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Swiss Re pursues strategy of ‘no more silos’ by expanding use of ServiceNow

Derek du Preez Profile picture for user ddpreez May 20, 2020
Reinsurance giant Swiss Re started using ServiceNow in its IT function ten years ago. It’s ambitions since then for the Now platform have grown significantly.

Image of a Swiss Re building
(Image sourced via Swiss Re website)

Global reinsurer Swiss Re has taken on an ambitious strategy of ‘no more organisational silos' for its employees, by expanding its use of the ServiceNow Now platform across its group operational functions. The company began its use of ServiceNow for IT Service Management over ten years ago, but processes are now being standardised and centralised on ServiceNow across HR, facilities, procurement, real estate, as well as other departments.

The aim? To provide a seamless experience for employees that shouldn't have to navigate company hurdles to get things done, as well as boost transparency for C-level execs.

diginomica got the chance to speak to Mark Hull, Vice President of Principal Product Management at Swiss Re, this week as part of ServiceNow's virtual Knowledge 2020 event. You can access the event itself here or take a look at our coverage over at diginomica's dedicated Knowledge 2020 resource hub.

Swiss Re was founded in Zurich, Switzerland back in 1863 and it has since grown to become one of the leading wholesale providers of reinsurance, insurance and risk transfer solutions globally, with 56 offices across the world.

Hull explained how Swiss Re began working with ServiceNow back in 2009, when the company's IT department was looking for a cloud-based ticketing tool. However, it didn't take long for the organisation to realise that there were wider opportunities. Hull said:

Once we got ServiceNow in, we very quickly saw the opportunities it could bring us - this platform that can manage requests, manage tasks. So after the first year or so it became our default IT service management platform.

From 2011 through to 2012 we basically went through this rollout period of taking IT processes and bringing them into ServiceNow. That meant in some cases bringing a proper standard platform to Swiss Re that we did not have before and in some cases it meant replacing existing tools.

That brought a lot of benefits to us, we had a centralised body of knowledge on a certain technology, we were able to save costs from licensing. That took us into this phase of ‘ERP for IT'. So in 2013 and 2014 the focus was still very much on IT, but looking for further opportunities to drive automation across the IT organisation, to get the ecosystem more integrated, to look for wins with ServiceNow and bring stuff in.

A big shift

The Swiss Re use case plays well for ServiceNow, which historically has a strong user base in IT, but has been pushing its platform into a broad range of enterprise use cases - including legal, HR, CSM and security. The fact that Swiss Re started with ServiceNow in IT and has followed this exact path matches the vendor's promise that the Now platform is a ‘workflow engine for the whole enterprise'.

Hull explained that the ‘big shift' happened in 2015, when Swiss Re's Chief Operating Officer kicked off a strategy around the idea of ‘Swiss Re Operations Inc.', which was all about running group operations like a business. Hull explained:

One of the first things we realised was that there should be a single channel for our customers to contact us. Our customers are all Swiss Re employees. Driven by this Operations Inc. philosophy, ServiceNow came along for the ride and enabled us to introduce this single way of contacting group operations. We realised we could bring a portal based solution to our employees, so that they could contact us not just about IT, but about facilities management, or a HR situation. They could all go to the same place.

ServiceNow was basically the de facto because we could do two things. On the one hand we got request management - the portal, a single place to go to for our employees to order stuff, give us queries, give us problems to deal with. Then secondly, what we had to do behind the scenes was route that work through the organisation and provide this fulfilment mechanism. That meant we used ServiceNow to create some ticketing and fulfilment solutions, which brought ServiceNow beyond IT. We had to design workflows to digitise stuff that was done manually before.

This common portal for employees was introduced in 2015. By 2017 Swiss Re was thinking about how ServiceNow and this service management model could be extended. One example is how the reinsurer has now pushed ServiceNow out to some of its external customers, where Swiss Re is offering its own software and solutions for the insurance industry. Hull said:

Our external customers were still contacting us by email and other unstructured ways. So we did exactly the same as what we did for our employees as we did for our external clients. We introduced a customer service management portal, we introduced fulfilment solutions.

In addition to this, Swiss Re began looking internally at its own non-IT services and digital transformation opportunities. A key example, Hull said, has been the creation of a ‘digital business management platform', which helps to manage the company's budgeting. Hull said:

Every department within Swiss Re has to do budgeting. Group finance has certain requirements on budgets to be submitted to them, but it was managed in a completely ad hoc way on spreadsheets. So we took one of the ServiceNow applications for financial management and looked at what we could do there.

That was basically us going on this journey of taking a new process, trying to standardise it in a centralised system - ServiceNow. What we are doing is bringing a lot more consistency to the process and also providing C-level transparency into what's going on in a real-time basis.

Rather than waiting every 3 or 6 months for forecasts, the management stakeholders now have ongoing insights into this area that they didn't have before.

Benefits of a cross-function platform approach

Hull said that expanding the use of ServiceNow across Swiss Re has led to a number of benefits for the organisation. Some of these are financial and measurable, whilst others are aligned with pursuing the company's vision of ‘no more silos'.

For example, Hull said that prior to introducing ServiceNow there were more than 25 different service desks across group operations, with multiple teams, each using different mailboxes, their own phone numbers, and using channels all over the place. Swiss Re has now consolidated all of this onto the Now platform.

Hull said:

The strategy was breaking down these silos and giving our employees a seamless experience without silos. But also each initiative that we've tackled has its own business case. We won't get funding for doing cool stuff unless we can bring some kind of benefit.

I would say that the most clear cut way of doing benefit assessment has always been the hard finances, especially when we've been able to replace existing software and centralise onto the Now platform. Business management, for example, we had been using a third party software that we were only using for service based cost management.

I would say that the harder sell is, how do you quantify the benefit of bringing these processes to a higher maturity? For business management the aspiration was to get, firstly, to a level of transparency for what's happening. Secondly, to kind of enable strategic theory. We can't always get to a truly quantifiable benefit, but we work with our stakeholders to try and assess how we can enable them to meet their business objectives.

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