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Pega Low-code Innovation Factory: An operating model for the autonomous enterprise

Timothy Harfield,
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Today’s enterprise MUST become more autonomous

Amidst continued global uncertainty and disruption, it has never been more important for organizations to put their customers first. Putting the customer at the center is about creating effortless experiences. But it is impossible to create effortless customer experiences if the employee experience is not also friction-free.

In order to provide the hyper-personalized engagement and seamless as-a-Service experiences that customers expect, organizations need to improve their efficiency today, while also ensuring that they are agile and resilient in response to the changes that will inevitably come tomorrow.

In other words, organizations need to automate and innovate everywhere, all the time.

What this means is far more than simply automating more things. Instead, it means evolving the organization to become more autonomous as a whole. According to Sarah Burnett, an autonomous enterprise is one that “conducts its core daily business functions in a digital and automated manner with minimum human touchpoints, with AI embedded in many of its systems.” The autonomous enterprise, then, is one that innovates at scale and continuously self-optimizes to deliver effortless experiences to customers and workers alike. As a vision, this is not just laudable, but absolutely essential to surviving and thriving under conditions of constant and accelerating rates of change.

But how do we get there? Let’s take a look.

Prioritizing accessibility meant that every component, every feature and every template went through scrutiny with regards to optimizing for the broadest possible user base. This was essential particularly for some of our more complex designs. And in many cases, we leveraged our auditor to validate solutions. We found that many capabilities that were essential to Pega applications went beyond the standard examples in the accessibility guidelines, so we had to innovate and drive new methods for access.

One such innovation was the introduction of quick keyboard shortcuts for navigation through content-heavy applications, such as our Pega Customer Service™ solution. While individuals who used a screen reader assistive tool had methods for navigating to different parts of a page, we felt that sighted keyboard users lacked the same efficiency. Therefore, with Infinity ‘23 we introduced a quick key that allows any user to quickly navigate to different regions of a page using the keyboard, thus creating a much more efficient method to access important next steps in their daily work. Now any customer service representative can move quickly, from accepting an incoming call to filling out a form to reading a knowledge article to help answer a question, easily and efficiently.

When it comes to authoring, creating Constellation as a prescriptive design system gave us the opportunity to provide only accessible compliant component options. In other words, there are no bad choices with Constellation! We built accessibility best practices within the authoring process itself. In Infinity ’23, creating a table, using a field group, or designing a form will all have compliance baked into the design. Our goal was to allow the authors to focus on creating the optimal workflow with the confidence that it would meet accessibility guidelines, without relying on complex configuration. Some additional features in Constellation include:

  • Guardrails for flagging issues during authoring
  • Setting accessible configurations by default
  • Optimizing element semantics based on web standards
  • Facilitating use of alternative text for images

At Pega, we recognize that creating accessible applications is critical for organizations. We also know that not everyone is an expert in accessibility. With Constellation UX on Pega Infinity ’23, Pega has introduced a solution that optimizes for an efficient and inclusive workforce by taking the complexity out of building accessible applications, allowing organizations to focus on their business goals.

Barriers autonomy slide

The use of low-code tools is absolutely essential to achieving the kind of automation at scale that is necessary – not just to automate everything that can be automated, but also to maintain those automations and remain agile in response to changing strategy and market conditions. At a time when enterprise IT backlogs are growing, automation demands from businesses are growing and professional developers continue to be in short supply. Pega is already helping the world’s largest companies accelerate development and reduce the number of resources required to develop a process by 60%.

The rise of shadow IT and its consequences

But improving the productivity of professional developers isn’t enough. As Gartner, Forrester, and the Product Management Institute each recognize, low code is a continuum. Automation use cases vary by complexity and criticality. Even with low-code tools, IT departments still can’t do it all, and so must weigh their development capacity against the value of a given automation request. Professional developers can only take on the most critical projects. But what about automation opportunities that promise to deliver significant value to business units but don’t make the cut?

Given the ease with which departments can individually license SaaS-based low-code automation tools, or simply use existing productivity tools like Excel, Access, and PowerApps, the need to automate is clashing more and more with lack of IT capacity, proliferating what is commonly referred to as “shadow IT,” or the use of unsanctioned tools to build solutions outside of IT. This, of course, has major long-term, negative implications, including:

  • Increased spend from redundancy and lost economies of scale
  • Security risks from misconfiguration
  • Regulatory compliance issues
  • Poor communication and cooperation across departments
  • Data silos and decreased agility for responding to threats and opportunities
  • Maintenance problems from orphaned apps

As Pega CTO Don Schuerman explains, the greatest tragedy in all of this isn’t the use of unsanctioned tools; it’s actually the fact that if business people get told “no” by IT enough times, they’ll stop asking – or even looking – for automation opportunities. Rather than becoming part of the autonomous enterprise journey, they become resigned to manual and error-prone processes that hinder their organization’s path to autonomy.

What is a Low-code Innovation Factory?

Pega’s Low-code Innovation Factory is the operating model for the autonomous enterprise, allowing organizations to innovate at scale, across the entire low-code continuum, in such a way as to ensure business-IT collaboration while minimizing the risk of shadow IT.

The components of a Low-Code Innovation Factory

Unified intake. Many organizations live in fear of automation requests; their backlogs are already too long and they lack the processes needed to evaluate them. Yet, for business people, this means the door is often closed to their attempts to automate. With a unified intake process, IT orgs have a clear path to move from a culture of “no” to a culture of “”

Pega App Factory solves this problem. As a customizable front door application, Pega App Factory gives organizations a single place to receive automation requests, tools to automate governance workflows, the ability to route automation requests to the right team, and even the ability to deploy applications, thanks to an integration with Pega’s Deployment Manager.

Project assignment to the right team and skill mix. You can only say “yes” to automation requests if you have the capacity to do the work, which we’ve already established most IT organizations do not. To fix this, businesses must invest in citizen development.

Citizen development is not shadow IT. The best definition I have seen comes from the Project Management Institute: “A citizen developer is someone who can build applications without coding knowledge, but usually with the support of IT.” The reason I like this definition is that it highlights two important attributes. First, it insists on collaboration with IT. If low-code development is not done using a tool that is sanctioned and supported by IT, it is not citizen development. Second, it doesn’t restrict citizen development to low-value, idiosyncratic use cases.

In order to unify intake and say yes to automation requests, an organization needs the ability to assign requests to professional developers, citizen developers, and fusion teams (ad-hoc teams formed by a combination of professional and citizen developer resources) depending on the complexity and criticality of a given project. What this means is not just the ability to take on any and all requests from across the low-code continuum, but also that the resource-mix assigned to a given project is as cost-efficient as possible. This approach uses citizen developers or less-costly junior resources to complete what they can – in order to focus the energy of highly skilled professional resources on more complex project elements, on minimizing risk, and on enabling increased levels of citizen development through the creation of reusable modules and components.

Unified deployment. With unified intake comes an opportunity to unify deployment, and to align the requirements of CI/CD pipelines according to the attributes of a given project. For example, a pipeline for a simple application addressing a relatively low-risk, back-office use case may allow a citizen developer to push changes to production with minimal testing and oversight, where riskier projects may have more robust pipeline requirements. Just as it doesn’t make sense to assign simple automations to the most expensive resources, it doesn’t make sense to apply the same SDLC requirements to every project. Being able to identify risks as part of a unified intake and onboarding process means being able to tailor pipelines in such a way as to reduce time to delivery, increase agility in response to change, and decrease development costs because testing requirements are not the same for every application.

Reuse. The kind of scale represented by an innovation factory hinges upon an effective reuse strategy. The larger the library of reusable modules and components available to citizen developers, the more they are able to do. As professional developers and centers of excellence build more parameterized modules in Dev Studio and expose those modules for use in App Studio, the more development can take place in App Studio and without introducing risks associated with giving less-experienced developers access to powerful tools that could get those users into trouble.

Graduation. Applications can have a tendency to take on a life of their own. Some citizen-developed applications are relatively short-lived. Others continue to drive continuous value despite remaining relatively unchanged for years. And still others grow in complexity and criticality over time, to the point that it would be irresponsible for a citizen developer or squad to continue owning the application. In this situation, the application should graduate to higher levels of ownership by IT. With Pega, this is easy. Pega is the only low-code platform capable of addressing the entire range of automation use cases, from the simplest workflow to the most complex, critical, and customer-facing application. This allows an application to easily graduate to higher levels of IT ownership without the need to re-platform or significantly refactor.

Continuous optimization. Applications are not rotisserie ovens – you can’t just set them and forget them. Strategy changes. Organizations evolve. And processes need to adapt. Once an application is built, it needs to be monitored to know when it should be graduated or retired. More importantly, however, it needs to be monitored in order to identify and manage exceptions, as well as to automate those processes even more through the use of AI to automate decisioning.

As an operating model, the innovation factory approach is not unique to Pega. What IS unique is Pega’s ability to fully realize the promise of this model. Pega is the only low-code platform capable of addressing every automation use case, from the simplest to the most complex.

When citizen developers and professional developers can make use of the same platform, amazing things start to happen:

  • Collaboration. Citizen developers and professional developers can collaborate in fusion teams, which is usually very difficult when the two groups are only familiar with very different technologies.
  • Visibility. Program managers have full visibility across every application and have tools to automate governance workflows and ensure compliance with custom guardrails.
  • Graduation. Simple citizen-developed applications can graduate to higher degrees of IT ownership as they increase in complexity and criticality over time, without the need to significantly refactor or re-platform.
  • AI-assistance. Pega GenAI allows all developers to build and test applications fast, starting with a simple prompt.
  • Reuse. Reuse via Pega’s Situational Layer Cake means that organizations can securely extend the Pega Platform™ experience in order to achieve greater levels of productivity over time.

At Pega, we believe in bringing business and IT together in ways that align to the complexity and criticality of a given project. When it comes to citizen development with Pega, professional developers can create reusable components, provide governance, and serve as coaches (rather than have to have their hands on the keyboard). In fusion teams, business and IT can actively collaborate on more critical projects to manage the risk associated with increased complexity. And of course, the Pega Express™ approach prescribes the use of design thinking in professional development projects to ensure business-IT alignment.

To be an autonomous enterprise means scaling innovation and continuously self-optimizing to deliver effortless experiences for customers and workers alike. But in today’s world, traditional approaches to automation simply can’t keep up with increasing business demands. We believe the answer lies in Pega’s Low-code Innovation Factory approach, which is ideally suited to scaling automation and, as such, is THE operating model for the autonomous enterprise. It is only with Pega Infinity™ that organizations can fully realize the value of this approach – and fully realize the benefit of becoming truly autonomous.


Area prodotto: Piattaforma Argomento: Autonomous Enterprise Argomento: IA e processo decisionale Industry: Intersettoriale Sfida: Eccellenza operativa Sfida: Modernizzazione aziendale

Informazioni sull'autore

Timothy Harfield, Ph.D., is Senior Director of Product Strategy and Marketing for Intelligent Automation at Pega.

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