Knowledge18 - ServiceNow puts people at the centre of its company’s purpose

Profile picture for user ddpreez By Derek du Preez May 8, 2018
ServiceNow has been undergoing lots of changes under new CEO John Donahoe. It now has a clear purpose and strategy - people and changing the way they work.

ServiceNow CEO John Donahoe on stage at Knowledge18
ServiceNow CEO John Donahoe on stage at Knowledge18

I’ve long argued that ServiceNow has huge potential in the enterprise software market. However, it’s also faced branding challenges that other vendors solved years ago. It historically relied too much on its ITSM fan base within the IT department - despite being a platform that has potential for improving services across all departments in an organisation.

As the company started to branch into new areas of expertise - HR, customer experience, security - it started to realise it needed to rethink its approach. Bringing on new CEO John Donahoe last year, the former CEO of eBay, has been key to this.

Donahoe took to the stage this week at ServiceNow’s annual Knowledge event in Las Vegas to speak about how he has met with over 500 customers since joining the company and has now got a clear vision for ServiceNow. It will be clearly positioned as a software company that puts people at the centre of everything it does, whilst focusing on improving the way they work.

I’ve long bemoaned that despite ServiceNow’s potential as a platform to improve the enterprise experience, it’s keynote speeches and corporate strategy focused so heavily on workflow diagrams and speaking in ITSM jargon, that this message got missed. However, Donahoe’s influence is tangible this week.

ServiceNow’s branding is now people-centric, with the new logo replacing IT visuals with people visuals, and the approach is generally ‘softer’. Donahoe’s consumer experience is clearly having an impact and I think this will resonate with buyers beyond the ITSM-faithful.

The focus is now also customers, rather than ITSM implementation. For example, 85% of the sessions at this year’s Knowledge event are customers sharing and teaching with other customers. Donahoe explained how he believes ServiceNow can play a key role in changing the way enterprises work over the coming years. He said:

Over 18,000 registered attendees here this morning. 85% of the curriculum this year is sharing and teaching other customers. We have over 400 sessions this year that are led by customers.

I stood here last year as the new kid on the block. I could barely spell IT. Over the last year my number one priority has been to get to know you.

We are at an inflection point in history and now is the time. Here is what I see. I spent a decade as CEO of eBay. During that period I had the privilege of seeing the consumer revolution first hand. The iPhone only came out 10 years ago. Over the last 10 years, consumer based applications, cloud based applications, they have transformed our lives at home. They have taken what is complex in our personal lives and made it simple, easy and intuitive.

But when you think about technology at work, no one would ever call it simple, easy and intuitive. The truth is, technology at work is still complex and frustrating. The reality is, with cloud, there is no reason that we can’t build the same experiences at work that you’re used to getting at home. By the way, we’re the same people! We get one kind of experience at home and yet we put up with terrible stuff at work. That can change.

The last ten years has been the consumer revolution. I believe the next three to five years will be the revolution at work. You are at the centre of this revolution, you are the innovators. The difference between technology at the enterprise and technology at home, is that the technology cannot do it alone. The hard work is, how do we redesign how work happens so that we can build these great experiences? You are the ones that drive that. We want to be a partner with you on this revolution.

It’s all about people

Donahoe said that ServiceNow is reflecting on its aspirations as a company. He wants to build and grow a company that is built to last and endures, one that transforms work. Donahoe said that all great companies have the answer to three simple questions:

  1. The Why? The questions are: Why do we exist? Why should people want to work here? Why should customers want to do business with us? That’s about purpose.
  2. The What? The ‘what’ questions are: what are our products and services? What are the customers we want to serve? And what are our priorities? That’s about strategy.
  3. The How? The ‘how’ questions are: How are we going to operate as a team? How are we going to engage with our customers? How are we going to bring our strategy and our purpose to life? That is about culture.

Donahoe said that “great companies have real clarity on their purpose (the why?), strategy (the what? and culture (the how?).”

He added that ServiceNow’s original purpose - the “north star of any organisation” - had a good starting point, given that founder Fred Luddy, upon starting the company in 2004, stated that ServiceNow would be: a cloud-based platform to enable regular people to route work effectively through the enterprise. Donahoe said that ServiceNow is rethinking this within the context of today. He added:

Over the last year we have been working with Fred and so many of you to put that purpose into today’s context. We’ve engaged with so many of you in our ecosystem - and I have to tell you that the more that we talked, the more excited we became, because we realised that the work we do together matters more than ever.

And this is where people and the future of work come into it - two key pillars of ServiceNow’s new strategy. Donahoe explained:

There’s a lot of talk about the future of work in the media today. How do we unleash the human potential of the enterprise? The work we do together is right at the heart of that. The work that we do together on the future of work as any other platform out there.

The other interesting thing, is that with that opportunity becomes a responsibility. There’s a lot of anxiety around automation today. Ladies and gentlemen, we make automation software. So we can’t dodge that issue. We need to have a point of view. So, we thought about how we bring our purpose to life in today’s environment. How do we engage the future of work with automation? We wanted to state a set of beliefs, things that we deeply belief in. We created what we call, our manifesto.

The outcome

Donahoe’s decision to take a stance on automation and the future of work resulted in a new single purpose for ServiceNow, which is:

“We make the world of work, work better for people”

Donahoe explained this new statement. He said:

I want to deconstruct this. The ‘we’ here is not just ServiceNow. The ‘we’ is us collectively. We are very clear, technology alone cannot change the future of work. It takes a lot of hard work. So, ‘we’, is ‘us’.

Work matters. It’s where we spend a third of our lives. It shapes who we are. How we feel. And how we interact with the world. So we must create great work experiences. Experiences that bring out the very best in us. Because when we are at our best, we make every thing and every one around us better. Our jobs, our co-workers and our employers benefit. And our lives benefit even more. By making the world of work, work better for people, we make the world work better too.

Together, we want to define a better future of work. Work hasn’t changed that much in the last 5, 10, 20 years. Working together, in the next 3 to 5 years I believe we can change the work of the whole world than in the last couple of decades.

The second part of this is very, very important - work better for people. What we are saying here, is that we have a deep belief that technology is there to service people, not the other way around. There are certain companies that believe in technology for technology’s sake and then think about people down the road. We don’t believe that. This company was founded around regular people, we have a strong philosophical belief that we believe technology must be of service of people. And if technology is not enhancing the quality of people’s lives, we are not doing our jobs.

My take

This is what I’ve been wanting to see from ServiceNow for the past three years or so. It’s been clear from speaking to customers over this time that the technology is there and the platform is strong. However, as Donahoe highlights, the technology alone is not enough. ServiceNow needs to embody the changes it’s hoping to deliver to enterprises - and I’m finally getting some reassurance from Donahoe that it gets this. Culture, people and experience will be key to its future success. If it can deliver on these promises, it’s going to be incredibly interesting.