Pegaworld 2016: Digital Transformation


I’m Anna Buchanan and I am currently one half of QA Consulting’s Pega Technical Leads team. My role involves growing and supporting the Pega offering, as well as supporting our Pega consultants in the field. In addition to this, I am also based on-site as a Certified Senior System Architect and I am currently studying for my Lead System Architect qualification.

My time at Pegaworld

This year’s Pegaworld definitely kicked things up from last year’s event in Orlando; with attendance reaching 3,500 the need to move to a bigger hotel in a bigger city was obvious, and the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas was the obvious choice. The hotel also doubles as a massive casino, and as you walk through the halls you see poker tables, endless rows of slot machines and party-goers dressed for a night they will remember, or not as I suspect was the case for many.

But enough about that, this year the theme for the annual conference was 'Digital Transformation' and it's easy to see why; Pega sells process automation software making this topic always relevant, and they've made an acquisition of American robotics company Openspan. Openspan aim to automate repetitive bottlenecks undertaken on your work machine, not to mention the wider implications of the DevOps and continuous improvement journey many businesses are going through.

Alan Treffler, chess master extraordinaire, ping-pong enthusiast and founder of Pegasystems gave the opening keynote on Monday morning, entering on the MGM Grand Arena stage to a huge round of applause. His keynote discussed the confusion of staying up-to-date in IT, accusing the industry of having more buzzwords than sense, and that they had lost focus on what matters, the customer. Quoting that 64% of businesses think they understand their customer, but only 24% of those customers agree.

Alan Treffler then went on to explain some of the main culprits behind this statistic; software developed in a silo away from the customer and, fragmented systems that encourage replication, such as four different systems with overlapping information. This leads to mass batch processing so we can actually provide our service, and results in us being buried in code. Our IT solutions become unmaintainable, making us ineffective and therefore uncompetitive.

So, how do we fix this? It starts with a refocus on the customer. Alan Treffler believes Pegas' in the model design addresses the issue.


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What is meant by 'in the model?'

If you've ever used Pega you'll understand the system is underpinned by the concept of 'rules'.  These take software development logical functions and model them in a GUI that is designed to be more accessible than traditional code. This all slots in around BPM style process flows, and those process flows belong to cases. That is, Pega, models your process as software. The idea of this is that it bridges the gap between the code and the end product, giving holistic insight into what software you're building, making it much easier to work closely with your end users, providing them what they need. It also spans the silos that can be created when you break your technology solutions over many small chunks of functionality.

 The Industrial Revolution

The First Industrial Revolution used water and steam power to mechanise production. The Second used electric power to create mass production. The Third used electronics and information technology to automate production. Now the Fourth, the digital revolution, characterised by a fusion of technologies that are blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres.

What this translates to for us is addressing our technology solutions at a higher level than we ever have before. It's not just a question of how do we implement this one system - it's how do we implement our ecosystem of technology seamlessly to our real world actions. Pega addresses this concept with several moves including a move towards the Internet of Things (IoT) and with their new partnership with Philips, providing health-care solutions underpinned by wearables. They've made strong moves in favour of more automation - Pega are now vocally supporting a DevOps culture, and have announced they will provide more support for areas like test automation and continuous delivery.

New Developments

There were working demos of Pega with Jenkins and other DevOps tooling. This was done via REST services, while clients were speaking about their automated testing success with Selenium, using the newly released test IDs functionality. Dark launches were among the recommended approaches for implementing continuous delivery with Pega and machine enforcement that would enact safeguard and approval processes, before committing changes to Git. Upcoming in new patches will be functionality to push to Jenkins and more APIs for using Pega to test itself.

As mentioned earlier, they have bought the robotics business OpenSpan, which has built software that effectively takes over your computer and completes mundane, repetitive tasks for you. A typical use case being when you need to open several systems and then copy and paste from one into another. OpenSpan also, in a slightly big brother-esque way, collects analytics on your workforce through tracking your digital activity. This provides insight into where your bottlenecks are, and suggests possible solutions, such as using its automation software. OpenSpan likes to refer to these automation jobs as robots. Personally, I'm not convinced that's what this is, but it is a potentially exciting direction for Pega to be moving in. The aim of all this presumably will be to have these robots integrated into Pega, where we can make sense of all these small jobs in the wider model. This will allow users to control their outputs in an intelligent way, which fits nicely with the idea of technology working seamlessly.

It's good to see Pega getting involved with some of the key upcoming trends in the industry. Keeping up to date of course also means training, and there have been some notable advancements in the Pega Academy this year. The CSA (Entry Level) qualification has now been reworked, addressing a perception that CSAs were getting onto site and not having enough knowledge to develop effectively. The course has also been shortened, meaning that the course offers a 23% increase in tasks a CSA should be able to undertake, with a 30% reduction in time it takes to sit the course. Exam questions will now be more task based as well.

Also changing is that for participants of the LSA (Lead Level) qualification a time limit on the exam. This is enforced on both parts of the exam, meaning the practical exam must be sat within six months of passing the theory exam, or the theory exam will be invalid. Pega have promised to create content to help de-mystify the week-long practical test, and have announced plans to let people sit the practical in 3-4 small chunks rather than a week long slog. This is currently being piloted, with the hope of making it available to the public by September.

Another key topic throughout Pegaworld is that there is now a focus on a more out-of-the box approach, encouraging a gap analysis phase in project inception. This phase will allow the user to look at the features that come with the product, and correlate them to their requirements as much as possible, enabling users to leverage the software properly and efficiently. Pega needs to be kept as ‘in the model’ as possible, and creating extensive customisations will work against this.

To support the ‘in the model’ approach there is now an added emphasis on using Pega's strategic applications. These are extra packages of functionality for various use cases. There are many of these already developed, and Pega have reinstated their commitment to these vendor provided applications.

An experience to repeat next year

All in all, I learnt a lot from my first trip to Pegaworld. My key takeaways are:

  • Pega is moving to enhance their 'in the model' concept for the future, moving into even more areas in order to support a holistic approach to their customers' needs.

  • Connected devices can help change the way we do business – Phillips Healthcare are already helping pave the revolution in patient care to drive the best possible outcomes.

  • Pega are still looking for ways to evolve – using real-time predictive analytics to power Pega Marketing to create seamlessly interactive experiences for all.

I would definitely recommend attending the 2017 Pegaworld, especially with their Super Early Bird passes being on sale now.

See you next time!

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