Unwrapping PegaWorld and Pega Infinity

At this year’s PegaWorld, Pegasystems launched – with significant fanfare – its latest major technology release, Pega Infinity. Here’s what’s inside the wrapping.

In truth, Pega Infinity is largely a matter of packaging rather than a matter of significant new capability (although a number of new features are being released). Nevertheless it’s important, because it signifies how Pegasystems is attempting to distinguish itself by more clearly presenting a ‘unified portfolio’. With Pega Infinity, Pegasystems has packaged and more smoothly integrated its platform offerings and its application offerings – now combining application functionality for specifically addressing customer experience management in the front office (marketing, sales automation, support applications as well as its Customer Decision Hub) with functionality for addressing operational excellence in the middle and back office (through automation and augmentation technologies spanning RPA, workflow, case management and business rules).

Looking through the lens of Pega Infinity, at a high level at least its key competitors are Salesforce and Oracle. Appian is moving closer to this position, too, with the recent launch of its Intelligent Contact Center platform and its tieup with Blue Prism.

Right now Pegasystems pitches two of its key differentiators as AI and deployment choice. Pegasystems can justifiably lay claim to being furthest ahead in practical experience of delivering large-scale predictive assists and recommendations in this context: it’s been doing this pretty much since its acquisition of Chordiant in 2010. When it comes to deployment choice, too, its embrace of the ‘cloud choice’ philosophy – which sees it offering its own managed hosted service and an on-premises option, but also promoting other partner-delivered managed hosting choices – keeps it very much ahead of the pack.

Bundling more tech into the platform

Pegasystems is obviously keen to introduce customers old and new to the robotic automation and workforce intelligence tech it acquired in 2016 when it bought OpenSpan: from now, customers buying licenses for Pega Infinity apps or the platform will get limited-use free licenses for these automation-focused technologies bundled in. With Pega Infinity, the company is clearly aiming to demonstrate that task automation is part of the core platform.

Also with Pega Infinity, Pega Express (which was initially offered via the Pega Cloud only, and used as a way to give prospects and customers a way into the broader platform and run proofs-of-concept) is not only available to on-premises platform customers as well as being offered via the Pega Cloud; it’s now renamed as App Studio, and offered as an alternative, no-code entry point within the core platform for anyone with a platform or applications investment wanting to prototype something new, build something simple or make modest changes to an existing application. In other words, Pegasystems has shifted to offer App Studio as an alternative design environment, sitting alongside Design Studio. With Pega Infinity, the new App Studio provides limited options for development or configuration of existing functionality, and is pitched at citizen developers; whereas Design Studio provides the high-fidelity, significantly more technical environment for professionally qualified Pegasystems architects and developers.

Separately from the launch of Pega Infinity, my interest was also piqued by the announcement of a new ISV program (whereby Pegasystems looks to entice third-party application software vendors to build their applications on the Pega platform). It’s too early to get much in the way of detail of how this program will run, but the reason my interest was piqued was that the guy running it – Rupen Shah – used to run Salesforce’s equivalent initiative. Given the strategic contribution of the application ecosystem to Salesforce’s success, this is an important initiative for any market-watcher to keep an eye on.

Wrapping it up

Looking back to our comments on 2017’s PegaWorld conference, after that event we highlighted that for all the high-end capability on show there – from AI to robotics, predictive analytics, multi-channel engagement, sophisticated case management, cloud choice and all the rest – Pegasystems’ pitch nevertheless reflected an ‘all in’ kind of proposition. To really win with Pega technology, the company was telling us that customers had to make a deep commitment across the piece.

With Pega Infinity, on paper Pegasystems is carving out a functional leadership position as a provider of a platform for digital transformation initiatives. And yet – at a time when many other vendors are busy deconstructing their offerings and looking for ways to help prospects and customers get started with individual technology components and then adopt more and more platform capability over time, it’s interesting to see that at PegaWorld 2018, and with the launch of Pega Infinity, the risk is that the company is seen as essentially doubling down on its ‘all in’ proposition.

How the company takes this forward as it continues to attempt to appeal to a broader range of organisations – outside the very largest companies that got it to this point – will be interesting to see.