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How low-code technology empowered ServiceNow’s finance team

Tasneem Baldiwala Profile picture for user Tasneem Baldiwala March 16, 2023
Summary:
The nature of finance is often admin-intensive and requires manual intervention. Tasneem Baldiwala shares the challenges facing the ServiceNow finance team and how low-code technology and citizen development addressed some significant pain points.

Woman accountant use calculator and computer with holding pen on © lovelyday12 - Shutterstock
( © lovelyday12 - Shutterstock)

The digital world is ever-changing, and as an industry, we must find ways to keep up with the constant state of flux. The finance organization is instrumental in keeping the whole company running smoothly. At ServiceNow, my team and I need to be able to scale efficiently and keep up with the pace of change in order to best serve our customers and employees.

But the nature of finance means doing this can be challenging — especially when dealing with a high number of admin-intensive tasks and manual working processes.

So how do we make it work? By utilizing our own platform and all the technology available to us, including low-code application development, which is a huge differentiator.

The challenges facing our finance team

Like any finance team, the challenges we faced were deep-rooted in efficiency. Put simply, team members can easily become overburdened with a backlog of manual tasks, and a significant amount of time and resources can be spent on work that the right automation technology could complete in minutes. 

For example, a big part of our role revolves around ensuring tax compliance. In the past, team members managed the status of our tax’ obligations through manual excel spreadsheets. They would individually go out to all relevant authorities to gather respective deadlines and specific obligations. Information was then put in a spreadsheet and manually updated when complete.

This kind of work was not only taking up valuable time and resources that could be better allocated elsewhere, but was also impacting the employee experience. In the face of the ongoing talent crisis, it’s crucial that we allow employees to focus on fulfilling, high-value work wherever possible.

On top of this, we were unable to assign tasks, and our vice president of tax didn't have full visibility over who was working on what — which left margin for error when it came to meeting deadlines and ensuring compliance.

To fix this, we needed scalable applications that were able to tackle extremely specific pain-points. Namely, an automated tool that can act as a central hub for accurately managing compliance obligations.

But crucially, this application had to be cost-effective, and it had to be delivered quickly.

Empowering the team with low-code solutions

Low-code technology — and citizen development — was our way of improving processes for the team without the need to spend extensive time or budget on external developers.

Though building applications using low-code requires a certain level of training, inbuilt functionality means almost anyone can quickly harness the technology necessary to create automated solutions that suit themselves and their team. Our motivation was simple — nobody knows our team’s pain points better than they do, so why wouldn’t they be the ones to build solutions?

And crucially, it works.

Take our tax compliance activities. Our team was able to use low-code technology to create a tax portal and calendar for managing compliance obligations across the globe.

The project is a prime example of how low code enables us to develop at speed: we already had the calendar functionality in place to kick start design and development phases. By leveraging this, we were able to shorten the timeline between idea and deployment by three months.

In a matter of months, we had built a centralized location that brings in all global due dates and populates them in the calendar automatically, without having to manually update. The portal also serves as a one-stop shop that brings data and metrics from an operational perspective so leadership can see upcoming obligations and ensure the team is working effectively to ensure compliance. But more importantly, it frees up staff to focus on other, higher-value tasks.

We can now make the most of our data — it no longer sits, unutilized, in a spreadsheet on someone’s desktop. Instead, it becomes a part of our data ecosystem, meaning we can link it to other data sets, analyse in different ways, and use it to better understand our overall compliance status.

What’s more, the application can be leveraged as a template for other use cases and jumpstart these developments. It serves as a foundation so we can easily incorporate treasury, corporate accounting, and accounts payable teams in the future.

Ultimately, we can lead by example and help other functions across the company to also build seamless workflows and automatically trigger their activities, with a high level of visibility – all the way up to our executive and senior leadership level.

Navigating the future with low-code technology

Now, our finance department is empowered with the necessary tools and training to really change the way they work in a way that works best for them.

And the best bit? The realization that the benefits of advanced technology don’t have to be limited to those with developer knowledge — rolling this capability out to all employees allows us to be more innovative than ever with bespoke solutions.

With the right approach and guidance, other businesses can implement low-code solutions and enable their teams to use the Now platform to its full potential.

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