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McDermott pitches ServiceNow as the ‘platform of platforms’ at Knowledge 2020 kick off

Derek du Preez Profile picture for user ddpreez May 5, 2020
CEO Bill McDermott welcomes attendees to ServiceNow’s virtual Knowledge 2020 event by doubling down on the company’s workflow USP.

Image of Bill McDermott ServiceNow CEO
(Image Sourced via ServiceNow)

In response to not being able to hold a physical user event this year given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, ServiceNow kicked off its virtual Knowledge 2020 event this week for customers, partners and employees. In a somewhat unique approach, Knowledge 2020 will take place online over a number of weeks, as opposed to a single day or two, with live and on-demand content being released gradually.

You can find all of our coverage from the event in our ServiceNow Knowledge 2020 Hub here

Recently appointed CEO Bill McDermott launched the event with a message that ServiceNow is the ‘platform of platforms' and the ‘workflow workhorse' for enterprises in the midst of digital change. We aren't going to get a full keynote from McDermott until the beginning of June, but the welcome message further hints at what direction we can expect the company to take under his tenure.

His comments today, coupled with the company's Q1 earnings and a recent interview with diginomica, suggest that McDermott is attempting to break down ServiceNow's USP and messaging for enterprise buyers, particularly within the context of running an organisation during COVID-19.

Back story

To understand this further, we need to take a look at the history of ServiceNow up until this point and understand its offering within the context of the Coronavirus pandemic.

ServiceNow gained early traction in the enterprise amongst CIOs as a cloud-based ITSM tool, offering simplified experiences for a variety of use cases in IT service and support. However, ServiceNow took a platform approach from conception and soon realised that a ‘workflow is a workflow' - meaning that it could tap into any system of record and apply to pretty much any process across the enterprise.

However, for many years its appeal was often lost on those outside of the IT department given the tech-heavy early focus.

But under previous CEO John Donahoe its offering began to extend to functions that include CSM, HR, security, amongst others. Donahoe's pitch was that ServiceNow ‘filled the enterprise white spaces' - meaning that it wasn't competing with other cloud platforms and essentially tied the enterprise silos together with coherent workflows across the organisation. He made an effort to convince the enterprise that consumer experiences were important at work too.

But this has always been ServiceNow's challenge. Given a good experience is objective - underpinned by workflows supporting either employees or customers - there sometimes doesn't appear an obvious driver for change.

In other words, reducing friction isn't always an obvious use case. It requires hard work to rethink and redesign processes to change the way you operate and often requires organisations to understand ‘experience is key'. This has been helped by the consumer revolution in technology, but enterprises sometimes still resist, falling back on old habits and systems.

However, McDermott - given his extensive experience in the enterprise - understands that storytelling and simple messaging is key. His pitch today breaks down why ServiceNow is a compelling proposition for buyers. McDermott said:

Our customers want us to keep bringing that hungry, and humble ServiceNow culture to their doorstep. They have to bring a consumer great experience to their companies. They're tying together web, mobile, and all the conversational tools that an enterprise has, along with 50 years of complexity and the systems of record that these companies have built. Our workflow workhorse, or that platform of platforms, designs workflow in a way that gives people great experiences - that could be employees, it could be customers. But we're driving growth, innovation and productivity.

This message will become even more pertinent as the reality of COVID-19 sets in. Companies more than ever have come to realise that reducing friction, digital experiences, remote collaboration and speed are key in reducing risk and building resilience into operations.

Employees and customers need to be able to get things done remotely, via digital means, without navigating complex organisational hurdles and making the most of automation wherever possible. This requires companies to reflect on the complexity of their existing processes, but the driver for change has never been more pressing. McDermott noted:

The world is at a seminal moment right now, and probably this is the moment where we can all align, because we have been through a lot. And there's a lot now that we must do to get business on track, get the world on track.

ServiceNow's challenge is to simplify its messaging on the use case for the enterprise, when so many possible use cases exist.

It's worth reading my interview with McDermott back in February, prior to the reality of COVID-19 set in, where he spoke in more detail about the need to improve engagement for employees and customers through workflow redesign.

A new world

ServiceNow's Chief Innovation Officer, Dave Wright, expanded on McDermott's comments during the Knowledge 2020 kick off and used the COVID-19 crisis, and the response from businesses, as an example of why the ServiceNow platform can support the necessary changes needed. He said:

I think if it wasn't for the technology advances we've seen in the last 10 or 15 years, we just couldn't have responded the way that we have. When you think about what's happening, now this is the epitome of actually doing transformation at the speed of business. Digital is not just supporting the business anymore digital has become the business.

Unless you can define a workflow, you're not going to give people a great experience because behind every great experience is a great workflow. But I think what history has shown us is that whenever the world faces a challenge like the current pandemic, you start to see new ways of thinking emerge. For me, crisis is the mother of innovation.

What we're able to do is take all the friction out of it. We can look across the enterprise, break down all the silos and stitch together workflows. Now what that leads to is a much easier way of working, and much better productivity.

My take

It's going to be an interesting event for ServiceNow given the new leadership and the unfolding COVID-19 crisis. We saw during the company's Q1 results that ServiceNow is still bullish on growth over the next year, despite Coronavirus. And I think that it will be banking on companies recognising more than ever that rethinking the way that they operate requires rethinking workflows across the organisation. An opportunity is there, if it can break down for people exactly how ServiceNow can be used. Workflows often sound abstract - customer examples will be key to telling ServiceNow's story.

We will be running coverage over the next six weeks to get a better understanding of how ServiceNow will be executing under McDermott, as well as covering a number of customer case studies.

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