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Some words of advice for ServiceNow as it targets $15bn - knowledge is power

Derek du Preez Profile picture for user ddpreez May 21, 2021
A huge opportunity lies ahead for ServiceNow as the world of work continues to change rapidly. But it’s not a given and ServiceNow needs to guide its customers thoughtfully.

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(Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay )

As ServiceNow's 2021 user conference draws to a close, I thought it may be useful to take stock of what opportunities and challenges lie ahead for the digital workflow vendor and perhaps (if I can be so indulgent) offer some words of advice from an outsider perspective. 

There's no doubt that under the leadership of Bill McDermott, ServiceNow has become very confident in its position in the market and that COVID-19 has accelerated its route to widespread adoption in the enterprise. But that doesn't mean that achieving its ambitions is a given. Focus is essential and communicating a clear, cogent strategy will be hugely advantageous. 

It's worth taking a look at our coverage of Knowledge 2021 in diginomica's event hub for some further background on ServiceNow's positioning this year - but the key takeaways are that McDermott is targeting $15 billion in revenue in the next five years (triple its current ARR) and ServiceNow has a renewed focus on verticalization

And as noted above, COVID-19 has really brought to the fore the importance of ‘digital workflow' in the enterprise. Companies now understand that work cannot be confined to the four walls of an office and that making work flow through a business - between employees and with customers - requires cross-integration between systems, a focus on organizing data and a considered approach to designing experiences. 

We've seen evidence of this across a variety of use cases over the past couple of weeks. Everything from Levi Strauss using virtual agents to support service desk staff, to Bristol Myers Squibb rethinking its onboarding experience for new employees globally. The customer stories this year really articulated a lot of what I've been calling for in previous years: explaining what workflow really means to potential buyers. 

However, some work still needs to be done to fully build that picture for those not so proficient in the ‘power of the workflow'. 

The power of the Now platform

During Bill McDermott's main address to Knowledge this year, he made a comment that the power of the Now platform means that customers can build any workflow that they need. He also pointed to the work of ServiceNow engineers over the past 18 months, where they have ‘doubled the functionality' of the platform during this period. 

Time and time again with ServiceNow customers, the use cases that emerge are varied and showcase how the platform can support doing anything from administering vaccinations to supporting customer service operations. ServiceNow's whole mantra is making work, work better for people - and the number of customer stories put front and centre over the past two weeks suggests strong support for the vendor. 

However, the challenge with this is that broadness in scope can leave people feeling overwhelmed with the opportunity available, if they are just starting on their workflow journey. A message that ServiceNow can ‘do anything when it comes to workflow' may be true, but it might not be the exact message that people need to hear at this particular moment in time. 

It's worth remembering that over the past 18 months buyers have had to deal with an immense amount of pressure. Many went into swift reactive mode at the beginning of the pandemic and they are only now just beginning to see the wood for the trees and to think about their medium to long term strategies, as they consider what the future of work looks.

I believe ServiceNow, instead of going consistently broad, should focus in on specific guidance and capability. Companies need a helping hand and people in general love to not only be shown the oasis, but also the path to get there. 

That's not to say McDermott and the ServiceNow team aren't doing this at all. We have seen evidence of it, but I believe it would benefit the vendor to take it even further. This will be even more important as it pursues its renewed verticalization strategy, as it soon becomes apparent to buyers looking for industry solutions if the company selling doesn't understand a vertical's very specific needs. 

Showcasing that ServiceNow ‘gets it'

To be clear, what I want to see from ServiceNow is it showcasing accessible blueprints for success across a variety of use cases, including industry solutions. I want it to advocate for a design-led approach for experience-focused outcomes, with it building up an internal capability to show its customers how to get there. I want to see it building up internal talent from specific verticals of interest, so that when we talk to ServiceNow about healthcare or manufacturing, the insights are best in class. 

Want to know how to create a loan workflow for your customers in the financial sector? Here's where to look and what that looks like. Want to better understand how virtual agents can be used to support customers and service desk staff? These are the best practice approaches to take in your industry. Struggling with data complexity? Here's a roadmap to help you get where you need to go. 

All this information is of course already sitting inside ServiceNow, but I think it would benefit the vendor to bring some of it front and centre. Buyers that want to rapidly change are at a point in time where they kind of understand what needs to happen, but they need explicit detail and help getting there. 

For ServiceNow, as a vendor that touches so many points of a company and the employee/customer experience, that requires being an expert in everything from technology functionality, to user led design, to change management. The complexity facing buyers at the moment is incredibly intense - but if ServiceNow can be an expert in the areas that matter and support their customers in getting to that end goal, the proliferation of the platform in enterprises across the world could be rapid. Knowledge is power.

My take

None of this is a criticism of what ServiceNow is doing. Also, I'm very much giving my two cents to people that have decades of experience and know what they're talking about. ServiceNow is clearly in a strong position and I'm told that its current growth plans are on the ‘conservative side'. 

That being said, it needs to be acknowledged that buyers are at an inflection point and many of them don't yet fully understand what's required to get to a state that reflects the vision of ServiceNow's workflow revolution. They need help building up the skills, capability and knowledge of how to get there and as noted above, ServiceNow needs to provide the blueprint for that journey. Practical advice and a clear understanding of what's happening ‘on the ground' and talking about that extensively and publicly will stand ServiceNow in good stead. 

Customer success requires continued support and I truly believe buyers are looking to vendors that can clearly articulate what needs to be done, with resources and knowledge sharing being made readily available. The technology is strong, we know that, now ServiceNow needs to become the vendor with all the practical answers. 

For more diginomica stories from Knowledge 2021 visit our Knowledge 2021 event hub. Knowledge 2021 opened on May 11th and sessions are available to view on-demand until October 2021. This is the event registration link.

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