8 June – Day 0
I’ve arrived in not so sunny Orlando for my 8th PegaWorld – this one is back at Rosen Shingle Creek hotel – and am beginning my first live blog of PegaWorld. The event is a “must attend” for anyone who works in the BPM space leveraging Pegasystems BPM Suite.
The venue is, in my opinion, one of the largest and best venues Pega has scheduled and they’ve been here several times before. The resort itself is enormous, however, the rooms are completely sold out and a number of attendees are staying at a nearby hotel that is holding the overflow – a fate I escaped by booking back in February. Fortunately, the exhibition halls are fairly close to the self park area which makes for a very convenient dash for cover when we have torrential rains pouring down as we do today.
9 June – Day 1
I could have picked up my registration package last night but figured on having a nice leisurely morning and went down to registration before heading out for breakfast. The morning of the first day is mostly pre-registered courses, so it doesn’t make much sense to be down this early unless you’ve registered for a course or you’re looking to reconnect with people as they come in before the Monday conference kick off. There are some pretty good sessions in the afternoon to review new capabilities that I’m planning on attending which should prove pretty informative. There’s a welcome focus in some of those sessions on the mobile device space around sharing some learned best practices with the community at large. Alan highlighted some of the risks around BYOD adoption in an interview earlier this year – hopefully that recognition is translating into an effort to tackle some of the issues he called out. (My hopes along these lines were dashed in the first two sessions – mostly because the focus of those sessions was around usability more than security – but they were certainly worth the time)
The first session – Building a Mobile /Social CRM Application – started off with some great context setting metrics around mobile trends. Neal Beliveau, a Pega veteran, presented the session. Neal has been working on the CRM and CPM areas for 6 or 7 years now with many of Pega’sclients implementing the CPM platform. The focus in this session was around incorporating mobile / social to better reach out and engage customers in many cases providing a superior self service experience. Neal also discussed the implications of leveraging mobile to improve efficiency and effectiveness of field services and agency interactions.
While the demo illustrated how quickly a process can be implemented to span channels, it’s really up to the business to identify where and how these capabilities can best be leveraged. I’m curious now – as I watch the build demo – is whether or not this ties into the old snapstart capabilities to allow the first time external or self-service user the option to install the PegaMobile app when they click through a snapstart link and are the snapstart links PegaMobile aware? Letting my mind wander a little further afield, I’m also wondering if the mobile app supports federated authentication through Facebook which seems to be the defacto authentication mechanism for many mobile apps. Would it be intrusive or welcome for a company to check someone’s wall for feedback on the services provided if they did authenticate through facebook? Neal just demonstrated , some pretty extensive research tools that monitor social media feeds for content – great features to help manage the flood of social media content! I wonder if there is any capability to tie in some lexical analysis to determine or weight the positive or negative nature of feedback and track trending information to queue up interactions in a timely and effective fashion…
The second session – Building a Great User Experience – has three presenters representing various perspectives in driving an improved experience. Shaun Wortis opened after a brief introduction from Baruch Sachs and introduced some basic concepts on building a viable and engaging UI. Pega 7, in recognition of the industry direction, is moving away from skeumorphism and implementing a simplified presentation paradigm. The developer tools are moving to the bottom of he screen – Shaun implied that this would ease debugging of a live application – so now I’m a bit curious as to whether or not this translates into enabling support engineers / developers to access a shared user session in a production environment with tool availability at the bottom of the shared screen…
Vinay Kamath followed and demonstrated a ‘ very cool’ enhancement on the implementation of the rules inspector that does not destroy the layout when it is enabled. Pega has switched the always-on on-screen indicators to instead introduce visual information on hover – great idea! He then presented changes to the property panels to eliminate the pop-up paradigm in favor of a tabbed layout with rules governing field visibility to hide those fields which are unnecessary unless certain other selections are made. My burning question (hope I get a chance to ask it) is whether or not the attributes set against the HTML property rule carry forward into a referencing section when the referencing section leaves the HTML property setting blank. Currently, the html property settings must be copied into every section referencing the property which is of significant detriment to maintainability when you want to make a global change to those settings. Moving on, Vinay quickly demonstrated the new WYSIWYG style editor – a significant improvement in providing realtime feedback on the implications of a style change. The subsequent review of the gallery changes looked a bit cleaner as well – but that could primarily be the move away from skeumorphism.
Before moving on Baruch emphasized the potential benefit – in terms of focusing user feedback during reviews – of establishing style standards up front. While I couldn’t agree more with Baruch, I see a longer term benefit of managing application maintainability by reducing the risks of developers introducing inline styles. And now Vinay is reviewing new techniques to remove inline styles – nice presentation flow! It would be a little more effective to discuss the positive impact on maintainability and agility that can be achieved by eliminating the inline styling up front before jumping into the feature…
Pega has now implemented Mixins in the styling – are CSS rules now subject to some form of modified stream processing after being static for over 10 years? It now seems as though the CSS rules may not be text based but may rather be generated in a fashion similar to the Java generation as Vinay has spoken to ‘generation’ of the CSS. I wonder how all of this impacts upgrades from pre-7 applications with extensive styling modifications… do they need to port the styles to a new rule structure? ( I caught up with Shaun after the session and it appears as though inclusion of the old CSS body will be supported in the new rule as a quick way to get applications moved over until such time as the CSS can be refactored into the new rule structure)
I’m seeing a lot of value in the new preview mechanism on styles which tracks dependencies on rules referencing the various style elements and allowing independent preview of the effects of a change. From the perspective of team structure, these features would support introduction of usability experts into the teams without the overhead of extensive Pega training to ramp them up.
A new layout based on div elements has been introduced, which allows for a greater degree of flexibility in fitting the UI into various form factors. This approach makes styling and layout definition much simpler – and Baruch is now highlighting the increased agility this enables when wholesale layout changes are required by the business. This is an essential new feature set – thinking about the upgrade path, it seems as though the out of the box layouts could migrate pretty easily to dynamic layouts if Pega defines the mapping as part of an upgrade toolset. I wonder if the old layouts will still be available when 7 ships and how the existing custom layouts in application implemented on 5 & 6 will behave?
Interestingly, Shaun has highlighted that yUI (?), a foundational toolset, will remain in PRPC but will be deprecated until such time as it can be cleanly removed. This release clearly deserves the major release increment from 6 to 7 – and as with all major releases deserves a great deal of care in the decision on when (not if) to perform the upgrade for those on version 6. Without the changes outlined, mobile device support is likely to become far more challenging as new devices and form factors are introduced – it seems possible that Pega may eventually reach a point of convergence where the new layout capabilities will provide sufficient support to address presentation on mobile with one section implementation.
The day closed out with a networking / social event hosted by Accenture – a fantastic way of catching up with friends I’ve made over the last ten years of working with Pega.
10 June – Day 2
Breakfast as usual was excellent – however the dimming lights as the keynote approached made me wonder what my next bite might contain.
I was a little surprised my Pegaworld app could not log in this morning – so now I’m wondering if this could be an outage or maybe some interaction with the Pega Mobile app I downloaded after yesterday’s sessions. Of course, it appears to be neither and is instead a game of wireless ping pong between the hotel and the conference wireless gone awry…
Alan maintained his typical sense of humor as he opened the keynote introducing several partner ‘upgrade factories’ following up with several statements around Pega’s evolving focus on managing the torrent of social media content. Of course, it wouldn’t be PegaWorld if Alan didn’t poke fun at non-model driven technologies and he didn’t disappoint.
DCO, the situational layer cake and the 6Rs in review – a consistent message over the years – enhanced now with capabilities to support reuse across the user experience more effective with usability changes being introduced in v7. There is a big focus on this during this year’s event – but not surprisingly so considering the declining PC sales and growing tablet and other handheld sales we are seeing today.
The first keynote from Lloyd’s outlined a fairly ambitious set of initiatives – the resulting impact of all being fairly significant with levels of effort being reduced by over 50% on each initiative. I was particularly interested to see a differentiating point regarding processes that are undertaken specifically to reduce customer complaints – a tacit acknowledgement of the growing influence of social media by the boardroom. And of course this tied back in to tracking progress through changes in the net promoter scores, which have been discussed in previous keynotes at past Pegaworld events.
After the break, Eric Martinez began his keynote with an introduction to AIG – focusing first on the challenges of beginning a successful turnaround under adversarial conditions and going on to outline the breadth and scale of AIG’s operations. The turnaround required a massive consolidation and rationalization effort but needed to keep customer experience front and center, this was more than a consolidation – it was a rationalization of processes spanning disparate systems that also represented an opportunity to improve customer experience. “We were big – 60,000 employees big – but we lacked scale”… so AIG set about establishing a global functional model to achieve scale but still hoped to maintain local / cultural alignment. AIG built out the One Claim platform to span their global operations with a vision to enable effective governance of country specific rules at the country level ldveraging the ‘ situational layer cake’ which is more or less unique to PRPC. They also began initiatives to break down silos to enable more effective leverage of predictive analytics through improved transparency regarding customer data within AIG with the objective of better anticipating customer needs across lines of business.
Kerim followed Eric with his keynote on new capabilities in the upcoming version 7 of PRPC. Beginning with objective capture, they enhanced current capabilities to introduce stage based case management. In this process, business stakeholders can identify various stages within a process and then go on to identify the related activities, their sequence, their ability to run in parallel withinthe context of each stage. He moved on to demonstrate the new responsive UI capabilities and the improved interactive mechanisms to dynamically review and adjust the layout interactively with live data – and these adjustments can be applied to ranges of screen sizes – even google glass. And now data management – new capabilities have been introduced to decouple the data access requests to remotesystems from the point of use with improved control of the longevity of an automatically defined and referenced cache of the data. I’m not sure if this is an automation of the current declarative page capabilities or if it’s some new feature, but the capabilities Kerim describes map to some best practices around usage of declarative pages.
While skipping the next round of sessions in this marathon event I managed to catch up with a long time Pega client with some extensive call center operations – there’s a lot of excitement around adopting the newer technology. I started thinking about managing the social media exposure from bad call center interactions and threw out the idea of leveraging WebRTC as it becomes available to selectively route calls for video interactions. Since social media is trending towards making people far less considerate of their personal interactions, perhaps brokering a more intimate connection face to face will make scathing commentary in online social media less prevalent… we can be reactive in addressing these issues or we can be more proactive in creating an environment where more positive feedback is likely based on a rules driven determination through next best action determining whether or not a video call is possible, recommended or required.
The Partner pavillion was so difficult to leave that I missed my next session, but I’m glad I had the opportunity to catch up with people over the time spent there. I did manage to attend the Agile Project Management with SCRUM session. Two of our clients are running projects through Agile using JIRA as a tool to manage the process today and it would be interesting to see the capabilities Pega has to offer within the PMF in the latest iteration. Benoit began his presentation of a Agile case study around USG People after an introduction by Mike Pyle and Adam Kenney who also provided some background on Pega’s own internal SCRUM adoption and cultural shift. One of the benefits of leveraging PMF over Jira is the introduction of automatic screen captures as user feedback is captured interactively during the reviews. The stories also can associate to business rules to define a dependency network regarding which stories have interdependencies with other stories – this could improve efficiencies around development if considered while scheduling the backlog. While I won’t detail the survey results, the overall degree of satisfaction and attribution of impact PMF had on project success by USG was very high with 4 & 5 stars out of 5 possible stars. PMF also introduces an estimation capability at a more detailed level than DCO that incorporates historical team performance and vacation scheduling.
In closing for the day, on the bus on the way to the Universal event, the discussion with the guy next to me is about why we focus on reacting to bad social media posts – why not use predictive analytics to determine the next best action is a more personal interaction when viral risk is quantifiably high?
11 June – Day 3
The day begins at 8 with Cisco’s presentation on their BPM initiative, or rather with some pretty impressive metrics – network traffic is expected to exceed 1.4 zettabytes annually by 2017, while all network traffic in the last 25 years is roughly equivalent to this amount. This increase in demand for network capacity translates into some pretty significant increase in demand for Cisco devices and services, so one of their two major initiatives is focused on rules based process driven optimizations of their global supply chain. This type of multinational / multi-regional rollout with regulatory and cultural differentiation across regions required a number of capabilities unique to PRPC that can enable stakeholders in each region to maange and control their own rules and experience as and when they need to institute those changes. This allows Cisco to implement rules based optimizations against operations on a global basis which can be leverage by all regions on the same process backbone. One such optimization inolves validation of deal structure and discounting through business rules to ‘shrink’ the sales process and eliminate time spent chasing approvals on discounting specific to each deal.
The next presentation was from Bank of America home lending regarding recovery of the mortgage business. Bank of America is one of the top 4 mortgage servicing companies in the world with a presence in over 40 countries. Home loans go through 4 stages, origination, servicing, loss mitigation, and foreclosure – but those last two stages hopefully do not apply in most cases. At the outset, Bank of America was still trying to integrate Merrill Lynch and Countrywide with efforts pending to absorb and integrate processes and systems from these two acquisitions. Using PRPC, Bank of America was able to automate the assignment of work, perform rules based validation to QC data in support of assigning to the correct party for resolution, and institute a more agile rollout by allowing for independent changes to be implemented without wholesale system rollouts. This allows for iincremental improvements across the entire process in a far more adaptive and agile manner… an customer feedback indicates the loan modification processes are improving significantly. Interestingly, they split their center of excellence into two centers: one for architecture and reuse and another for business processes. I’m sure there’s some lessons learned on how those centers integrate and work together to enable process abstraction and align the same with process implementation on the platform.
This session was followed immediately by a customer experience panel where the panel members were drawn from 4 different organizations and also include Dr. Rob Walker of Pegasystems who is responsible for the analytics behind features like next best action. The key take aways there were primarily that customer experience crosses all channels and pervades every touch point between an organization and its’ clients. Another hot topic was the impact more stringent expectations on service levels from millenials was having in determining the responsiveness required in the solutions we build today. Alan followed up this session with his closing key note.
My first session after the panel on customer experience and the closing keynote was the Philips Lifeline efforts to set up seamless disaster recovery using PRPC. The building alarm system went off during the presentation – which was fairly confusing because it tied in so well with the presentation as the discussion had turned to alarms and alarm response. After evacuating the building and returning to the session, we found there are roughly 30,000 cases created every day at Philips Life Line. The business has no tolerance for downtime by its’ very nature and requires continuous availability. They began their efforts by leveraging the high availability capabilities of their existing infrastructure – but they found that PRPC shares a single DB and the session management and node affinity requirements did not match their initial expectations for systems within their DR architecture.
Philips set up their DR site in an active-active configuration with Oracle Golden Gate replication between the Primary and DR instances. Implementing a solution required some very deep interactions with the lower level rule structure around session management and persistence. Some tables in the Pega DB schema needed to be replicated while others would need to be excluded. A key part of this strategy was to ensure PC_UNIQUE_ID was not replicated and tbat unique values were generated on primary and DR sites. One of the key success factors was the estanlishment of a very close partnership with both Pega and the services partner to quickly work through the challenges in implementing capqbilties that have never before been addressed on the PRPC platform. The development of an early prototype was also crucial to achieving success along with the implementation of testing in an environment that mirrors production as closely as possible. They implement rule upgrades on the applications by redirecting users to the DR site and patchinng the vacated primary site, which is possible because of the suppression of replication on the rules tables between sites.
The product innovation hotseat is a great opportunity to ask the product management and engineering teams about the future roadmap for PRPC. This year many of the questions centered around deployment process, and agent management, with some questions on security and the UI enhancements. Pega had their most experienced and knowledgeable people front and center to field the questions and the general tone of the conversation is fairly open and light. If a feature is not going into the product – as was the case with a request for a inline tag editing feature for HTML rules – they stated in no uncertain terms it would not go in. For the most part, requests were acknowledged, a straw vote was taken over the attendees and features were queued into the backlog. Of particular interest for me was the possible enhancement to the portal rules to allow for specification over multiple screens – but sadly that request may have been misunderstood due to my use of the technical word ‘screens’ which was intended as a mechanism to manage presentation under a monitor or other generic display device. The new capabilities for social networking and live online work collaboration would indicate better multitasking support is coming along at some point, including a session that spans multiple monitors and other connected devices in the same user session. Pega collapsed the multi-window interface in version 4 to make interactions easier to manage and track – this yields much better control but can make it difficult to monitor and perform concurrently across two monitors. I’d like to see the portal records transformed into a repeating group of screens that could either map to alternate devices or merge / append to the primary if the other screens are not present. A user could then log in and have the work space open on one monitor, the social space open on another monitor, and the collaborate space open and minimized on the second monitor to task switch for collaboration on or review against another users work on demand while still working their own tasks. Fortunately, the hot seat is a convenience to make the request and garner support for new features quickly but it is not the only channel.
I missed the morning sessions on day 4, but all in all, the event has been well worth attending and I’m looking forward to returning again next year when Pegaworld is held in Washington, DC!