Gartner Day 1: Alan Trefler, Pegasystems

The lunchtime address is always a tough one: the speaker has to talk over the sound of clashing cutlery, and half of the audience has to twist around in their chairs to see the speaker and slides, but Gartner tends to keep these short and painless, and features entertaining speakers such as Alan Trefler of Pegasystems.

I was chatting with the others at my lunch table before the talk began, and the person beside me asked my views on some of the vendors. We talked about the pros and cons of product convergence, and I used business rules as an example of something that is sometimes baked right into a BPM product — as with Pega, which is based on a rules engine — but may be more versatile if available as a separate platform. I made a comment along the lines of “just wait, Trefler will tell us why it’s necessary to have rules as part of your BPM”.

Trefler’s focus was on the rhythm of business, the things that can kill that rhythm, and how to fix them:

  • Rhythm killer #1: the specification gap, where there’s a huge gap in time and understanding between the business developing requirements, IT developing specifications, then the business signing off on these specifications with the full knowledge that any changes are going to require an equally arduous change order process. The solution: directly capture objectives in the execution environment, that is, use tools that allow the business to create their own models, and have those translate directly to execution.
  • Rhythm killer #2: exporting models, which causes the models to be ripped out of the hands of the business and tossed over to IT to import into the execution environment, with no round-tripping. The solution: automate the programming, that is, use a zero-code environment that generates the executable model from that created by the business, either in a shared model environment or in a fully round-trippable environment.
  • Rhythm killer #3: no reuse of components or models. The solution: think about enterprise sharing and reuse upfront and design it into the system from the start. Trefler considers the secret of this to be using a declarative rules-based paradigm, of course, proving my earlier comment in his final sentence.

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