One of my biggest complaints from ServiceNow's annual user event in Las Vegas this week is that despite the company obviously having a game changing platform, it hasn't effectively explained why 'servitizing' an organisation, or a function within an organisation, means disruptive business outcomes.
However, I got a better insight to this when speaking to some of ServiceNow's very enthusiastic customers. I'll be writing a couple of other case studies over the next week or so, but one of the most interesting conversations I had at the event was with Maritz – a company that designs and operates employee reward programs, carries out research and operates customer loyalty programs.
VP of internal customer technology, Brad Paubel, explained to me how Maritz is using ServiceNow's platform to change the perception of IT within the company, from a 'no' organisation, to a valuable, business enabling service. Even note how Paubel's job title relates to 'internal customer technology', instead of something more traditional like 'head of IT'.
Paubel frequently refers to his 'customers', meaning some of the 4,000 Maritz employees buying technology from him and his team. Paubel is in the progress of using ServiceNow to turn IT into a sales organisation, a consultancy function, which no longer holds onto the idea of building and protecting technology. It instead provides services via the ServiceNow platform, helping employees choose technology that will boost business productivity and revenues.
Maritz has even had employees in the IT department walk away because of the change in skills that has been required – and Paubel is okay with this, because he is trying to bring value back to the IT function. He said:
We have been using the product for about 4 and a half years now and we pretty much do everything inside of the product. Lately we have been focused on taking it out of IT, utilising it as an application for our customers, solving real business problems with it.
What we are really focused on is changing the culture of IT. So if you look where IT is going in the market, a lot of what IT used to offer is being commoditised. You can buy AWS or Azure and they can frankly do it a lot better, at a cheaper cost. So we need to find value in what IT does
To do that we are looking to change the culture, really looking to make it more sales orientated, more marketing orientated, really a perception based view of IT, looking to listen to our customers and offer new types of services. Being a broker of services on the outside.
Automation and orchestrationMaritz doesn't view ServiceNow as a ticketing system, or an ITSM tool, instead it allows it to automate and orchestrate services, to build applications for the business. Paubel said:
By changing the culture, instead of just being that IT guy behind the desk dictating where things go, we now listen and we understand what problems the business and our customers are facing. We write applications for them, we automate things inside their environment, so it increases their value and increases their chances of revenue.
We are reinventing IT. It's also really hard for our IT people too, because we are saying to them “don't hold onto it” and “maybe there is another company out there that can do it a little bit better” - but that doesn't mean our IT isn't viable anymore. Just add a service onto that.
For example, if you're going to the cloud, build a service that our customers can use to request Amazon or Azure. So then you have let go of the control, they're making the decision, yet you're providing a simpler approach than them doing it on their own, which is now a new service that I can sell as IT.
It's not about IT
But this really isn't a technology exercise. It's shifting culture. And the biggest, and hardest, part of this is getting IT staff to pick up the soft skills that enables them to start selling to the enterprise and figuring out what business problems Maritz has that needs solving.
For example, Paubel explained, that old performance reviews were based on things like how many tickets an IT employee closed, or whether or not they closed projects on time. Whereas, now Paubel bases employee reviews on how well they listen to 'customers', whether or not they're understanding business problems, how they're marketing the solutions, how well they're up-selling. It's all about soft skills. He said:
Instead of closing tickets, I ask: how are people looking at you? You appear to be wishy washy when you communicate, because you are always looking at your phone, you need to stop that, really sell to them – those are the things that they need to think about and they are slowly starting to understand that.
It is quite a shift for them and it's very hard for the people that are used to that environment where they just came to work, just worked their tickets, because they placed their value on that. But people don't place real value on that. What people value has changed – keeping the lights on and keeping the systems running, people don't value that anymore. They now expect that.
So if it fails, of course they're going to be mad at you, but if you just keep it running all day long,it's expected. It's not a positive perception. To get a positive perception you have to do something for them, something they value, which is solving their business problems, bringing value to them. Once IT starts to do that, we have reinvented ourselves. Now we have become viable again.
Becoming the trusted advisor
Paubel said that he estimates that he is probably about 55% to 60% of the way to completing this change in culture, and said that the process takes a long time, given that culture is never an easy thing to change. But this is helped by freeing up people's time to train and learn new skills, which has been further supported by ServiceNow. He said:
So I had to use orchestration and automate a lot of what they were doing, to free up their time and coach them. And you will have people leave. I've had people leave because they just don't believe in the vision. But that's okay because that gives us the opportunity to hire people that are more sales.
Our interviewing processes used to be about asking about technical problems and how they solved them. Now we asked them what they did last night, who they socialise with. It's about whether they can communicate, whether they can build a guild.
And Paubel is seeing a lot of benefits across the organisation – departments are now coming to him and his team, asking for support on business problems.
And Paubel knows that he and his team are in the best position to become the trusted advisor at Maritz, given IT is the natural guardian of a company's information. He said:
There's been lots of benefits. For example, I've seen that IT is getting closer to the business, so we are really hearing and understanding. We are building more tools for them inside, we are becoming more viable to them because we are helping them. If I do something for them and save them some time, the perception changes. What that does though from a bottom line perspective is that it frees up some time for them to make more money for the company – and we are now a partner, instead of dictating.
We want to be a broker of services, we want to be a consultative, trusted adviser. We are in the best spot to do that – and I don't want this to come across wrong, but that's because we have all their information. I know how much they make, I know what problems they're having; what a dream for a consulting company.
I have all that information, I am one step ahead. So if I could just get the people and the soft skills, and have them focus on perception and drive that brand. I tell people every day that every conversation they have with a customer, they're building a brand for themselves and for IT and that's what they're going to be based upon.