Do nothing that is hard: Delivering value fast through out-of-the-box functionality

Di Smith-Knowles,

Back in the days of Pega 7, development teams adhered to the Ten Guardrails to Successthe principles by which we designed and implemented Pega applications. These principles are as relevant today as they were back then, and Guardrail #3 has become even more meaningful for Pega project delivery: Do nothing that is hard.

It used to be hard to build ANY app

A couple of weeks ago, I built a website to provide a community bulletin board for a church. I used a popular low-code website creation platform. It was easy. But building a website like this wasn’t always so simple. Even just a few years ago, I would have had to stand up my own website, register the domain, write my own HTML, JavaScript, or php, implement a database or file system to store posts and test my somewhat limited UX skills to design something that I thought looked good.  The task would have been somewhat difficult and time consuming for someone with technical skills, never mind a businessperson or subject matter expert. 

Today, I have a hosting provider that automatically installs the website creation software. I have access to literally thousands of plugins to give me a starting point for the application functionality. And I can choose from countless themes to make my application look pretty. From start to finish, it took me about two days to get users actively using the new website. (And yes, the application works great on mobile too!) Best of all, there was nothing particularly “technical” about this solution.

Yes, really: Building apps can be easy and fast

You might be saying: “Well. That’s a simple website. I work for a large organization that’s trying to transform a business with fifty systems of record, hundreds of thousands of users, and processes that only a few people in the organization truly understand. How do I build a solution that crushes complexity, while “doing nothing that is hard”? 

You can! Here are three tips to get started.

1. Know what you are building and for whom

Sometimes, you can clearly envision what your end to end solution will look like, especially if you are building a Customer Engagement application. But sometimes, you don’t have a clear idea of what you are building, like when there is a brand-new requirement, or when a new policy goes into effect, or when you are re-imagining a solution to an existing process so it takes advantage of new technology.

You are probably thinking: “What if I don’t build the ‘right thing’ and miss the mark?”  Fear not! You can use Design Thinking principles to gain clarity about the problem at hand and develop a prototype to frame the new solution in a way that truly meets the needs of those who will be using your application. If you are new to Design Thinking, Pega Catalyst uses these principles to help you understand what you are building and for whom.

2. Take one bite at a time

Your application may be solving a straightforward business challenge with a limited number of users. Or your application can represent a large-scale transformation. Or it can be something in between, like a solution for a division. In any case, the best approach is always to take one bite at a time. Create a Minimum Loveable Product (MLP1), then follow on with additional releases (MLP2…n). Even if your first release is truly “minimal,” you’ve delivered value to your stakeholders that can be improved over time, in an iterative way.

Using the Pega Express delivery approach, you have a proven way to create an outcome that is a far better than spending weeks and months creating a perishable design document. Instead, your business-focused development teams are delivering real, working applications to your end users. In addition, you can use the Pega App Factory to create the foundation for those applications, then empower your business teams to build those smaller department apps. You may decide to architect your applications to be released independently, with Process Fabric orchestrating the work across all application instances. Whatever you decide, taking one bite at a time allows your stakeholders to start seeing value quickly.

3. Spend your time wisely

Spend time where it matters most: Building value for your stakeholders by focusing on the features that provide highest value to users of the application. Not too long ago, you spent a lot of time provisioning environments. Sometimes, standing up an environment took weeks! You had to do so much work before you could even start building your application. To the relief of System Architects and Business Architects alike, you can now use Pega Cloud services to start building out your MLP1 application today.

Similarly, architects at every level used to spend an inordinate amount of time implementing a UX that was “just right” from their perspective, only to have that UX be non-compliant with customer or government standards. Sadly, in some cases the UX would simply not even be usable by the users it was intended to serve. And that is not surprising. UX is not an area of expertise for many System Architects.

Today, we have the Pega Cosmos UX Framework, Pega’s design system, which is tailor-made to provide a beautiful experience for users of case management applications. Unless there is a design system already in place, spend your time wisely by adopting the Pega Cosmos design system.

And don’t re-invent the wheel with application functionality!  The Pega Marketplace curates fully functional application solutions, components, and other tools that are used by Pega development teams across the globe. Always check the Pega Marketplace first before building your own component.

Remember: Do Nothing That Is Hard

Back to my website example: I spent zero time on setting up infrastructure, I used a plugin to create baseline functionality, and I spent virtually no time on UX because I used an already beautifully designed theme, fit for the purpose of my application. This allowed me to spend my time, a few hours over the weekend, ensuring the application hit the mark with my users. Could I have written my own php, HTML, and css? Sure, but it would have taken me a week to build something usable.

You can apply these very same principals when creating a Pega application.

Even with the complexities of building for the enterprise, you don’t have to spend weeks trying to build the perfect design document, setting up infrastructure, or implementing a pixel perfect UX yourself. Instead, crush complexity by focusing on the needs of your customers and let Pega do the rest.

What do you think? Easier said than done? Given all of the advantages of a low-code approach to enterprise application development, what are the biggest barriers to more widespread adoption? Tell me what you think on Pega Collaboration Center HERE.

 

Related Resources

To learn more about how easy it is to implement a working, beautiful, Pega application, check out the following resources:

 

Don't Forget

About the Author

Di Smith-Knowles has been with Pega for 20+ years.  In her current role as Partner Delivery Success Manager, she works with Pega Partner teams to ensure all team members possess the skills and knowledge needed to achieve great outcomes for Pega clients.