Pega Supercharges CRM with AI and Robotics from OpenSpan Acquisition

The vendor’s Workforce Intelligence application combines with Customer Service and Sales Automation to reveal opportunities for process optimization and execute through robotic process automation.

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One of the current frontiers of technology evolution is the combination of mature business process applications with emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and robotic process automation (RPA). Pegasystems (Cambridge, Mass.) has announced the joining of these technologies with the integration of Pega Workforce Intelligence, gained from its acquisition of OpenSpan in April 2016, with its Pega Customer Service and Pega Sales Automation CRM applications. The power of the combination of these applications is the ability it gives organizations to optimize their sales and customer service effectiveness with desktop analytics and machine learning.

Don Schuerman, CTO and VP, product marketing, Pegasystems.

Don Schuerman, CTO and VP, product marketing, Pegasystems.

Consider, for example, a successful interaction within a well-run telephone sales operation: the insurer sees this as a demonstration of success—and not without reason. The agent has closed new business, perhaps they have earned a good customer Net Promoter Score, and compared to other call handle times, this may be an exemplary call. Perhaps the insurer had recently rolled out a new CRM system that tracks these metrics. However, these indicators don’t tell the full story.

Revealing Hidden Inefficiency

Even in successful customer interactions, an employee may be manually filling gaps in the business process, for example by toggling between back-office systems, or performing workarounds, according to Don Schuerman, CTO and VP, product marketing, Pegasystems. “What we may now discover, from an interaction, is that while things look great, the employee was working really, really hard to make that happen,” Schuerman comments.

Working in concert with Pega’s Customer Service and Sales Automation, Workforce Intelligence can reveal otherwise hidden patterns of inefficiency, by analyzing vast numbers of actions taken every day, on every desktop, from any application, according to Schuerman. The application collects data on what the employee is doing on the desktop, stripping out any personally identifiable information, and sends it to the cloud where it performs analysis to detect patterns that may increase or decrease efficiency.

Schuerman contrasts Pega’s new capabilities with typical CRM applications that provide managers with a basic window into their team’s performance, such as meeting sales goals or customer satisfaction benchmarks. However, they fail to detect inherent operational and employee inefficiencies that may subtly and quietly reduce effectiveness, erode revenues, and degrade the customer experience. Pega provides the following examples in a statement on the new product release:

  • Needless toggling between dozens of required apps that slows staff responsiveness;
  • Misplaced employee focus on activities that produce sub-optimal results;
  • Lagging IT networks and inefficient apps that frustrate employees and waste time; and
  • Excessive reporting and meeting demands that overload schedules with low-value work.

Schuerman stresses that the discoveries enabled are by no means all negative. On the contrary, the application’s pattern recognition capabilities can also identify best practices characteristic of the highest performing employees.

Identifying Best Practices

For example—to return to the hypothetical successful sales interaction—the agent may be one of several employees who know that quickly providing a quote significantly improves the chances of closing a sale. “This employee may have learned that the best way to get a customer to understand is by manually copying and pasting a quote and sending an email,” Schuerman explains. “Until you find out what’s happening in that successful interaction, you’ll never be able to apply it as a best practice across your business.”

By combining Workforce Intelligence with the Customer Service and Sales Automation applications and their data, the combined offering is able to find other process optimization opportunities that would otherwise go unnoticed, according to Pega’s statement, including the following:

  • Customer service reps with higher than average customer satisfaction ratings spent less time in certain non-essential applications, providing a roadmap for revising agent best practices and increasing overall team performance.
  • Salespeople who exceeded their quotas spent extra time in the company sales training portal, presenting an opening for managers to coach lower performers on the impact of training to closing more deals.
  • Sales and service agents who missed their goals were forced to toggle between systems and waste time re-keying information, highlighting an opportunity for robotic automation to help agents save time and put their focus back on the prospect or customer.
  • IT maintenance normally scheduled for mid-morning caused an unexpected drop in staff performance, giving IT cause to shift the work to less intrusive times.

Applying Robotic Process Automation

In its current state, Pega’s CRM suite now serves as a kind of diagnostic capability to identify opportunities to apply Workforce Intelligence’s RPA capabilities, Schuerman affirms. Today, once inefficiencies are detected, users can configure the application’s robots to execute new process improvements. The product’s future road map is moving toward providing the ability to click on a button to automate a given identified process improvement—in effect giving the thumbs-up to a robot volunteering to create an improved process.

The technology exists to have the system simply execute new processes following pre-determined rules, but Pega is not looking to offer that level of automation. “Most organizations prefer to receive the message, ‘We discovered the problem—would you like a robot to do this?” Schuerman explains. “But they also want a human gatekeeper in the middle.”

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Anthony R. O’Donnell // Anthony O'Donnell is Executive Editor of Insurance Innovation Reporter. For nearly two decades, he has been an observer and commentator on the use of information technology in the insurance industry, following industry trends and writing about the use of IT across all sectors of the insurance industry. He can be reached at or (503) 936-2803.

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