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ITechnology Interview with Don Schuerman, CTO and Vice President of Product Marketing at Pegasystems

ITechnology Interview with Don Schuerman, CTO at Pegasystems

“Low-Code Tools Are Putting the Power of AI and Automation in the Hands of People on the Front Lines of Enabling Great Customer Experiences That Will Be Key to Innovation and Digital Transformation

1. Please tell us about your current role and how it has evolved through the pandemic months?

As Pega’s CTO, I’m acutely focused on client engagement and delivering solutions that address their needs, which previously meant participation in many in-person meetings and events. Over the past year, I’ve spent large portions of time on camera – virtually communicating with clients and team members, or recording videos for virtual events. The shift from in-person meetings to video conferencing has been a dramatic shift in my day to day, and I’ve had to look for new ways to engage, communicate, and react to new client needs. 

This past year has unearthed an entirely new set of client needs and requests. My team and I have had to handle an increasing amount of requests, which we’ve addressed while also maintaining expected levels of service and response times. For many clients, my team and I have had to quickly respond to their desire for more automation solutions – per a recent Pega survey, well over half of business leaders were looking to double down on automation efforts and investments due to the pandemic, both from a cost-savings perspective and to increase their readiness to offer self-service processes for their own customers. That shift has been a unique challenge that we don’t expect to go away anytime soon.

2. As a CTO, what are the major challenges you have faced in the tech industry? How do you think your stint in Pega solve these challenges in Automation marketplace?

Pega faces the standard challenges of any growing technology company, especially one that has pivoted into an as-a-service business over the last 10 or so years. What’s more interesting to look at is how the technology industry has responded to the enterprise-level need for technology, which is causing a surge in demand for a particular skillset, but a shortage of people with those skills. Some of the work Pega has been focused on with low code has been centered around overcoming this challenge by making data-driven AI decisions and process automation available to a broader range of both business and IT users. We believe technology can be most impactful when it’s accessible to both business and technology experts. 

With our own clients, we’re seeing a continued desire for increased agility, the ability to operate with an as-a-service approach, and the implementation of platforms that enable digital transformation. Yet many of these clients must manage these goals with the challenges that come with operating large, complex businesses, such functioning around traditional ways of working and managing change while still relying on legacy platforms. At Pega, we’re focused on helping clients crush complexity by providing an extra layer of support to break through siloes and streamline experiences for employees on the back end for the ultimate benefit of customers on the front end. 

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3. Tell us more about Pega AI and the industries it serves?

Pega’s AI capabilities are all centered around helping our clients better understand their customers and their own needs to create better relationships. AI is built into almost every one of our capabilities – from Pega Customer Decision Hub, an AI-powered decisioning engine that helps clients use insights to predict customer needs and personalize interactions, to Pega Customer Service, which uses AI to help customer service agents make better decisions and enable proactive service for their customers. We’re also helping customers eliminate potential hidden biases within their AI with a capability called Ethical Bias Check, which helps businesses practice responsible AI with every customer interaction. It detects unwanted discrimination by using predictive analytics to simulate the likely outcomes of a given strategy so teams can pinpoint offending algorithms and adjust strategies to help ensure a fair and more balanced outcome for all customers. Our AI capabilities are built into our platform and the solutions our clients rely on to transform customer experiences and automate processes across industries such as financial services, insurance, manufacturing, government, healthcare, communications and media, and more. 

4. How do emerging technologies like AI, Cloud and RPA shape the future of the manufacturing industry? What unique applications have you delivered to the industry through Pega?

The manufacturing industry faces unique challenges of its own when it comes to unlocking IoT data to create value for manufacturers and their customers. IoT isn’t valuable on its own – data must be collected, analyzed, and applied – in real-time – to enable efficiency and reliability through predictive maintenance and forecasting. Emerging technologies like AI, cloud, and RPA are being applied across the manufacturing industry to harness the power of IoT data to automate siloed processes, connect distributed teams and equipment, and to drive greater efficiency and reliability by enabling teams to better predict maintenance issues and solve them before they negatively impact a business or its customers. We work with a number of the world’s top manufacturing companies to turn data into insights and transform processes and customer service. Our solutions provide manufacturers with AI-powered decisions that turn IoT data into real insights, and dynamic case management capabilities that enable predictive maintenance strategies for machines and equipment so manufacturers can improve cost savings, efficiency, and customer satisfaction. 

5. How Pega helps customers scale their RPA efforts? Could you share some use case studies here with us?

RPA came onto the scene and was quickly adopted as part of enterprise’s greater digital transformation strategies. As companies deployed, scaled, and maintained their bots, they realized that RPA wasn’t the end-all, be-all to digital transformation. Instead, there needs to be a cohesive approach within the enterprise technology stack, one that blends RPA with AI, low code, and other advanced automation technologies to deliver intelligent automation across the enterprise. At Pega, we’re focused on helping our clients do just that by ushering in the hyperautomation era – or what we’ve called Intelligent Automation. Pega offers automation solutions that go beyond bots to create solutions that help our clients crush complexity within the enterprise. For example, we help clients weave together separate systems and processes through our business architecture called Pega Process Fabric. In all areas, we work with our clients to build solutions using a simplified low-code approach that helps our clients scale transformation and change across their business. 

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6. Tell us more about Pega Process AI and how it optimizes customer experience? 

Process automation holds so much potential in helping to increase efficiency for businesses of all sizes, but some automation solutions are too slow or rigid to meet the dynamic needs of today’s enterprises. Pega Process AI boosts the value of process automation by applying real-time AI, event and stream processes, machine learning, decisioning, and natural language processing to business processes.

For example, an insurance company can use Process AI to triage a surge of incoming claim requests after a major storm by automatically approving claims or routing more complex incidents to the next available agent; or a car manufacturer can analyze IoT-connected device signals and, if Pega Process AI predicts trouble on the horizon, it helps users proactively open a service ticket and notify a dealer as well as the customer to the potential issue. 

By optimizing back-end processes, Process AI enables companies to deliver more effective service at scale. It helps organizations make the right decisions that result in optimal customer outcomes, even during high-volume service times. By using AI and machine learning to monitor case outcomes, it helps businesses uncover new ways to improve processes, and provides a low-code machine learning interface that simplifies how AI models are developed and managed. This enables better team collaboration so businesses can deliver the best possible customer and employee experiences. 

7. How should IT engineers gear up for the new Cloud / AI / RPA economy? What is your advice to young IT professionals? 

The answer to both of these questions is really the same. IT leaders of tomorrow will not be defined by having the broadest set of technology skills. Technology itself moves incredibly fast; the programming language you might have learned in college will be obsolete by the time you get your first job or may not even be used by the company you end up working for. While it’s essential to be curious and continue learning the latest tech throughout your career, the value of the technology skills are less important than your ability to connect technology to business value. 

Successful IT engineers and leaders will be those who can sit with one foot firmly planted in the technology space and the other firmly planted in business strategy. IT professionals who can connect those two functions and facilitate discussions around using technology to drive business objectives and value will have the most impact on their teams, the business, and ultimately customers.

My advice to young professionals is to build the habit of continuously learning about new technologies and new trends, and build the skills to map that technology into business value. Take opportunities to brush up on your soft skills and put them into practice. The ability to present, write, create an argument, and facilitate a discussion will be invaluable. Personally, I’ve spent over 20 years doing improv comedy, and while many may not associate improv with business or technology, it’s allowed me hone those soft skills throughout my career. Lastly, IT professionals should get as close as they can to end users to better understand how the technology they’re building is actually solving user problems – this will be invaluable in helping develop the skills needed to map technology back to business and customer value. 

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8. Your predictions on the future of AI-based RPA technology and how it helps industrial innovations in pandemic era.

I think we’re increasingly going to see the convergence of automation technologies. For instance, RPA is a tactical form of automation, of which there are many other forms. But the convergence of automation, AI, and low code is taking place across industries: low-code tools are putting the power of AI and automation in the hands of people on the front lines of enabling great customer experiences that will be key to innovation and digital transformation. Companies that can take a design-thinking approach to drive cross-functional collaboration or to re-think a process or experience to get customers to the outcomes they desire easier or faster will be the most successful.

Thank you, Don! That was fun and we hope to see you back on itechnologyseries.com soon.

[To participate in our interview series, please write to us at sghosh@martechseries.com]

Don Schuerman is CTO and Vice President of Product Marketing at Pegasystems, responsible for Pega’s industry-leading platform and CRM applications. He has 20 years of experience delivering enterprise software solutions for Fortune 500 organizations, with a focus on digital transformation, mobility, analytics, business process management, cloud and CRM. Don has led enterprise software implementations and provided technology and architecture consulting to senior business and technology executives from Fortune 500 organizations, including American Express, Citibank, JP Morgan Chase, and BP. Don holds a BS in Physics and Philosophy from Boston College.

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Pega delivers innovative software that crushes business complexity. From maximizing customer lifetime value to streamlining service to boosting efficiency, we help the world’s leading brands solve problems fast and transform for tomorrow. Pega clients make better decisions and get work done with real-time AI and intelligent automation. And, since 1983, we’ve built our scalable architecture and low-code platform to stay ahead of rapid change. Our solutions save people time, so our clients’ employees and customers can get back to what matters most.

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