Pega Update

Last week I had the chance to stop by Pegasystems in Cambridge for a briefing. As usual, I came away impressed with what they had to show. Pega is an anomaly in the BPM market. They always win the BPMS MQs and Waves, but 70% of their systems are sold to people who did not set out looking for BPM. Pega has mastered the art of BPM solution selling - as CRM, as a healthcare payor solution, as a banking back office solution, whatever. It seems to be working financially as well, with 11 consecutive record quarters and annual revenue growth over 50%. They are up over 1400 employees now, and CEO Alan Trefler even pops up now and then on the cable business channels. Now how many other BPM executives can claim that?

But I'm a product guy, so my main interest was the software itself. Pega's process design environment stands out by incorporating business requirements capture and agile scrum methodology directly within the tools. The Application Profiler (Figure 1) collects business requirements for the process flow, user interfaces, KPIs and reports, and other attributes. Then business analysts and developers collaborate directly on the solution design. The chicklet-style process discovery map - familiar to Lombardi Blueprint users - is converted behind the scenes to a BPMN process model .

Figure 1. Application Profiler

The Application Accelerator converts information from the Application Profile to create the application structure and framework automatically, including base flows, data classes, and user interfaces. It used to be necessary to have a data architect set up the class structure at the beginning of a new Pega app, but now the software includes a refactoring tool that allows the structure to be changed later on... allowing business to move quickly on new apps without developer assistance up front.

Performance reporting is a key feature of all Pega apps, and KPI definition is exposed in the business analyst/architect tooling (Figure 2):

Figure 2. Business Architect - KPIs

Like Lombardi, Pega supports close business-IT collaboration by instant playback of any process component directly from the design environment. Every solution component has a URL available for playback as soon as it is developed or modified. Business users can provide direct feedback to developers by adding sticky notes on the web UI (Figure 3).

Figure 3. UI Feedback

Pega provides comprehensive tools for business analysts and developers to define performance management charts and tables - Pega calls them reports - including layout (Figure 4), data access, user interaction (Figure 5), and other properties. Reports can contain buttons and editable fields, and tree and grid views of data are synchronized so a selection in one view is reflected in the other. It's all very nice.

Figure 4. Report Definition - Layout

Figure 5. Report definition - User Interaction

I mentioned earlier that while Pega is pretty cool by itself as a BPM platform, that's not usually how it is sold. Industry solution frameworks are a central focus of Pega's value proposition. These frameworks are not ready-to-go apps - they used to do it that way, but customers wanted to tailor the details themselves. The frameworks now consist of an industry foundation - primarily data models used in that industry - layered on top of the Pega BPMS, and specific industry solutions on top of the foundation. Solutions fit into four basic categories - new business backbone, CRM/service backbone, back office, and GRC. Key verticals have been banking/financial, insurance, and healthcare payer, but Pega is launching new ones in life sciences, communications, energy, and public sector. Where most BPMS vendors are reluctant to invest in industry-specific solutions, Pega has 200 people working on the industry frameworks.

Having heard so much about it, I got a chance to look at Pega's case management solution. Case management started within the industry frameworks, but in the past year they have tried to make it a horizontal product. Pega distinguishes three types of cases - service request, incident, and investigation - and can their solution can handle any of these, or a mixture. A case can contain nested subcases as well. Each case can contain both structured and ad hoc processes. The architecture was quite rich. Compared to, say, G360's offering, still the best I've seen, Pega's UI seems to focus more on the individual task performer's case work rather than providing overall case status at a glance. But to be honest, it might be possible to create a different look and feel quite easily. Pega is clearly a major player in case management.

Finally, I got a look at Pega's CRM solution. Pega is in the leader quadrant of the CRM MQ, and stands out from its competitors there by taking a process-centric rather than data-centric approach. That means the CSR is guided to the next step in any interaction, driven by rules involving the state of the customer, the agent, and the interaction itself. Every CRM case has a service level agreement and is driven to completion. Pega claims this approach dramatically increases agent flexibility and reduces training time.

Overall, an impressive show of force from a BPM market leader.