I was in Las Vegas recently for Pegaworld iNspire 2023, Pega’s annual customer event. It’s the first time it’s been held in person for four years, and it was great to connect again with a lot of familiar faces, meet some new ones and catch up on all things Pega.
I’ve always liked Pega as a company. I like their people, what they stand for, their vision for customer engagement and service, their technology and how they always seem to be ahead of the curve when it comes to emerging customer and technology issues like next-best-action strategies, how to make the customer experience more empathetic and the responsible deployment of AI.
Here’s four things that stood out for me at the event:
1. Autonomous Enterprise
In his opening keynote, Alan Trefler, Pega’s Founder and CEO, introduced the concept of the autonomous enterprise, a business which applies AI and automation to decisioning, operations, and servicing across the organization to help it become more self-optimizing in order to drive maximum efficiency, effectiveness and better customer outcomes.
This announcement felt like a realisation of something that Pega has been alluding to and working towards for some time. Rob Walker, Pega’s GM 1:1 Customer Engagement, described a similar vision to me back in 2016, on my podcast, when he said, “they (Pega) will ultimately be able to use their data, analytics, AI and machine learning capabilities that spring from their ‘always on brain’ (the Customer Decision Hub) to help companies better understand all of the different actions, interactions and responses that occur between each customer and themselves such that they will be able to optimise their operations and customer experience in real time. This will mean that, eventually, their technology will be able to ‘run’ a small area of the company.”
Moreover, when asked if the emergence of generative AI had changed their vision or had just accelerated it, the response was unanimous: It had only accelerated it.
2. Generative AI Developments
Like many other technology firms, the team at Pega have been hard at work over the last few months building out an initial set of 20 new generative AI-powered applications, what they call ‘boosters’, that will be applied across the Pega Infinity™ platform.
These will cover things like helping marketers produce more engaging marketing messaging by providing text and image suggestions, understanding how AI decisions are made (particularly useful for those brands operating in regulated industries), helping kick-start and speed up the low-code application development process, automatic call or interaction summaries for both salespeople and customer agents, faster access to knowledge and easier access to operational insights.
While many other tech companies in the customer experience and engagerment space are developing their capabilities along similar lines, it was some of the little things amongst their feature sets and demos that stood out for me.
For example, the integration of Cialdini’s principles of persuasion that marketers can engage to help drive suggestions about how they can change their text and messaging to improve impact and engagement felt considered, innovative and transparent.
Moreover, an innovative head-to-head live demo where setting up a new loan application workflow in Turkish was completed in less time than it took to make a Western omelette showcased how easy it is to leverage their new Gen AI capabilities in real-time.
3. Process Mining
Enabled by Pega’s acquisition of Everflow last year, another big announcement was the launch of Process Mining. This will use AI and dedicated algorithms to model and analyse existing processes based on event log data. Doing so will allow it to pinpoint bottlenecks and other pain points that impact either customers or employees and then suggest and prioritize more efficient ways for staff to refine their processes.
As brands automate more and more of the simpler tasks that customers and employees face, I think the release of Process Mining is really interesting as it will allow brands to take aim at the “messy middle” of customer service.
It’s important to remember that a company’s ability to deliver a great customer experience does not just exist at the externally facing edges of an organization. It also lies in its heart and deepest recesses and, in particular, its ability to connect and enable all of the teams, systems and resources that it will take to deliver that stand-out experience. Process Mining will help identify all of the blockers and snags that prevent that, and that is good news.
4. The Underlying Hum
Overall, I continue to be impressed by Pega, their people, technology and vision and what Pegaworld showed is that the possibilities with their platform are endless.
However, the underlying ‘hum’ coming out of the conference is that it’s not the technology that is slowing brands down.
Technology offers more than enough possibilities, and its implementation is pretty much known and well-understood.
The biggest blocker seems to be the business transformation piece: Understanding the problem, getting clear on the vision, articulating the why, achieving alignment, taking people with you, developing the business case and doing the work of making the changes required to drive the improved outcomes that organizations desire.
It doesn’t have to be fancy. It just needs to be pragmatic and focused on delivering results and value.
So, brands have the tools. Now, they need to pay attention to the hum.