Specsavers begins ‘servitizing’ the business with ServiceNow

Derek du Preez Profile picture for user ddpreez October 18, 2015
Specsavers has started on a journey that involves not only ripping out an old BMC tool, but implementing ServiceNow in an attempt to 'servitize' broad aspects of the business.

Global eye-care specialists Specsavers are beginning to see clearly that ‘servitization’ is the best way forward for its business to get a system of record in place that helps to move away from emails and spreadsheets, whilst also introducing helpful, user-friendly services for employees.

The tool of choice is ServiceNow, which Neil Shaw, Specsavers’ global service tooling manager of IT service delivery at Specsavers, explained will hopefully be the future go-to platform of choice for any business or IT development.

Whilst this brings its own challenges, including better management of stakeholders, Shaw believes that the disparate systems currently in place and the way that the business is currently carried out within Specsavers are in desperate need of change.

Shaw sat down with me at NowForum in London last week, where he said that the company had been using a tool that had alienated his user base. He said:

We’ve had an interesting journey getting here. We were a previous customer of BMC, running a product called FootPrints, which is probably one of the most universally hated tools within the business. People don’t like being asked to fill anything in, they’d much rather just speak to people, phone them or just tap them on the shoulder.

Trying to make them use any tool is always a challenge. But they didn’t like the BMC tool - in part because it was quite old looking, it was slow. And over time we customised it pretty poorly, so it had a poor user experience.

Towards the end of last year Specsavers CIO Phil Pavitt tasked Shaw with finding a new system and to transform his team. Shaw said:

We needed to show a much more caring and friendly face to all of our customers both internally and externally. And to start to move to a new digital experience, to enable people, create more self-help, more collaboration, automation facilities and so on.

Redesigning for the future

Shaw explained that although ServiceNow is initially being introduced to overhaul the company’s ITSM capabilities, which is its core function as a product, over the years users internally had also been using the BMC tool to create custom workflows and products elsewhere. Shaw is keen for these to also be overhauled as part of the project. He said:

Over a period of several years, for internal relationships, people who had seen or heard of FootPrints saw fairly shrewdly that it was a tool that you could use to do workflows, build records, run reports, interact between different sites. There were a number of other different parts, particularly Specsavers UK business, that had developed rather ad-hoc applications for things like travel requests, for facilities, for handling or recording any retail complaints that came through the contact centre.

Most of those were outside IT. They were custom builds that were thrown together in a haphazard, uncoordinated, unconsolidated way.

I think that within the aggressive time period that we had to implement ServiceNow, we had to make a decision. We wanted to move away from FootPrints for our core bread and butter applications for incident problems, change, IT service delivery etc, but we also knew we had these legacy applications and we felt that it was unfair to leave where they were or to tell them to find another solution.

So we wanted to give them the option to come along on the journey and to enhance them as we were going along. We didn’t have too much time for them to spend enhancing the existing processes. It wasn’t quite a lift and shift, because there would be no point implementing a bad process within ServiceNow - so wherever we were able to, we set goals of using ServiceNow as out of the box as we could. For those other bespoke ones that had to be built from scratch, each of the times tried to review the processes for how we can streamline them.

Where to next?

However, Shaw admits that despite his ambitions to ‘servitize’ as much of the organization as possible, there are some departments that would benefit from ServiceNow as a platform, but have already embarked on their own search for new tools. For example, Specsavers’ HR department would likely have been urged to use ServiceNow, but has just contracted with a different vendor for a new system.

But where Shaw sees a need and where a department hasn’t already started to modernise on their own, he “absolutely” has the intention to push ServiceNow. Specsavers has just gone live with ITSM in the past couple of weeks, so is only looking at about 3,000 - 5,000 end users at the moment. But as time goes on, he expects that Specsavers could be looking at 18,000 end users globally. He said:

The first phase is about sunsetting the old tools, introducing more streamlining processes. Then we can take a deep breath and look and ask, where do we go now? I’ve got a list of 50 wish list items that I’ve heard of globally without necessary publicising the potential of it.

We’ve had a drip feed campaign of telling people for three or four months that ServiceNow is coming. We’ve hardly tried to sell the message at all. I’ve spoken to the Board about that and am starting to sow a few seeds there. The policy is really: let’s get it working for ourselves before we start going out. But then we also have to be sure that we’ve got the capabilities to meet the demand as well. We have to know we have the skills and the partner relationships to meet the capability and support it as well.

However, Shaw expects that ServiceNow will be a far more effective system of record where he can make the case for implementation. He said:

You’ve got so many parts of the business already dependent on people speaking to each other, which isn’t bad, but there is no record of that. If you go to the other way of having records, which typically would be through email exchanges, people maintaining spreadsheets, word docs, or even Dropbox files or Google Drive - the ability to have all that data usable via common, responsive, highly available systems globally [is very beneficial].

We’ve got one application that was 9 months ago run on a spreadsheet, there was a lot of effort put into the maintenance of that. We’ve been able to create an application pretty simply, which has replaced the spreadsheet, and it has a lot more potential to roll that out globally.

I can see from many aspects it would be our core system of record. But obviously there are always going to be other systems that have a more specific business purpose.”

For any future developments that IT does or the business needs, the question should be: can ServiceNow do this affordably? If it can, use it, so that we have that common, standard, understood platform.


Despite Shaw’s optimism for ServiceNow as a platform, he does recognise that having a single system that is used across a lot of the business, with the potential for a lot of engaged users, creates a different culture for service management. Shaw’s department will increasingly become a ‘port of call’ for the Specsavers business. He said:

I suppose you have to realise that you have a new set of stakeholders, whose voice might not have been as important to you in the past as it will be in the future. With that, you have to have more partnerships, you have to have more relationships. There is a danger that you might feel that that might make you less agile, or nimble.

But actually for me, the benefits of having those relationships, of working and seeing things from a much more service orientated perspective, thinking about how your user sees it, is really key. I think the issues with our previous tool, which I think is pretty typical across industry and the business, people build them for their own departmental needs.

What’s actually good for the people for running the tool and offering the service, is in most cases by no means what the end user wants. They just want to see something that’s simple, responsive, quick and easy.

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