This year’s Pegaworld conference showed a company that’s still evolving its story.
Most show-floor interest revolved around one thing: Pegasystems’ recent OpenSpan acquisition, which brings technology in the red-hot Robotic Process Automation space as well as some really neat desktop-based Workforce Intelligence software.
Back to basics for Pegasystems?
Unconventionally, though, on the presentation stage there were no significant product announcements of any kind at this week’s Pegaworld in Las Vegas: instead, the company chose to go back to basics, using keynotes and customer case studies to highlight how its model-driven application development and configuration approach sets it apart from its new big competitor of choice, Salesforce.
Yes, there were developments of various kinds:
- The relaunch of the Pegasystems Exchange marketplace, which now features (as well as components and frameworks from Pega consulting partners and from Pegasystems itself) components from third parties like Box and Docusign, as well as beta output from the Pega Innovations Labs that customers can try out and feedback on.
- A new Pega Academy programme, in partnership with several (US) universities.
- A Pega Design online resource, showcasing Pegasystems’ design thinking, principally focused on UX (with considerations relating to mobility and accessibility).
- The availability of Pega Express as a free trial, with self-service signup on the PDN website.
The big message I took away from the conference, though, was that Pegasystems continues to play ‘David to the Salesforce Goliath’ – and the battleground it’s chosen is the value of its model-driven approach.
Insight, Action and Evolution
CEO Alan Trefler is doing a nice job of articulating the value of the Pega platform in the context of digital transformation: he highlights the importance of insight (being able to instrument products, services and processes, and understand opportunities and challenges through that), action (being able to actively support work co-ordination and automation through software) and evolution (being able to change application behaviour easily) as core capabilities of an application platform – and I think this works well. He also digs at organisations following a piecemeal technology investment approach, highlighting the importance of a single, integrated platform and (by implication) the folly of investing in standalone cloud-based applications and services from multiple suppliers and hoping for the best.
At a high level, this proposition is easy to understand. In practice though, the Pega platform is still something you have to really commit to in terms of skills and methodologies – it’s very sophisticated, but it’s not like anything else that many people are familiar with at a detailed level. This is something that the company understands, and those driving the Pegasystems products do make it clear that they are prioritising developments to make the platform easier and easier to work with.
Nevertheless, at the same time – as the constituent parts of the Pega portfolio (principally around predictive analytics and work automation) continue to be integrated, a more challenging picture emerges. Trefler is more vocal than ever that the ‘process-first’ approach the company took a few years back in order to be considered as a BPMS player was a mistake: and in its place, it’s clear that Pegasystems will push more and more dynamic behaviour, driven by predictive analytics, into work co-ordination and automation scenarios.
Simple and Complicated?
So for Pegasystems, its proposition is all about the Model. The nature of Pega’s model has always been multifaceted and multilayered, though – and there’s a future coming in which the behaviour your model expresses is harder and harder to visualise ahead of time. That means more of a skills challenge for designers and developers, not less. How Pegasystems tells this story to companies looking for potential alternatives to Salesforce will be interesting to see.