ServiceNow eyes investments in verticals, low code and field service

Profile picture for user ddpreez By Derek du Preez October 18, 2019
We speak to Farrell Hough, SVP of Customer Workflow Products at ServiceNow, about the challenges facing enterprises in 2019 and how this is influencing ServiceNow’s investment decisions.

Farrell Hough, SVP ServiceNow

ServiceNow is fundamentally a workflow cloud vendor. Whilst the company’s roots are in the ITSM function, it’s growth has been driven by the recognition from buyers that as a platform it has a huge variety of applicable use cases across the enterprise. 

By being able to sit across a variety of systems of record - both on premise and in the cloud - ServiceNow isn’t in direct competition with any vendor in the traditional sense. Instead, it sells itself as a complementary platform that enables better experiences (via reimagined workflows) for both internal employees and external customers. 

And this thinking has matured in recent years, particularly under the leadership of CEO John Donahoe, who has helped to sell the message that ServiceNow ‘makes work, work better for people’ and push the platform into a number of departments, including customer service, security and HR. By focusing on experience, ServiceNow has gained traction and support from customers. 

Speaking with ServiceNow’s SVP of Customer Workflow Products, Farrell Hough, this week in London, it’s clear that the vendor is not only looking to mature this thinking by refining its vertical approach and extending workflows further out to end users, but is also considering the role of low code/no code techniques to fill gaps and democratise the platform for business users. 


However, before we go any further, it’s important to understand ServiceNow’s thinking behind the challenges facing enterprises in 2019. This context provides insight into the motivation it has for its future investments. 

Farrell outlined three core challenges, which include: 

  1. Applying standardisation of technology for purposes of scale. Farrell argues that customers have realised that they’ve got to standardise on a set of strategic platforms to address the majority of their technology needs. Where those platforms don’t reach, customers will deploy point solutions or focus on open source. For ServiceNow, because it has a broad appeal for use cases across the enterprise, this is obviously good news (scale). 

  2. Attracting, hiring and retaining talent is critical. Farrell believes that this has never been more important to the enterprise and sees customers reinvesting in their workplaces. How technology can be used to enable and facilitate culture is key. She argues that “whoever gets there first, wins”. 

  3. The experience of employees is translating over to the experience of customers. The two complement each other and each one is necessary for the other. Farrell argues that those who can retain customers, will see revenues grow massively (which plays into the need for transforming customer service). 

Maturing the offering

With this in mind, ServiceNow is seeking to mature its offering in a number of ways. This comes in the form of new solutions (field service/asset management), a renewed emphasis on verticals, as well as a push into no code/low code. 

On the verticals approach, Hough explained that ServiceNow will be taking a multi-pronged approach, whereby it will consider both point solutions and more context. Low code/no code will also play into this to fill the gaps. She said: 

With transformation, understanding by industry or verticals, you’re going to have different levels of applicability by platform. If the product itself or the platform itself are not supporting a vertical specifically, being able to have a low code/no code approach to keep your costs low, but contextualise your workflows, contextualise your work, to plug the gaps, is going to be really important. 

We’re definitely exploring vertical solutions. We have a leader in our go-to-market team, Marshall Tyler, and then my predecessor, are now working together to build vertical solutions in financial services, as well as telco. We already have a vertical presence, although not in the form of a product, in government and public sector globally. We will be following on with healthcare solutions as well. 

It all depends on how much you need to productize, or how much of it is content, or a skin that you need to put on top of what already exists? It’s fairly early days, but we are building out banking use cases for financial services that are leveraging the customer facing case management component.

Hough added that where the standardisation of language and the underlying data model are enough, ServiceNow will look to the low code/no code approach to satisfy vertical needs. In addition to this, however, low and no code solutions will be used to more broadly put the ServiceNow platform in the hands of business users across the enterprise. By getting ServiceNow into more hands outside of IT, this clearly helps drive demand. She said: 

We’re continuing to democratise the workflow and not put the burden on IT professionals or external service professionals. We need to make it much more consumable and scalable by allowing business process owners to make the tweaks and changes that they need to make and be able to manage that themselves. 

We want the masses to have access.

Finally, Hough spoke about ServiceNow’s ambitions in field service and/or asset management. Other vendors, such as ServiceMax, have seen huge success in this area, given that companies with either industrialised assets or agents in the field are seeing huge benefits by digitising processes and making use of data at scale for predictive/preventive management. ServiceNow clearly thinks there’s an opportunity to make a dent in this market by extending its workflow platform beyond the enterprise walls. Hough explained:

You’ll see a huge investment on our end into field service and into the mobile workforce. So that when we say that we are end to end and connected, a connected customer experience, if that means in your house - that literally means in your house. 

And we will be able to help our customers fulfill that promise. Also, machines deserve to be thought of as people. Monitored and serviced and cared for in the same way that we look after our customers. We need to look after machines doing the work as well. That’s where you will see our very strong asset background tie into smart operations for connected devices, so an IoT side of things. 

There’s a way we can really improve the end consumer experience by taking the power of our workflow and extending it as far as we can possibly reach.

My take

ServiceNow appears to be taking a sensible approach. Whilst the field service/asset management venture is an obvious one, given the ‘service’ nature of the vendor, the verticals and no code comments show a maturing in its offer that aims to push ServiceNow into the hands of more users. Hough’s comments about technology at scale reflect this. ServiceNow knows that the more people or more machines it can reach, in more industries, the better chance it has of being one of those few strategic platforms for buyers in the future.