Throughout my experience in digital project management, I’ve worked with many software platforms over the years, from manually installing Linux operating systems onto virtual machines, to setting up Oracle databases and Tomcat and WebSphere application servers. One platform that I’ve worked with on a dozen projects is Pega. Throughout my experience, I’ve become an expert on not only how the technology behind low-code Pega operates, but also on how the company as a whole does business.

Pega 101 for the Uninitiated

The Pega platform offers an enterprise low-code intelligent automation platform for creating solutions for digital process automation. A leader in several categories, such as intelligent business process management and real-time interaction management.

Many of the world’s largest largest companies, from finance and insurance, to healthcare and telecoms, use Pega to automate their core business solutions, driving Pega’s revenue to over $1B as of FY2020.

However, I’ve also noticed that many clients have struggled in their journey to unlock the power of low-code Pega. As a development platform, Pega allows you to do virtually anything. Pega can do anything that Java can do.

So the question we need to ask ourselves is, “What should Pega be used to do?”

Unlock the Power of Low-Code Pega

Pega has unparalled power to transform businesses through digital process automation. However, many Pega programs struggle to unlock Pega’s potential, leaving program managers frustrated.

Traditional development is not a good fit. Modern agile and DevOps need to be tailored. However, large systems integration companies can take advantage of the confusion, adding resources to already bloated programs, rather than help clients build their own Pega capabilities. But can we streamline a Pega program? Cut costs and increase productivity?

Common challenges that Pega programs face include:

  • Improper alignment between business and IT
  • Lack of clarity on business requirements
  • Difficulty finding highly qualified Pega resources
  • Mounting defects and uncontrolled technical debt

Focus on Pega Strategy & Operations, Not Staffing Armies

Large systems integration companies may focus more on staffing large armies of their resources, than on helping their clients with strategic concerns.

In contrast, Pega strategy & operations focuses on figuring out which enterprise problems Pega should solve and how Pega should solve them.

The challenge of Pega strategy is that there is no universal approach. However, there are three key things a Pega program leader should address.

Thus, the aim of Pega strategy & operations is to focus on figuring out which enterprise problems Pega should solve and how Pega should solve them.

Pega strategy & operations focuses on figuring out which enterprise problems Pega should solve and how Pega should solve them.

Without a focus on Pega strategy & operations, a Pega program can quickly devolve into an IT science experiment, with IT making unrealistic promises for digital transformation and business quickly losing interest due to a lack of sustained success. Cost overruns and launch delays were common.

However, I’ve also seen Pega programs launch to great initial success and then continue to thrive. Thus, I wanted to understand what made some low-code Pega programs more successful than others.

I found three key activities.

Leaders of high-performing low-code Pega programs do three things well

Speaking with clients, the conventional wisdom was that they were all looking to staff their Pega programs with the best and brightest Pega architects. If only they could find that one architect who truly understood how to build a Pega solution, then they would be on their way to success.

My initial hunch was that smart Pega architects were a necessary but not sufficient ingredient for success. Indeed, it seemed more important to build a high-performing Pega program upon more foundational concepts.

The three keys that high-performing Pega programs tended to do well were:

  1. Build the four key pieces of a low-code Pega business architecture. Traditional Pega programs often suffer from poor architecture.
  2. Reduce Pega program costs, not talent, along low-code principles to increase productivity by 100%.
  3. Increase Pega organizational effectiveness by designing high-performing teams with a culture of coaching.
three keys to low-code pega success

Put together, these three key activities can provide the foundation for any Pega program to launch into high gear. Moreover, you don’t need an army of the best and brightest Pega architects to start. You just need a proper plan.

1. Build the four key pieces of a low-code Pega business architecture

The first step is to start converting business analysts and architects into low-code citizen developers.

Traditional business architects merely gather requirements.

Low-code business architects act as citizen developers, using Pega App Studio to design four key pieces of a low-code business architecture by themselves.

four pieces of low-code pega business architecture
Four Key Pieces of Low-Code Business Architecture

Your low-code business architecture serves as the foundation for Pega developers to follow. It is a living, breathing model, that advises Pega developers what the system needs to do, better than any requirements document ever could.

2. Reduce Pega program costs, not talent, along low-code principles to increase productivity by 100%

The second step is to restructure your program’s talent.

Traditional Pega programs have too many technical and too few functional resources. Instead, balance low-code and pro-code talent to increase productivity. Rebalancing a Pega program can produce:

  • 25% smaller average team size
  • 50% higher average sprint velocity
  • 100% increase to total productivity

For example, the cost structure for a typical Pega program may look like this, with functional and technical resources spread between high-cost locations (i.e., US and Europe) and low-cost locations (i.e., offshore development centers).

initial pega program costs
Initial Pega Program Costs

What should jump out to you is that 85% of total resource spend is on the technical side. The functional side, both from IT business analysts and from the business itself, is usually underrepresented.

We restructure an unbalanced program by adding more functional talent, and then training them to be low-code citizen developers. They could either be IT business analysts or pro-code Pega developers who have a knack for solving business problems.

restructured pega program costs
Restructured Pega Program Costs

This typically leads to a cost savings of around 25% (although your mileage may vary). Of course, don’t let this talent go. Invest those savings to start new projects, rather than losing out on institutional knowledge.

3. Increase Pega organizational effectiveness by designing high-performing teams with a culture of coaching

Finally, no program, regardless of technology, can be successful without great leaders instilling a great culture.

Great leaders bring:

  • A clarity of purpose set by knowing whose needs we’re here to meet, and
  • Effective collaboration by solving problems across traditional boundaries
great leadership

Second, traditional team structures tend to be top-down and hierarchical. They end up inhibiting communication.

High-performing Pega teams create trust by:

  • Adopting a flat team structure
  • Built on a culture of coaching
  • With end users at the center
flat team structure

For example, in this team structure, everyone is on an equal footing with an equal say, even the end users.

How do you stay one step ahead?

Pega is an enterprise platform. Its possibilities are virtually endless.

A Pega journey can help unleash a company’s full potential for customer engagement and intelligent automation. It can align the business and IT toward new levels of collaboration. However, it takes more than just a great technology and know-how to build a great program.

But there is a chicken and egg problem. Business needs to know how Pega should work to decide what Pega should do, while IT needs to know what Pega should do to build a system that works.

Pega strategy & operations focuses on bridging the gap between business and IT. Solving the chicken and egg problem requires a combination of business acumen and Pega expertise.

But the payoff is a successful digital transformation for the enterprise.


David Zhao

David Zhao is an independent digital expert. He works with digitally savvy executives to identify IT solutions to execute their business vision. David specializes in digital strategy, advanced analytics, and intelligent automation. He is a hands-on, former leader at Deloitte Digital with 16 years of experience through 30+ projects.

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