Kingfisher unpicks cloud customisations and goes back to out of the box

Profile picture for user ddpreez By Derek du Preez May 11, 2014

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Enterprises looking at software-as-a-service are often advised to go for a vanilla rollout, for many obvious reasons. But old habits die hard and temptation can prove too much for those that think they are special and want to change software packages to suit their processes – rather than redesigning processes to fit the software. This is particularly challenging for those that are new to the cloud game and have spent years running on-premise apps, where they are used to fiddling with code to their heart's content, and want to do the same with their software-as-a-service tools.

This is exactly the position that Europe's largest home improvement retailer found itself in when it began looking for a new IT service platform tool to implement across its operations. With the desire to have common processes across the region, Kingfisher's Global Service Delivery Manager, Ben Hetherington, decided to rip out an “ancient” product used in its French IT hub (which supports the rest of Europe) and the Axio Assyst product used in the UK.

After setting out the group's requirements and coming up with three serious options for a replacement, Kingfisher settled on ServiceNow. Hetherington explained to me at ServiceNow's recent annual conference that he bought into the company's excitement and plans for the future. Hetherington said:

“Two years ago we decided we were going to get a group ITSM platform. We looked at what we had in the UK and decided that we didn't have a lot of confidence that it would do what we wanted it to do, it was going to be expensive, and the incumbent in France was an ancient old tool that we wouldn't use, so we began searching for a new product.

“ServiceNow came out on top. Cloud wasn't a specific requirement for us, we hadn't previously run something important in the cloud. But we weren't inspired by the other companies, the lack of ideas, road maps, innovation. ServiceNow seemed to have all that - you get the feeling from the culture and their customers that people look forward to Fred Luddy's (ServiceNow's Chief Product Officer) announcements and what's coming up next.”

Kingfisher began in the UK by migrating the company's existing Configuration Management Database to ServiceNow and then after going live, ran the existing system in parallel for six weeks. Any remaining tickets that weren't completed during this period were simply re-keyed into ServiceNow. The project took about four months in total. Hetherington said:

“The project was quite fast paced because we didn't have self-service, we weren't touching the end users. We were able to push it, get it in there and get people trained quickly. We wanted to get a fast paced rollout done, then fix it up afterwards – because you can spend a year analysing it and getting your requirements right. After that long your requirements have probably changed, we just wanted to get the old system out.”

Understand the existing capabilities before you fiddle around

This was in February last year, after which Kingfisher began to rip out the incumbent provider in France. However, the project soon ran into difficulties and had to be put on pause – but having gone back to the project since, Hetherington believes that problems could have been avoided if customisations had not been put in place. 

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“Other customers have said the same thing here this week at the conference – we didn't understand the tool enough at the beginning, how it could work, how it should work. We sort of made it work how our old tool used to and we didn't realise that until we had a design done and we were developing it, so we have had to unpick some of that. We felt that was a disappointment, it's something we should have picked up on sooner. But actually, we have found that other customers have done the same thing. But at least we got it in there, which was our main driver.”

“Go with out the box as much as possible. We did intend to, we said we were going to go out of the box unless we absolutely couldn't. But we have got a number of process owners, we ran a number of workshops, we brought a number of people from different countries to come and work on it, and before we knew it we ended up with a design where we did some stuff that we probably shouldn't have done.

“We didn't spend enough time looking at what out of the box was capable of, we deiced to implement quickly, but we ended up with a tool that was a bit too much like our old one. Rather than taking the time to develop something that highlighted the power of ServiceNow.”

Kingfisher's Major Incident Manager, Stacey Card, explained to me that the customisations have also hindered the rollout of ServiceNow outside of IT and into the business. She said that the company had been planning to take advantage of some of the ServiceNow HR modules, and although this is still in the pipeline, they stripped out some of the original functionality that would have helped secure sensitive employee information.

“When we initially took on the tool it was something that we took apart, picked apart, made it something like we already had. We have actually recently gone back in and removed all of the changes we made to the Problem module and gone straight back to out of the box and that's now ready to go across the whole group. Realising what the existing capabilities are is essential. 

“For HR we need to look at sensitive data and how we contain that in the tool. Kingfisher hasn't exploited the option to secure that information, to make sure that its only visible to certain roles and certain people. The reason why we haven't explored that at this time is because we tailored things at the very beginning and we removed roles that had that capability already built in to ServiceNow  – but we will be looking at that.”

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Although Card also said that it would be very difficult to put an ROI on rolling out a tool like ServiceNow, as often the benefits are only realised when employees recognise that their time has been freed up and are able to apply their efforts elsewhere, she did say that starting simple can help to get things signed off.

“Start simple and deliver your initial requirements. It's very difficult to get IT investment, you really have to justify it, your stakeholders are watching really closely to see if you are delivering on what you promised. If you don't deliver the initial requirements, if you don't give them something, you're in trouble. 

“Keep the good story going. This is a product that sells itself once it has been realised and I think that its quite difficult to sit in front of someone that doesn't care about IT or service management and ask for money for this, but once it is in - the level of reporting, how dynamic it is, it sells itself. Start simple, deliver initial requirements, once you have got them invested they're putty in your hands.”