CEO chessmaster: 'Mobile first' is a risky move for the enterprise

Alan Trefler, CEO of Pegasystems, a $600 million software company, shares strategy on bootstrapping a company, creating great customer service, and why "mobile first" is not always best.
Written by Michael Krigsman, Contributor

During a conversation with Alan Trefler, CEO of Pegasystems, a $600 million enterprise software provider, we discussed points related to business strategy, omni-channel customer relationships, user experience, IT / business relationships, and bootstrapping a company without investors.

The discussion took place as part of the CXO-Talk series of conversations with leaders who are shaping the future. Watch the entire interview below:

Chess and business strategy

Trefler is a chessmaster, and even played a tournament of 20 simultaneous games, so we started there. Although Trefler cautions against reading too much into connections between games such as chess and business, he says, chess masters consider their moves in three phases:

Alan Trefler plays chess
Alan Trefler playing 20 games of chess (Image from http://architechsolutions.com blog)

The first phase is pattern recognition. Is this position, or some of elements, feel like something I've seen; can that guide me to deeper exploration?

The second step is detailed analysis. If I go here and you know they go there, and I go here, and they go there: what's going to occur? Pattern recognition is so important because it lets you focus your analysis and go deeper into the places that make the most sense.

Finally, sit back and say, "Okay, what the hell have I missed?" What disaster is out here lurking, that my assumptions about the patterns or the calculations might have eluded me? Is there some checkmate in there that has nothing to do with my strategy, that may rip the guts out of my position if I'm not paying attention."

Organizational silos create poor user experience

Trefler commented on the challenges that some companies when trying to undertake a digital transformation:

Most companies [who thought the Internet would be important] set up separate organizations, divisions, or groups to bring them to the web and the Internet. Unsurprisingly those groups became incredibly disconnected from the rest of the business.

That's what led to these dislocations, [for example] when something is offered online but not in the contact center or I want to be able to use it on my mobile device, and suddenly it's different there and someplace else."

Omni-channel customer experience, dangers of "mobile first," and relationship between IT and business

The discussion focused heavily on user experience and the importance of creating the right experiences for customers, across multiple channels:

Going mobile first, which you hear people talking about, might make sense if you are Uber and all or most of what you are doing is mobile.

But, if you are a business of pretty much any size that operates across multiple channels, going mobile first runs the strong risk of building logic, rules, processes that diverge from the rest of your business. Or, put enormous cost pressures on your business, as you have to re-implement in multiple places.

Our vision of customer service, CRM, and process is a brain in your organization that can reach out into each of these channels -- the mobile channel, phone, iPad, Web, Internet site in the contact center, physical branch location if one exists. That brain must create a model for your business that doesn't get mired in some quick fix, single channel solution. You need to have seamless service experiences that go across channels.

But, if you are dealing with things that are strategic to the business, just being able to get a quick fix in the cloud isn't going to get you all the way there. Customers need to ask themselves, "How am I going to make sure that what I'm going to do to try and improve service is going to work across all my channels?

To gain agility, you need to change the very way that business and IT work together so it's not all about translating things into the gobbledygook of the machine. The dialogue about what's being built can happen at a higher level of metaphors than programming languages in machines and random specs in documents.

I think the business and IT relationship changing that has to be a first principle to making this all work properly.

- - -

CXO-Talk brings together prominent executives, authors, and analysts to discuss leadership, transformation, and innovation. Join me and Vala Afshar every Friday for a new episode of CXO-Talk.

Editorial standards