This past week more than 5,000 people made their way to Las Vegas to learn that the biggest bet they need to place has nothing to do with casino games. It’s a bet on technology; specifically, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and robots. It’s a bet that will help business with their processes, workflows and the customer experience (CX). PegaWorld is the annual Pegasystems user conference where people representing companies from all over the world learn about the latest and greatest updates to the Pega applications that are helping to run their businesses, and I was honored to be invited to not just attend, but speak at the event.
By the way, the robots I mentioned aren’t the machines you might see on a manufacturing assembly line or something that looks like R2D2 from Star Wars that wheels around and takes care of simple physical tasks. These robots, otherwise known as robotic process automation (RPA), are the software applications that automatically take care of routine tasks you perform on your computer. For example, if you routinely do a task on your computer that takes multiple steps across multiple applications, the robot remembers them and will do them for you, saving you time – and saving time means saving money.
As I listened to speakers at various sessions throughout the conference, some of their comments stood out.
First up were some remarks from Alan Trefler, the founder and CEO of Pega, who started the day with an important statement: “We will dive into what is really possible.” His message emphasized that there is a difference between the hype surrounding technology like blockchain, AI and cloud and what it is truly capable of doing. In other words, not just a theory or a dream. Technology has to work and it has to help achieve a specific business goal. As we listened to some amazing case studies about how AI is solving real business problems and fueling more than just chatbots, Trefler emphasized that there is now software that writes software. It can predict and make recommendations for your business, using AI to optimize service, processes and workflows. The future is now!
Don Schuerman, Pega’s VP of Product Marketing, played host to the general sessions. He talked about the fear people have regarding technology. You can’t help but think back to the famous movie 2001: A Space Odyssey that featured the intelligent computer, HAL. Schuerman shared an Arthur C. Clark quote that perfectly summed up people’s fears and fascination about technology:
Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from MAGIC.
As mentioned, there were plenty of speakers sharing case studies that at times did seem like magic. One of my favorites came from Trish Cox, Senior Vice President of Customer Experience at Anthem, who shared one of her experiences with a Pega solution. In the customer/member support department, the average call time was reduced by 100 seconds. In the support center world, that is big, and it represents huge financial savings. Yet what Cox talked about next is what made this case study stand out. While saving money is great for Anthem, this is really about respecting its customers – especially their time. Saving money and giving their customers a better experience. That’s a win/win on steroids!
In addition to the keynote speakers, there were more than 100 breakout sessions. I obviously couldn’t make it to every one of them but did stop by Jeff Nicholson’s session on the new General Data Protection Regulation laws. In the last two weeks, how many emails did you get about GDRP compliance? It’s all about privacy and protecting personal data. If you visit a website and the company collects data, you have a choice, at least in Europe, to control that information. You can decide what personal information you give a company and you have a right to know what they do with it. Nicholson said, “Personal data is personal. The new GDRP laws in Europe give consumers a choice; to remain anonymous or not. The rest of the business world needs to be ready for this, too.” In other words, what’s happening in Europe is just the beginning of what I’ll call the “Privacy Revolution.”
Finally, let’s wrap up with a powerful comment from Trefler. When asked what he felt his role was as CEO, he said, without hesitation, “My role is about understanding what the customer needs.” It’s that understanding that drives the innovation in his company. It’s all about a focus on the customer.