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Pega Infinity upgrades include marketing AI tools, blockchain support

Pega Infinity adds new digital transformation tools for low-code app development, bot libraries and AI that can optimize apps and assist with marketing campaigns.

LAS VEGAS -- Pega 7 is gone. The service was rebranded Pega Infinity, as Pegasystems added blockchain, more bots, self-optimizing apps and marketing AI components to its suite of process automation and CRM platforms -- and did away with version numbers.

Pega Infinity, announced this morning at the PegaWorld 2018 user conference, adds a number of new tools, including marketing AI. Together, the tools create a suite that automates processes between back-end data systems and customer-facing front ends.

Especially interesting is sophisticated DevOps support for big customers on the scale of PayPal, as well as low-code tools with ready-made testing processes for Pega Infinity users who might not have armies of developers at their disposal to hammer apps until they're perfect.

"This Infinity makes sense as a next step," PJ Jakovljevic, principal analyst at Technology Evaluation Centers in Longueuil, Quebec, wrote in an email. Setting itself up as an AI-infused platform interfacing back-office applications and sales, service and marketing tools better positions Pegasystems against Salesforce's Einstein automation tools and other competitors, he said.

Just don't ask Pega if it plans to name its AI after a smart-sounding historical figure, as did SAP (Leonardo), Salesforce (Einstein), OpenText (Magellan) and IBM (Watson). "We want to focus the AI on what it does," said Don Schuerman, CTO at Pegasystems, based in Cambridge, Mass. "I think there's still a lot of confusion in the industry, because AI isn't a technology -- it's a collection of technologies."

One such tool is AI optical character recognition for email attachments, which can catalog the content of static PDFs -- e.g., document images -- and other attachments that aren't searchable on their own and make their contents discoverable.

New marketing AI

Among the flashier tools in the raft of new Pega platform capabilities is what the company called "self-optimizing marketing campaigns." Given parameters by human marketers -- ensuring compliance with privacy and security rules -- this particular marketing AI tool promises to improve conversion rates by personalizing customer engagement to the extent those parameters allow.

Of course, Pega's marketing AI tool set must compete against some of the other 5,000-plus marketing automation tools purporting to do the same or similar things. Or, does it?

Brent Leary, co-founder and partner of CRM Essentials LLC, and Paul Greenberg, managing principal of the 56 Group LLC, discussed the idea with SearchCRM this morning. What Pega is doing with AI in the marketing realm might not be as theatrical as Salesforce or as eye-catching as Adobe -- promising branding riches and rubbing elbows with celebrities. Instead, Pega providing well-built tools to operationalize existing marketing and CRM data is just as important to Pega customers -- if not more.

It's really smart of them to be saying, 'Let's go for the meat and potatoes.' ... I think it works for them.
Brent Learyco-founder and partner of CRM Essentials LLC

"They're not going to compete with Salesforce, but they must compete in the world Salesforce created," Greenberg said. "Salesforce is brilliant with theater and culture ... that's not Pega's forte."

"They can't compete, message-wise, with Salesforce and Adobe for that high-end excitement," Leary added. "It's really smart of them to be saying, 'Let's go for the meat and potatoes.' ... I think it works for them."

Pega Infinity will also support testing processes for the DevOps teams designing apps that automate processes at their companies. New AI tools can "self-optimize" apps and help identify weak spots or bottlenecks, too, Schuerman said.

What do the bots do? Popular examples from customers include things like autofilling forms and logging call center agents into the up-to-20 systems they need at the beginning of a shift. In general, he said, the most popular bot use case among Pega customers involves little desktop apps that can retrieve data from back-office legacy apps that don't have API connectors. Pega Infinity will come with a library of ready-made bots that covers the most popular applications, to which the company will add over time.

Ethereum blockchain support for finance

When most people think blockchain, cryptocurrencies like bitcoin and Litecoin come to mind. But in reality, blockchain technology can support a host of applications, such as smart contracts. The first feature that Pega banking customers requested -- and received -- in Pega Infinity is validating customer identities on a private blockchain.

Customer onboarding for financial institutions can be a thorny, time-consuming process that involves compliance with numerous regulations. Having a customer prove his or her identity using previously existing data on a secure blockchain will be something akin to crowdsourcing this laborious process, a method banks can use to share validated information with each other, in a trusted format, faster and at lower costs -- without adding risk or subtracting from due-diligence compliance.

Ethereum blockchain, Schuerman said, was a good fit, because the banking industry is already familiar with that particular platform.

"[Supporting] blockchain makes sense for financial services, where trust and security are very important and can overcome any price and complexity hurdles of blockchain," Jakovljevic wrote. "Pega is not reinventing the wheel here, rather using the proven, open-source Ethereum. SAP, IBM, and other vendors that Pega openly dislikes use HyperLedger, thus my guess why Pega went for Ethereum."

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