Automation is on the to-do list of many CIOs, accelerated in part to bridge gaps left by pandemic-related layoffs and work-from-home mandates. But when business processes span applications from multiple vendors — or systems belonging to suppliers or customers — automation initiatives can quickly get complex.
With the launch of Pega Process Fabric, process automation vendor Pegasystems seeks to enable enterprises to build and automate processes across existing applications using low-code development methods.
What Pegasystems is calling a “platform for platforms” could appeal to companies with large, customer-facing processes, especially in finance and insurance, that want end-to-end automation without having to rip out the tools they have in place, said Rob Koplowitz, a vice president and principal analyst at Forrester specializing in application development and delivery.
“A lot of those were hit hard by COVID-19; manual processing didn’t work well when everybody went remote,” Koplowitz said. “What’s happening now is one forcing function to drive more automation.”
Weaving together disparate apps
At the PegaWorld iNspire online customer conference on Tuesday, Pegasystems CEO and founder Alan Trefler laid out his vision for Process Fabric as a means “for connecting work and customers across your enterprise and beyond.”
“Organizations are realizing that to address this increasingly volatile and interconnected world, they need a new generation of platforms” that will allow them to “take a fundamentally different approach to their business architecture,” Trefler said. That approach is important “because this is way beyond technology, it’s about the way you define and operationalize your business logic,” he said.
“These digital platforms won’t be the warmed-over ticketing systems now relabeled as workflow, nor will they be rebranded CRM tools,” Trefler said in a dig at rivals, including the much larger ServiceNow, which pitches itself as a “platform of platforms” and is best known for its IT service management origins.
With Pega Process Fabric, the company wants to make it easier to connect to applications running on its own platform with those of other vendors, and to make the process independent of the user interface through which the applications are accessed.
The first release of Process Fabric will employ data virtualization and a set of dynamic APIs that can respond to changes in target applications to help enterprises build workflows across disparate services.
Enterprises can start building apps with Process Fabric today, Trefler said.
Subsequent updates will add additional features, including, in the third quarter, a way for users to gather tasks from different systems in a single list.
“Interwoven Worklist, which will be available in our 8.5 release, allows us to pull together work, some of which may be in Pega, some of which may be in other systems like Salesforce or ServiceNow,” said Pega CTO Don Schuerman ahead of the launch. “We are going to be publishing connectors that allow these other systems to participate in Process Fabric, allows an employee to see all of that work they are doing for a particular order or customer, all in one place, and leverage AI and business rules to dynamically prioritize that work regardless of where it lives, so that an employee doesn’t have to manage their work in dozens of different places.”
Complementary analytics tools due for release around the same time will provide managers with a view of work in progress and completed across the systems linked to Process Fabric.
Early next year, Pega plans to reduce the need for screen switching between applications, enabling tasks on various platforms to be performed through a single interface, something it calls Interwoven Experiences.
Forrester’s Koplowitz said he was excited about Process Fabric — but surprised that Trefler devoted so much of his keynote to it: “It’s hard to get your arms around. It’s an arcane topic.”
Nevertheless, as businesses take stock of weaknesses revealed by the pandemic, Koplowitz expects interest in such complex tools to grow. “I think we will have more interest in managing processes, more recognition that processes aren’t contained within a single application platform.”
While the goal of delivering Interwoven Experiences by next year is ambitious, “Pega has an outstanding track record on delivery,” Koplowitz said.
The company makes “sophisticated software, for sophisticated needs,” he said, but Trefler’s message was one of simplicity. “Low code seemed to be the big message he wanted to land here: How quickly and easily you can build new functionality.”