PegaWorld 2012: It’s all about the Customer!

It’s rewarding in this day and age to attend a software vendor’s conference where the company actually puts the customer first. In this age of shock and awe, high profile software executives touting the benefits of their platform, having a customer centric view of the market is extremely refreshing. Finally, somebody gets it.

This year’s PegaWorld conference was held this week in Dallas, TX. The event continues to expand with a record 2,000+ attending from over two dozen countries. This year’s theme was around “Customer Centricity” and featured over 40 presentations from customers who have adopted BPM technology to drive transformation in how they are serving their end customers.

In addition to a series of engaging keynotes, there were over a hundred sessions to choose from, numerous product demonstrations, visibility into future product roadmaps and an incredible opportunity to network with customers, partners, analysts and many of Pega’s leadership teams. The ecosystem that is created with this community is one of very few in the industry!

Day one was kicked off by Alan Trefler, founder and CEO of Pega, in his usual inspirational manner. Only Alan could deliver a keynote while swatting ping pong balls into the audience (turns out he has moved on from chess to ping pong). And, you had to love that “Pega” belt buckle Alan was wearing, indicating just how passionate he is about his company.

What was clear listening to the keynotes is that BPM is finally outgrowing its moniker. The solutions that this class of technology can now offer are far beyond the legacy category of BPM. So as Alan aptly said, we need a better TLA (three letter acronym) to describe the full capability that can now be provided by a Pega solution. I couldn’t agree more. And while a lot is being touted these days about iBPM (Intelligent BPM), I am not sure this “new” category captures the full potential of what this technology can achieve. Analysts please take note! We need better category.

Pega is clearly on a journey. They are the established leader in BPM and have now consumed the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and Case Management space as well. But, they are not stopping there, as they continue to expand into areas such as SFA, Unified Marketing, Social Analytics, etc. I was delighted to hear the messaging around the evolution of customer service by converging the data, intent and process to gain more than just a 360-degree view of your customer. I have been talking about convergence of data and BPM for years as it has always been about more than just streamlining an operational process.

Alan’s gift for taking these complex ideas and distilling them into simple marketing messages was alive and well. He talked about this evolution of service from the basic 360-degree view to more HD customer service (360+360+360=1080p, where the “p” is of course for “Pega”). A 1080p HD view of the customer provides a deeper, richer, more colorful view of your customer.

No discussion of customer centricity would be complete without a presentation around net promoter score. Enter the father of NPS, Fred Reichheld, of Bain, who reminded us of the power of this simple system that many companies fail to leverage to its full potential. The power of creating brand advocates who are willing to recommend your product or service to a friend has unlimited potential. What is particularly insightful is how some progressive companies, like Apple and Chick-Fil-A have integrated this into real time decisioning to change the way they service their customers on a daily basis. Bravo. And it starts by engaging and treating your own employees in a manner that reflects how you’d like your end customers treated. Employee engagement is key.

The Pega Roadmap continues to be aggressive as demonstrated in Kerim Akgonol’s keynote. In addition to expanding the core PRPC platform into new areas such as SFA ,Unified Marketing, etc., they continue to  integrate emerging technologies such as Mobility, Social, Cloud and Big Data Analytics into their core platform. This absolutely recognizes the need for companies to serve customers through multiple channels, engage and listen to customer sentiment and quickly instantiate instances of a Pega application.

And it is about time that Pega recognizes the need for better industry enablement for customers and partners. The launch of Pega Academy will hopefully provide partners and the entire ecosystem a better opportunity to build skills more rapidly in the market.

On day two, Rob Walker did a nice job of making predictive analytics easily understood by relating it to the Moneyball baseball concept. I personally enjoyed the fact that he is a Yankees fan and used ace pitcher CC Sabathia in his illustrations. All of the reasons why companies today are not changing their antiquated approach to using data to proactively make business decisions were well rooted in the baseball scouting and value equation. Much like Sabermetrics turned the game of baseball upside down, predictive analytics and adaptive analytics have the opportunity to fundamentally change the way companies view and interact with their end customers. The bottom line was that customers need a lot of color. Blending insights with process allows customers to make decisions in full color and not just black and white. Colorful Customer Centricity. Imagine that.

So what were the hot themes at PegaWorld? Judging by some of the sessions that spilled into the hallway, they were the discussions around Mobility, Direct Capture of Objectives (DCO), UI Transformation and Data Visualization, to list a few. There is still a thirst for the knowledge of how to use these advanced features of the Pega platform. The power is there. It’s a question of whether the ecosystem can keep up with the pace of innovation and translate that to value for the end customer. The race is on.

As a key partner of Pega, I was honored to be invited to the first inaugural meeting of the Pega Partner Advisory Council. This is a hand selected council of advisors put together by John Barone, who runs Global Alliances for Pega, to discuss how to better leverage their partners and expand the ecosystem. I applaud John for bringing a group like this together and appreciated the open dialog.

And finally, hats off to very useful Pega World mobile application that allowed easy navigation of scheduling, real time feedback and great integration into Twitter. This is how conferences should run.

The bottom line is, it’s all about the customer and Pega seems to understand that better than anyone in their space.

PegaWORLD was yet again, a great event. See you in Orlando in 2013!

Frank Palermo

Executive Vice President - Global Digital Solutions, Virtusa. Frank Palermo brings more than 24 years of experience in technology leadership across a wide variety of technical products and platforms. Frank has a wealth of experience in leading global teams in large scale, transformational application and product development programs. In his current role at Virtusa, Frank heads the Global Technical Solutions Group which contains many of Virtusa’s specialized technical competency areas such as Business Process Management (BPM), Enterprise Content Management (ECM) and Data Warehousing and Business Intelligence (DWBI). The group is responsible for creating an overall go-to-market strategy, developing technical competencies and standards, and delivering IP based Solutions for each of these practice areas. Frank also leads an emerging technology group that is responsible for incubating new solutions in areas such as mobile computing, social solutions and cloud computing. Frank is also responsible for overseeing all of the Partner Channels as well as Analyst Relations for the firm. Prior to joining Virtusa, Frank was Chief Technology Officer (CTO) for Decorwalla, an emerging B2B marketplace in the interior design industry, where he was responsible for the overall technology strategy, creative direction, and site development and deployment. Prior to that, Frank was CTO and VP of Engineering for INSCI Corporation, a supplier of digital document repositories and integrated output management products and services. Prior to INSCI, Frank worked at IBM in the Advanced Workstations Division, and took part in the PowerPC consortium with IBM, Motorola and Apple. He was also involved in the design of the PowerPC family of microprocessors as well as architecting and developing a massive distributed client/server design automation and simulation system involving thousands of high-end clustered servers. Frank received several patents for his work in the area of microprocessor design and distributed client/server computing. Frank holds a BSEE degree from Northeastern University and completed advanced studies at the University of Texas.

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