PegaWorld: Alan Trefler keynote

I’m at PegaWorld in Washington DC for the next two days, back at the new and enormous Gaylord National hotel where the Gartner BPM summit was held a few weeks back. I think that the attendance here is more than at Gartner: I’ve been told that it’s 850 and Pega is claiming this as the largest BPM industry event, although not sure how many no-shows there will be with the recent economic downturn. The presentation of the conference needs a bit of a facelift: the loud rock music and flashing lights at 8:30am is so Bubble 1.0, and seems out of place these days, as well as being an unwelcome assault on the eyes and ears first thing in the morning.

Alan Trefler opened the day talking about change, picking up on the theme of “build for change” that we’ve been hearing from analysts and vendors for the past months. He started out, however, with a retrospective of Pega’s 25 years. We heard about their first offices in an older building in Cambridge, where they had to hoist their VAX 750 up an unused elevator shaft since the building no longer had a working elevator — having worked with 750’s in that same era, I immediately gained respect for these guys, since those were about the size (and elegance) of an industrial washing machine. He talked about how they’ve done a complete rewrite of the product 4 times over the years, keeping it fresh for new customers while supporting old ones; it’s a good measure of the company’s ability to do this that one of their first customers, Citi, is still with them after 25 years. I plan to spend some time listening to their customers this week to get a better idea of how well they’re really doing with that, since older vendors are often at a innovative disadvantage due to the efforts required to support their legacy.

He also highlighted their partners, which include — surprisingly — OMG: how can OMG afford to sponsor a vendor conference, but can’t afford to pay expenses for the speakers to attend their own BPM Think Tank? Or even, until some arms were twisted, not offer free Think Tank admission to the speakers?

He’s had time to tune his talk for the financial market disasters of the past few weeks, discussing how BPM is both pragmatic and strategic in new business, customer relationship management, the transaction servicing backbone, and risk, fraud and compliance. He discusses BPM as being made up of processes, rules and user intent: this last point is key, since I’m seeing a stronger focus by many vendors on the user experience of process participants. Pega’s paradigm for getting to a BPM solution is in three steps:

  1. Directly capture objectives, as opposed to the creation of lengthy user requirements documents. I completely agree with this, since having business people trying to invent a new world for themselves when they don’t even know what the technology can do, then agree to no changes without a change order, is a ludicrous practice that should be banned. Pega advocates a much more agile methodology that takes advantage of a model-driven environment. I wonder what some of their large partners think of the idea of scrapping the entire (lucrative) process of business requirements gathering.
  2. Automate the programming, including both the process logic and the user intent, by dynamically binding processes, logic and the user experience. In other words, have the process and logic models generate the user experience, yet still have that user experience be customized for the customer’s environment.
  3. Automate the work, which seems like a rather obvious part of the BPM equation.

He moved on to Pega’s commitment to continuous improvement and innovation, and how they’re integrating both customers and their own sales/delivery team to bring new ideas back into product development. They have a very specific implementation methodology that they see as a competitive advantage by shortening the implementation cycle, and they’re working to streamline that cycle further. He touched briefly on some of their new stuff: the platform-as-a-service offering that was announced a few weeks ago, their Internet Application Composer for integrating BPM capabilities into existing websites, their Web 2.0-type Integrated Work Manager portal, the Business Intelligence Exchange for accessing their somewhat opaque data structures, and the Virtual Enterprise Repository that will be particularly important for sharing across instances when the PaaS offering is rolled out.

Trefler’s a great speaker: very relaxed, informative, engaging and just funny enough. Of course, it’s easier to be relaxed when you’re at the top of both the Gartner and Forrester BPM evaluations.

Logistics summary: there’s wifi but no power.

Disclosure: Pegasystems is paying my travel expenses for me to attend PegaWorld, but has no editorial control over what I write while I’m here.

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