By Peter High, published on Forbes
Pegasystems has experienced tremendous success in recent years. The stock is up more than 100 percent in the past year, and enterprises are increasingly adopting the company’s software for customer engagement and operational excellence. It is tempting to think of the company as a start-up, perhaps run by a 20-something entrepreneur in the Bay Area. In fact, the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based company was founded by 61 year old Alan Trefler in 1983.
In many ways, Pegasystems has bucked the trend of a lot of software companies. Trefler did not accept venture capital early in the company’s tenure, and in so doing, he was able to dictate the pace of growth and mature the company in a way that has been sustainable. Likewise, though the company has been on the target of acquisition planning for several companies, including Salesforce, Trefler considers having an “exit strategy” as anathema to growing a successful company for the long term.
Trefler recently wrote a book, “Build for Change,” which highlights his philosophy and his advice for company’s, who he believes need to evolve with customers as the latter’s needs change or face extinction. He shares insights on all of the above and more in my interview.
Peter High: Alan, you have been in the software industry for multiple decades. You founded Pegasystems, in 1983. During your long tenure as a founder CEO in the software industry, you have seen many trends and competitors come and go. In fact, your own competitive set has evolved from your origins as a case management solution provider to a customer relationship management and business process management software company. Please share your perspective on how the software industry has evolved and where it is going.
Alan Trefler: Prior to starting Pegasystems, I worked for large New York banks as a systems integrator. Computers were getting faster, but we were still working in ways that seemed both grossly inefficient and not amenable to real customer success and happiness. I knew there had to be a better way to handle certain types of customer engagement and customer service issues. We came up with the idea of creating an infrastructure for managing work. Sometimes that is referred to as case management, sometimes it is referred to as business process management. I like the term digital process automation, which Forrester recently came out with. Digital process automation captures how companies become digital, connect to their customers, connect across channels, and bring together those intelligences, along with automation capabilities, into their software.
In the last several years, we have developed a CRM suite for Sales, Service, and Marketing that is built in digital process automation technology. It gives our customers an out-of-the-box application for service and has the power to execute effectively on the environments they want to, whether that is a Pega Cloud we service for our clients or a private cloud they might use in the future.
High: Pegasystems operates in a thriving field. How do you differentiate your organization?