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Helping develop the next generation of technology leaders

At Knowledge Expert we believe in the power of giving. Most of our senior staff graduated from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL) and we are proud to give back some of our time to collaborate with the Laboratory for Systemic Modelling on a Service Oriented Course using Pega Technology to guide the students through a series of real life experience on how technology can help revolutionize businesses.

The first version of the course using Pega technology as the underlying technology supporting the business simulation exercises was delivered in May 2017.

We thank very much Professeur Alain Wegmann, the crew of teaching assistant @LAMS as well as Pega University program for making this possible.

The use of Pega7 in a Technical University

At the School of Computer and Communication Sciences of the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, we teach a course called « Enterprise and Service-Oriented Architecture”. This course has the following structure:

  • Business Part (4 weeks): practical experimentation and theoretical understanding of the key business processes of a manufacturing company: rfq process, development, planning, quality management and accounting.

  • Business / IT Part (6 weeks): specification of an IT system that provides after-sales service. We teach the following techniques: interviews, root cause analysis, analysis/design of the business services and of the IT services. The underlying theory is system thinking (Weinberg, Vickers) and the ISO/IEC standard RM-ODP.

  • IT Part (2 weeks): implementation – using BPMN-like visual programming – of an IT system prototype. Overview of the technological aspects of service-oriented architecture (soap, rest).

  • Enterprise Architecture & Conclusions (2 weeks): Overview of the enterprise architecture frameworks (Zachman, TOGAF, Urba-EA). Synthesis and key learning points of the course.
    This course is taught in master. It is optional and most students are from computer science. The course uses a problem-based pedagogical approach. Each week has two 3-period classes. The first 3-periods are dedicated to student’s experimentation and conceptualization. The last 3-periods are dedicated to generalization and to keynote speakers.

The course is built around a business case of a (real) company who designs, manufactures and markets light airplane engines. The course uses a method called SEAM, developed since 2003. The method is systemic and is designed to capture early requirements.

In the first part of the course, the students need to reply to an RFQ for a new engine, then they design and manufacture this engine. In these four weeks, they use a mockup of an ERP system and discover and document the main business processes that exist in a company.

In the second part of the course, the students need to reply to the development of a new IT system to help support the maintenance of the engines. In this second part, the students use ethnographic methods to assess whether the requested IT system is related to the reality of the business. With these techniques the students analyze the eco-system of the company. They then realize that the problem is more complex than stated and that service orchestration is needed. They then develop a model of the solution in which they define who is the “true” customer of their application, what the process should do, the expected service level agreement and the information model. User stories are generated from this analysis.

In the third part of the course, we give them access to Pega’s Design Studio. A mock-up infrastructure has been developed that gives the students access to web services that allows ordering spare parts and scheduling technical interventions. The student then develops a first version of business process that coordinate the main actors of the ecosystem with the goal to guarantee the expected repair time. The students work with Pega for 7 periods of 45min. In the first three, the tool is shortly introduced and a demo is made: i.e. the development of an onboarding application. Then the students develop a very small first iteration of the business (called case-type in Pega). It includes one action that calls a web service. In the second three periods, they complete the process by adding 3 steps and approx. 8 tasks. They develop also the data model (with approx. 10 variables generated by 4 web services) and one SLA. The web services were accessed using REST and documented in Swagger.

In the previous year, we did use an open-source business process tool. This year was the first year in which we could use a tool such as Pega7. This was a very successful experience. The mapping between Pega and SEAM was perfect and this for two reasons:

  • SEAM was designed to capture early requirements. The input of the SEAM process is a demand for a new IT solution, the output is a validated set of user stories, which is the perfect material to feed Pega development process.

  • The output of SEAM is a business requirement document that includes a description of the problem to address, of the existing situation and the target system. SEAM defines three main models which are the behaviour document model (that matches exactly the case type), the information model (that matches the data model of Pega), and SLAs.

The experience was successful as the student could appreciate:

  • the difference between defining high-level requirements and business process integration

  • the benefits provided by a tool like Pega, which as SEAM, as a declarative approach of the business

  • the importance of all the integration code that surronds a tool such as Pega. In the previous year, it was not rare to get a comment as “why not program directly in Java?”. This first year using Pega, the added value of the Pega7 platform was clearly obvious.

  • The difference between a business architect and a system architect.

  • Approx. 5 students out of 25 students decided to attend a bootcamp over the weekend to get the Pega CSA certification.

Since students were given access to Designer Studio without any prior training and a brief introduction. The only downside we noticed is that the support of an experienced Pega business/system architect was necessary during the exercises to steer them correctly through the exercises.

Overall the use of Pega in our course was a success and we hope to carry this experience in the upcoming years. We are grateful to Pegasystems and Knowledge Expert to have given us this opportunity.

Prof. Alain Wegmann
June 1st, 2017

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