New digital technology often garners a hype which obscures its use case, and ultimately fails to generate customer outcomes, according to Pegasystems CEO Alan Trefler. He was speaking on stage at his company’s annual Pegaworld conference in Las Vegas, where he also returned to a familiar bugbear of his – tech companies overselling to virtues of technology or trapping customers in technology silos once the excitement has rolled on.
Trefler told delegates digital transformation projects are failing because organisations aren’t connecting their processes to customer engagements.
“One of the big issues in our industry is that it needs to get real. It needs to understand there’s a difference between hype and made up concepts, or, maybe finding ways to use those concepts well or just making stuff up,” Trefler said.
The overhyping of digital technology is akin to the “fake news” problem, Trefler said, using the hype around blockchain as an example.
“Sometimes all you need to do is mutter a word [blockchain] and the entire stock market, the industry, everybody goes bananas,” Trefler joked. “But that doesn’t mean there can’t be elements in this that are important.”
Trefler argues there are effective use cases for technologies like blockchain and Pega does utilise it when appropriate. They also incorporate AI and machine learning, but the key is the technology is connected to customer use cases.
The pace of change means cutting edge technology quickly becomes legacy technology and focusing on, or locking into, certain technology can be a trap that creates digital silos and “isolated logic”, according to Trefler.
“This approach, we find, leads to well-intentioned people going forward with pursuits that are actually very often well-intentioned mistakes.”
Focus on outcomes
Digital transformation is really about connecting customer engagement with “operational excellence”, according to Trefler.
Trefler’s says this is one of the reasons for Pegasystems’ approach to their software – model driven and “no code”. According to the company, the Pega product is flexible and scalable and allows customers to utilise existing applications for quick wins and also create their own apps for specialised cases.
The system is a “future-proof design”, according to Trefler.
“As technologies change, we can just change what we generate, change what the system outputs. And what that means is that by offering this way, as new technologies come in, as that digital chaos happens, as new concepts appear, we can incorporate those in the architecture.”
Despite some disillusionment, the benefits of digital technology and successful transformations can be great, Trefler says, but when organisations get it wrong they risk creating disconnected experiences, increasing complexity and creating new digital silos.
The digital Gap
The Pegasystems chief identified some common mistakes that were slowing or preventing digital transformations and creating a “digital gap” between digital transformation and customer outcomes. Essentially, the gap is created by departments within organisations “thinking about the problem the wrong way”.
Too often different groups or departments within an organisation create their own ways of engaging with customers, incorporating technology and logic to accompany it, Trefler said.
“In each of these channels, people end up embedding business logic. They code into those channels, independently, how they want to get to the customer.”
This approach of organising “around silos” frustrates and confuses customers, who are forced to deal with conflicting logic from the company and technology solutions that don’t fit their needs.
“If the way you engage with a client is dictated by something that may be baked in… then you are creating isolated bits of logic,” Trefler said.
“You are going to lose your customer and that’s a problem.”
Once the customer journey imperative is understood, it’s necessary to connect engagement to business processes, a challenge for most businesses according to Trefler, who says most backend systems remain organised around tasks.
“Most backend systems in organisations are organised around the tasks… They’re really not organised around clients at all.”
The solution is not to “robotise” the tasks, but to connect them to customer outcomes and support end to end journeys, Trefler said.