Monday, September 16, 2013

Choosing the First Part of Your Process for IPA

Note I didn't say which process, it's which part of your process to automate with Interaction Process Automation (IPA). Feedback from some folks I've talked to over recent months and garnered from places like community.inin.com and ideas.inin.com tends to indicate they could have started smaller. At a session at Interactions 2012 I half-jokingly asked a customer during one of the IPA sessions "Were you ever concerned that you started too small?" That got a few chuckles and they said quite the contrary, they had probably bitten off too big of a bite to start.

IPA is highly flexible and, depending on the complexity of the requirements, can be rapidly deployed. The challenge, however is to avoid falling into to the trap of building a sprawling custom application instead of keeping it simple to automate a process. Yes, IPA is custom software since you have to design it from the Work Items (screens / GUI) up, so keep this in mind when you're dreaming up the make-all, be-all process. If you're racking up the buttons that will go off and require a bunch of custom stuff with Handlers or other interfaces, ask yourself if this process is the appropriate place for the business rule.

A recent process I've implemented turned out to be not one, but 4 separate processes. We hashed it all out with stickies on the whiteboard and by the time it all ended up As-Is in Visio, we had 4 pretty complete 11x17 pages for 4 separate processes. Thankfully we immediately agreed to reign in the scope (and urge) to not automate TheWholeDamnThing for phase 1. The customer (internal ININ) has learned quite a bit about all of the manual stuffs that has to happen today As-Is, and while they're eager to get it all automated, implementing in multiple iterations will allow us to make incremental improvements along the way to maximize their ROI.

Especially when you're first getting started with Interaction Processor Automation, whether you're a partner or customer, try to remember your first exposure to CIC and all of the glorious tools, features, bells and whistles. The CIO of a customer presented at what used to be known as the Customer Conference several years ago and said "we saw all these features and were like kids in a candy store." Less is more applies with IPA as well and you will be better served with a scaled back, I'll dare say basic, phase 1 or first iteration for any new solution.

Keep in mind the Work Items Sprint as well to get the screens going soon so the user interface you've put on paper can evolve as it inevitably will. You'll learn plenty from your first processes, just like you did with Handlers, Attendant and CIC in general as you gained experience with them.

To Recap:
  1. Start small.
  2. Everyone will learn.
  3. Iterate and grow from there.
Happy Processing!

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