the server and now you’ve got this brand new process flow that’s already been written and documented … you’re off and running,” he said.

Jo-Anne Finney, Canadian channel sales manager for Interactive Intelligence, said a lot of customers have process automation projects underway. “It’s very good timing for us in the Canadian market,” she said.

While traditional, mature business process management platforms are enterprise-class, very robust and full-featured, they do not have the communications capabilities, said Interactive Intelligence’s product manager Gina Clarkin.

“We are seeing an increased interest from them to get into the contact centre and try and integrate with communications companies so they can provide those capabilities to their customers,” she said.

These full-featured, enterprise-class solutions are also “extremely expensive, complex and time-consuming in terms of deployment and customization,” she said.

IPA is different, according to Clarkin, because it is “designed to be something that a company can build off their existing communications platform and ultimately configure their processes themselves.”

While IPA is an application build, it is still going to involve professional services, according to Michael Barbagallo, senior analyst of contact centre solutions at Sterling, Va.-based Current Analysis.

Interactive Intelligence has started small with the limitations within their own communications system, as opposed to a company like Avaya Inc. that builds on the processes, Barbagallo pointed out.

“Interactive Intelligence is limited within the system. That’s why they are going with communications-assisted rather than communications-enabled, because the communication is already there, they are just assisting the process along,” he said.

The strength of IPA is its relative simplicity, which places it into systems customers already have, said Barbagallo. “Because they built this process within their system, they’ve created closer to what we would see as a straight-line application,” he said.

But IPA’s inability to go outside the system is likely its weakness, he noted.

Avaya builds a multi-vendor system for customers, Nortel does the same thing with its service-oriented architecture foundations and Genesis will do it with their SIP server and intelligent workflow distributor, he said.

Barbagallo said this may or may not be an issue with companies. Those with a large system, that have their human resources department somewhere else and who aren’t using CIC may have an issue at that point, he said.

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