PegaWORLD 2013: The CustomerPocalypse meets the Millennial Enterprise!

Once again, Pegasystems put together a world class PegaWORLD event this week at the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort in Orlando, FL. It has become the industry’s largest BPM event, but it’s more than its size that matters. There are very few events in the industry where you can find this type of ecosystem of customers, partners, analysts and thought leaders coming together seamlessly in one location. The collaboration and community that is created during the event is simply outstanding and really unheard of in the industry. PegaWORLD has grown to such proportions that it is quickly outgrowing traditional conference venues. This year there were over 2,500 attendees, spread out between multiple hotels. Even the Wifi couldn’t handle the load and crashed under the pressure of the multi-device audience. I personally hope we don’t end up in Vegas too soon. And I hope the intimacy of the event can be maintained as it continues to scale.

This year’s theme was around ‘Discovering the Return on Excellence’. The opportunity for customers to use the Pegasystems ‘Build for Change’ methodology to deliver innovation and business transformation is inspiring. But the ability to have customer after customer show up each year at the event and share real world examples of how business agility, customer centricity and operational excellence are all driving transformative business results is amazing. It’s more than inspiring, it’s downright impressive.

And this isn’t something that just occurred overnight. Pegasystems has been at it for three decades, and incidentally the event marked the 30th anniversary of the company. They have demonstrated a commitment to their vision by delivering innovative platforms over this period. And with the announcement of their latest PRPC platform, version 7, that trend is clearly continuing.

Pegasystems CEO, Alan Trefler’s keynote was very engaging as usual. He emerged onstage shortly after a Star Wars like video of customer success stories that touted the benefits and returns they have experienced (as a side note, the video production for the event was simply outstanding with many engaging videos integrated into the keynote presentations). And of course the theme of ping pong and chess were alive and well (can’t have a PegaWORLD keynote without some ping pong!). This year’s focus was a fusion of the two pastimes that demonstrated a build for change moment by creating a 3D printer version of a paddle with a chess piece handle (which supposedly ran about $600 bucks to produce).

The dialog quickly turned to how companies can change the way they think about technology. In today’s world, every business is a digital business and technology is integral to helping the transformation to a customer centric mindset. However, the methods and paradigms many companies are using to collaborate between business and IT and the process used for developing their software platforms are still very antiquated.

I am sure many of the Java programming bigots may have squirmed in their seats at the comparison of modern application development using technologies such as Java to monks scribing in the Middle Ages!  In a clever comparison, Java language syntax was shown alongside COBOL language syntax to highlight the lack of progress we have made in creating platforms that use business language to develop applications. The point is that many organizations are still in the dark ages when it comes to creating agile business platforms. Indeed, a very powerful message.

The positioning continued to highlight how enterprise business platforms are migrating from systems of records (think Oracle, SAP, and other legacy systems) to systems of differentiation, which allow you to build custom and agile applications as well as systems of innovation that allow experimentation to easily occur.  The latter are critical to building a truly digital business.

Alan also announced the release of his new book ‘CustomerPocalypse’ which talks about how the emerging generation of customers are about to kill off traditional businesses that are unable to adapt to changing customer behaviors. These customers, termed Generation C in the book, have expectations that are turning the customer relationship concept on its side. They demand more control and don’t want to have a traditional ‘relationship’ with a company or their products. He goes on to describe how these Gen C customers may just hate you and may be trying to kill your business. He even questions the very notion of the term ‘customer’ and professes that Gen C believes that the term connotes a business trying to control them. Could this be the death of the traditional customer?

The concept is very aligned to what I talk about in my whitepaper – “Making the shift to a new Millennial Enterprise”. I describe how companies can avoid extinction by adapting to the changing expectations of the new end, digital consumer and/or taking advantage of new technology paradigms to remain competitive and drive innovative and transformative products and services in their respective industries.

Alan prefers the tombstone RIP metaphor while I favored the dinosaur extinction concept, but we vehemently agree that companies that don’t change or adapt will cease to exist in the future. It was interesting to see us both draw on similar examples such as Blockbuster and Netflix.

The real buzz around the conference was all about the release of PRPC version 7. This release could indeed be the most ambitious and expansive version of PRPC to date. It was announced that Pega is spending more than $90 million in R&D, clearly illustrating their commitment to innovation.

Version 7 contains a host of new features that organizations will greatly benefit from. First, the introduction of stage based case management capabilities further empowers business users to describe business processes and objectives at a higher level.  It allows users to adopt a case-based approach to manage and link work in a more collaborative and meaningful fashion.

One of the features of PRPC 7 I am personally most excited about is the ability to support more responsive user interfaces. Realizing that the automation of work is no longer bound to a traditional worker sitting behind a computer in a cubicle, there is recognition of the need to provide more responsive and intuitive interfaces to end users on a wide variety of devices. The emergence of the mobile worker is paramount as tablets and devices now outnumber people on the planet. PRPC 7 is now fully HTML5 and CSS3 compliant and provides a rich set of design capabilities to create compelling user experiences for end users.

Many of the keynotes focused on a theme of global transformation. For example, Annette Barnes from Lloyds Banking Group described how they have leveraged the Pegasystems platform to create a ‘customer’ platform that is at the heart of everything they do. They adopted four strategic pillars of Reshape, Simplify, Strengthen and Invest to drive their business change programs. The results have been impressive as they reported seeing account complaints down by 75%, reduction in processing errors by 50%, a 10 day reduction in cycle time for ISA transfers, higher productivity and load balancing in their processing centers and most importantly, a significant increase in their Net Promoter Score (NPS).

In another example, Eric Martinez from AIG Insurance described how Pegasystems is at the heart of their global transformational platforms that are eliminating silos and enabling AIG to think and work differently. Their ‘OneClaim’ global claims initiative is the industry’s most ambitious claims transformation program to provide global standardization for all claims processing. Employing a sophisticated franchise and governance model coupled with PRPC’s ‘situational layer cake’ ability they are able to benefit from a high degree of re-use thereby lowering the overall cost of ownership and improve the quality and consistency of their claims processing.

PRPC 7 encapsulates a lot of these ‘enterprise’ best practices by providing enhanced high availability support, more powerful security management capabilities, zero downtime upgrades, better performance and overall scalability. PRPC 7 is clearly ready to transform on a global scale.

Virtusa was prominently announced by Alan as one of the two partners who are authorized as Pega PRPC version 7 upgrade specialists. In working closely with Pega, we have created an Upgrade Factory and lab environment that has a prescriptive methodology and set of tools that help accelerate and automate the move to Pega version 7. Preparing for how to upgrade to version 7 during the product development lifecycle will make it possible for customers to quickly upgrade and harness the power of this new release. There was tremendous interest in this offering at the show and I encourage current PRPC 5.x and 6.x users to contact us to discuss how to quickly embrace PRPC version 7.

So the message is clear. Become a customer centric organization and transform your business to a truly digital business or run the risk of extinction!

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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