National Grid, a utility company based in the UK that owns the electricity and gas transmission system, is extending the use of its ServiceNow platform, which has become “strategic” for the company in delivering business value.
This is according to David Westwood, ServiceNow Platform Manager at National Grid, and Joe Ridgway, ServiceNow Platform Architect at National Grid, who I got the chance to speak to at the vendor’s annual NowForum even in London this week.
The pair explained how National Grid began using ServiceNow approximately six years ago, just for incident management for its application support team. This was then extended a couple of years later to include field-force support, which was brought onsite from an offshore location.
However, since these early days, ServiceNow has been implemented as a full-blown ITSM platform, which supports over 30,000 users, and is even now being extended into other areas of the business. Westwood explained how the ITSM project began after National Grid saw the need to insource more of its technical capabilities. This included bringing both the UK and its east coast US operations onto a single global platform. He said:
The biggest implementation we have done is the insourcing of our whole enterprise IT support - from HP, back into National Grid. We built our own processes, we platformed them in ServiceNow.
We used to have separate ordering systems with our suppliers for different items. Bringing that all together in ServiceNow has given us that single source to go and order everything in the same place, globally.
When [outsourced to HP six or seven years ago], it was quite revolutionary because we outsourced absolutely everything, all of our technical capability. We are coming back from that now, especially to a point where we are driving a lot of technology and technical understanding back into the way we work. It’s been a massive journey from a process and a deliverability within IS.
In September 2016, National Grid introduced problem, change, major incident management and a new CMDB. Since then, it has also rolled out service request management and a new portal, which includes chat. It has built the platform around a model that includes agile methodologies, including two weekly sprints, and is interlaced with other projects that are being deployed at the same time.
Westwood said that the utility has begun to recognise that it is more than just ITSM - it is a workflow platform - and as such, has begun delivering some new business applications, which are “driving value to the business”.
For example, the team is considering how ServiceNow could be extended to include HR functions.
I think the biggest value we got from that final ITSM release was that we now have single sign on, we’ve got integrations to our people data, our location data, etc. That’s there now, so that’s allowed us to go to the business to go and solve some of their problems.
Single sign-on and active directory integrations are there - it’s free - they can now take advantage of that. It’s a platform for the business, how can we help solve their problems? We are doing a project now where we are replacing over 100 group mail boxes with the tool now.
On the HR deliberations and extending further into the business, Westwood said:
I think you’ve got to understand where you are with your other platforms as well. We are heavy into SuccessFactors, so there’s a bit overlap there with the HR module. One of the areas where we’ve built this business app is to sit in between ServiceNow and with the shared services side of thing. There’s probably a journey to go on when we next do our refresh, do we go full ServiceNow or not?
Despite National Grid seeing the potential business benefits of ServiceNow as a strategic platform, replatforming onto a single global process doesn’t come without its challenges. Westwood admits that if the company were to do this again, it would take a slightly different approach. And now National Grid is thinking about how it can better utilise the out of the box features of ServiceNow. Ridgway said:
I think if we were to do it again, we would want to be a lot more out of the box aligned than we probably are right now. We are now slowly going through, unpicking that, as we want to improve those processes.
As soon as we went live, our ethos was straight away, back to out of the box, standard ways of doing it. Let’s think about what you want to do to improve, let’s understand the best way of doing that with what we’ve got in the box.
He added that the process teams are inclined, when they run into a challenge, to try and solve it by changing the tool itself. Part of Ridgway’s job is to help them understand and see if there’s a solution that means less customisation. He said:
A big part of what we do as a team is - if you want to change the tool, why? Get back to that ‘why?’. Maybe it’s a training issue or maybe we should be changing the process.
One indicator of the value that ServiceNow is delivering within National Grid, is that Ridgway and Westwood are seeing increased demand from the business. They are trying to prioritise what should come first, and when, which has been helped by the team’s agile approach to delivery. Westwood said:
The main focus has been around the governance, how we prioritise enhancements, how we decide what are the next big projects. We’re always told that the day you go live, your demand goes through the roof. And it did. We found a way of managing that, through the regular sprints, which took a lot of that noise away.
Then you get the next challenge, which are the bigger projects coming along that want to utilise that platform - because it’s got that data, that single sign on, and you can do workflow. Suddenly there’s four of them, how do you prioritise those? We have got to a stage where there’s a lot of that coming at us. So we want to refocus and decide how we want to do that. A key thing in all that is demonstrating the business value we can deliver.
However, the value is certainly there, according to Ridgway. Whilst there have been financial incentives towards greater use, the main value the team is seeing is allowing business users to work better. He said:
How do you measure that you’ve got this data in decision makers hands that they couldn’t really get before? Therefore they’re able to make smarter business decisions. That’s a really intangible benefit, but that’s some of the biggest value we’ve seen.