Monday, March 12, 2012

IPA is the Greatest Thing Since Sliced Bread!

Hello Process World! I'm Rick McGlinchey and this is my blog about all things related to Interaction Process Automation IPA from I3 / ININ / Interactive Intelligence, Inc.

I worked for Interactive Intelligence, Inc. for over a decade and did all kinds of stuff before taking a break, then branching out on my own. I still do some work for them, and others, as interesting projects come up. More on my story another time.

So why blog about IPA? The answer is simple: Interaction Process Automation (IPA) is the greatest thing since sliced bread. I'll go so far as to say Chuck Norris is the best thing since IPA (thank Kev)! Yes, those might be an outrageous statements. To put it into slightly more realistic perspective, it's at least the greatest thing since the product initially known as Enterprise Interaction Center (then Customer Interaction Center and EIC and now... back to CIC) and here's why:
  • Save Time, Paper and Rework - The obvious one is you can save time (read: money) by automating processes.
  • Consistency - For companies that need to deal with compliance, regulation, and other fun stuff like that get a product that allows you to run your process consistently.
  • Dynamic Processes - let's your procedure behave more like a guideline (that's ISO:9001-ese), but still with constraints. In other words, you can branch off or change directions with decision points as needed based on user input or other data.
You can read more about the product on the IPA page of ININ's website. There's also a short, 3 video segment of a customer case study on AccuQuote that ININ put up on YouTube. Definitely worth watching.

But that's the obvious stuff.  There's more magic with IPA. In addition to the intent and benefits of the product, I'm jazzed because with IPA we finally get a GUI on top of all of the power of CIC!

Let that sink in a minute... Light bulb still not going on? Read on. First some history if you can tolerate some MindFibre(TM):

I've thought for years it would be huuuge (wink wink, nudge nudge) to have some GUI tools in Interaction Designer, but they never arrived in that manner. Since the 90's there have been API's to create applications. In the bad (I mean really bad) old days, the first and only was using a dinosaur and somewhat unreliable interface known as DDE. Sure it worked, mostly.

Then came the COM API. The Interaction Client wasn't written with it, mind you, so there were some things you could do with it the Client couldn't, and vice versa, and people built some slick applications. Slick, custom applications in C++, VB and the like, which is fine if you have that sort of developer resource available.

Finally ICELib arrived and with it the 3rd party developer API was now the same one used to build the Interaction Client. Since the early part of the last decade we've had Generic Objects available. Support at I3 has been using them for years to use the ACD for routing tickets with skills. So have some notable reference customers. 

Still, ICELib and incorporating generic objects to deliver a solution is pretty involved, relatively speaking.

With IPA, to bust out an antique term, we now get a complete 4GL. Woo hoo!!! Some folks might even consider it KML on top of CIC, but I digress. Now we have GUI. I don't necessarily have to define a business process to automate. Sure I can do that with IPA and it's super-honkin' powerful, don't get me wrong. Anything I build with IPA is a process to be sure. I can ALSO write a variety of applications big and small that require user input and use them to leverage all of the goodies and power of handlers, notifications, databases and web services.

You don't necessarily have to automate a process to get use out of IPA. Imagine a small application that requires user input and functionality of CIC such as placing a call. Now you can do this within CIC without having to build a 3rd party application, and without having to dive into C# or other programming languages. The beauty is it's maintained version to version as you upgrade CIC without having to recompile, adjust for changes in an API, etc. CIC and IPA take care of all of that for you. Brilliant!

Is anyone going to buy CIC just for IPA? Eventually, probably. I hear it's already helping win CIC deals because customers know they'll want to automate processes. The other huuuge opportunity is with existing customers. They already bought CIC. Wanna automate some processes, or build some custom apps with GUI to leverage CIC's communication capabilities? Just activate some licenses and you're off to the races (now complete with a GUI)!

In short, IPA is a kick-ass product with enormous potential. I don't know about you but I'm as geeked about IPA as when I first drank the punch with CIC back in 1997!!!

Feel free to share your thoughts, preferably about IPA if you have a minute.


  1. What are your thoughts about using IPA to template basic processes as a skeleton, and reusing the template between companies of different type etc?

  2. Great question Brian and it's a great idea to design templates with re-use in mind. See my post about the Database Driven Design to insure you're team doesn't hard-code business rules into the process itself, which will make it easier to reuse with another customer. I plan a separate post on abstracting the business rules specifically into the database, using the Finance Purchase Order process as an example.

    More to your point, and I don't think I'm giving anything away that ININ plans to make an IPA Marketplace for templates, kind of an app store for this purpose. I can't find a link on their website, but you'll find some docs if you use a web search on IPA Marketplace ININ. As a partner you may or may not want to participate, but suffice to say the Marketplace is good evidence the vendor believes reuse will be huuuge!


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