Acquired by PetSmart in 2017 for a whopping $3.35 billion, Chewy has led the way for online retailers selling pet food and pet-related products. Last year Chewy brought in close to $5 billion in revenue and continues to have a loyal customer base of animal-loving buyers.
The company now has 18,000 employees, 22 different locations across the US - including three corporate offices, four call centres, and 11 fulfilment centres - and in 2019 IPO'd, raising $1 billion at the time.
However, with this success and rapid growth has come the need to reflect on how Chewy runs as an organisation internally, with a recognition that to continue to scale it needed to streamline processes, enable team productivity and standardise on its technology across all departments.
This is being done through the use of the ServiceNow Now platform, where Chewy began using ServiceNow's ITSM module, but has since expanded it across HR, facilities, SecOps and application performance management, amongst others.
Sarah Lawless-Gunn, ServiceNow Platform and Product Owner at Chewy, was speaking recently at ServiceNow's Now at Work event, where she detailed the organisation's "digital paw-formation" journey and shared lessons learned.
For all of diginomica's coverage from Now at Work, check out our dedicated hub for the event here. For a link to all the content from the event itself, including a host of on-demand customer presentations, click here.
Lawless-Gunn explained that the driver for change internally began with Chewy's senior leadership. She said:
Let's dive a little into what a digital paw-formation is and what's that meant to Chewy? So our digital paw-formation journey started with our senior level executives saying it's time to make a change at Chewy. We need a digital transformation that starts now. So we looked at what are the key components of a digital paw-formation? We can break it down into three main pieces. We have our tools, our processes and our team members. Our team members are always our main focus.
Why did we choose ServiceNow? Well, it's quite simple. We had IT, HR and facilities leadership all saying the same things. We needed to put in standard processes that would drive our team member experience. That would transform the way that we worked here at Chewy, it would transform the entire enterprise, it would integrate with other tools, the ability to configure tools and configure the platform as Chewy grows. The ability for robust reporting and it would promote overall organisation maturity.
Chewy's development approach
Chewy made a decision early on to adopt a development approach that leveraged ServiceNow's out-of-the-box methodologies - meaning that it has largely been able to avoid over-developing and resulted in a number of quick wins, according to Lawless-Gunn. Chew's approach to development follows the classic: plan it, design it, develop it, test it, deploy it, review it, and then launch it. It then repeats this cycle over and over again until it has met the overall organisation's requirements.
As noted above, Chewy began using ServiceNow for ITSM back in July 2018 for its IT service portal, which it nicknamed ‘Astro'. It then quickly added some initial integrations for SCCM, discovery and HR management. In 2019 it then began developing its governance and standards across the entire platform and also integrated with a tool called Nuvolo, which it uses for facilities management.
Chewy then created a unified service portal, which it calls the Kennel Club, and increased the workflow automation across most of its catalogue items. In addition to this, it developed an in-house hardware asset management programme.
In 2020, this work has gone even further and Chewy has since integrated with event management, SecOps, ITFM, GRC, application portfolio management, and brought the company's intranet into ServiceNow. Mobile offerings have also been deployed and additional integrations have been added, which help increase the data within the platform.
On the company's ambitions, Lawless-Gunn said:
What was the goal? It's really simple, it comes down to four main things. Empowering our team members through self service, optimising our operations through automating our processes - reducing our manual touches, and creating a better time to touch. Really driving that team member experience, the faster we can get to our team members to resolve their issues, the faster we are. The faster we can resolve our outages, the better Chewy.com is.
Our third main goal was to drive innovations. Resolving Chewy specific opportunities that we hadn't been able to do before. This allowed us to become proactive instead of being reactive. Our fourth main goal was around transforming the enterprise. Really getting down and eliminating the silos and driving improved visibility across the entire enterprise, which goes back to improving our team member experience.
Lawless-Gunn admits that whilst there is opportunity for Chewy to rapidly change in a growing market, that this doesn't come without its own challenges. She said:
So I'm going to be honest with you. Chewy has challenges. We have challenges that we face based on how quickly we've come to market. We have challenges managing incoming demand. How do we keep our incoming demand and also balance the new applications we're rolling out? How do we prioritise our stakeholders' priorities when they are different and we are on one unified platform? And ultimately, how do we create a robust roadmap on the platform with Chewy's rapid growth? Who we are yesterday is not who we are today and is not who Chewy will be tomorrow.
Chewy is managing this by adopting its own maturity model - sit, stay and then fetch. Lawless-Gunn explained:
In 2018 we started in stage one where we were ‘staying'. This is our starting point where everything was very manual, so just putting processes in place was where we started. And then in 2019 we moved into that phase two where we started putting governance in place, building the fundamentals of our ServiceNow platform. Building our ServiceNow team, which went from a team of one, to a team of eight.
Into 2020, we've really been able to get into stage three, which is our self-service. This is where we start listening to what's going on around us. Driving self service through our service portals and chat and mobile. Increasing our integrations, really driving those knowledge sharing with our team members. Moving into stage four is where we plan to spend most of Q4 this year.
Going into 2021, this is where Chewy plans to really get proactive, knowing and starting to look at the data that it is getting out of the Now platform. Lawless-Gunn added:
We have unlimited data here in the tool, so making sure that we are capturing the right KPIs and the data that we are capturing, making sure that we're doing things with it. Making sure that we're making the right decisions to improve our processes that will streamline our team member experience and continue to grow on the platform. And then our goal is in 2021 to really get into that fetch stage or that running phase, where we're getting the maximum value out of the platform. This is through continuous automation, virtual agent, agent intelligence, etc. Really driving that ultimate value.
Whilst Chewy hasn't yet entered the ‘fetch' stage of its maturity model, or at least is in the early stages of it, the organisation has already learnt a number of lessons from its use of ServiceNow and how to effectively manage change across the company.
For example, Lawless-Gunn said that to start it's important to know where you're going as an organisation and how you're going to get there. Specifically, it's imperative to understand how you're going to manage demand on the platform. When Chewy went live in 2018 it didn't have a plan on how it was going to do this, which was a problem. However, the leadership quickly came together and established what a support mechanism would look like - which resulted in slowly hiring a larger ServiceNow dedicated team internally.
Secondly, Lawless-Gunn said that organisations should not underestimate the role branding plays in getting people invested in change. She explained:
That's really critical to the success of the platform. Here at Chewy, branding is everything. So putting together branding for anything customer facing was really critical. We established characters (puppy names) that represented IT, HR and facilities. All three of our puppies roll up to one kennel, being the Kennel Club, our unified portal. The importance of sharing your icons in your advertising throughout the organisation is really critical. The overall usability and getting the buy-in of the organisation to use the tool that you've implemented. Being creative through branding allowed us quickly to make those changes in the organisation.
Thirdly, Lawless-Gunn said that companies shouldn't underestimate the level of effort required in reaching the different maturity levels in rolling out a new platform. She advises that those in charge should build in a buffer of a few works or a sprint in the development cycles, so as not to overcommit. The final key takeaways include:
Really identify your platform's roadmap. And it's okay to have only a roadmap for six months or a year, you don't need to solve world hunger immediately! Start with the little things you can control. So start with three months, six months, a year. Work into a long term roadmap that fits your organisation's needs.
One of the last key takeaways and lessons learned that we've had is really the importance of knowing your stakeholders. We've learned the hard way that the way your approach key team members is very different than the way you work with facilities. Legal, HR, everyone is different. All of their needs are different. Some organisations and groups want to move very fast and some are very slow moving, so really knowing your stakeholders is really critical to the overall success of the platform.
And my last point on lessons learned is really hire the right talent. Make sure you do your due diligence, make sure that you find the right fit for the organisation. And know when to hire your own direct hire versus when to rely on third parties to help implement. IT's really going to be the success of the platform.