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That’s a wrap! ServiceNow confident on its ‘workflow revolution’ pitch as Knowledge 2020 concludes

Derek du Preez Profile picture for user ddpreez June 10, 2020
With Bill McDermott now at the helm, ServiceNow seems to have refined its focus on solving problems for the enterprise.

Image of someone at Knowledge 2020
(Image sourced via ServiceNow)

What should have been a three day in-person event in the US quickly turned into a global, six week long, content driven virtual event, once the reality of the COVID-19 pandemic set in for ServiceNow a short few months ago. Knowledge 2020 is coming to an end this week, with more than 1,000 on-demand sessions still made available for online viewing - including everything from the CEO keynote, to dozens of customer presentations, and even cocktail making classes.

However, the key theme from the event this year - one that CEO Bill McDemortt has been keen to bring to the fore - is that there is a ‘workflow revolution' happening right now in the enterprise and (unsurprisingly) ServiceNow is the vendor best positioned to take advantage of that.

In our exclusive conversation with McDermott he said that ServiceNow has benefited from being born in the cloud and has not made large-scale acquisitions, keeping the platform architecture and data model simple. This enables McDermott to pitch ServiceNow as the ‘platform of platforms', where he claims that it "seamlessly integrateIn other words, ServiceNow is telling the market that it can easily integrate into all your systems of record, the ones it claims aren't bringing you real change, and allow you to redesign your processes for a modern workforce. McDermott told us:

We're that workflow workhorse. The customer can just rewire the processes to accommodate this modern workforce.

And because it's a workflow revolution, you design the process. The worker tells you how they want to consume the work, and how they want to wire from one department to another. The consumer or the customer tells you how they want their services and you simply accommodate that. It's a revolution.

This will be compelling for buyers, which often struggle to connect the dots across the enterprise, focus on being service-led, user-led and break down organisational silos. Those are often the key points when we think and talk about ‘digital change', which is why ServiceNow has a compelling proposition.

Looking ahead

That's not to say that the vendor doesn't have its challenges. ServiceNow has a long history in the IT department, starting out as a cloud-based ITSM tool, before branching out. ITSM has a clear use case and the product outcomes are well-defined and understood.

What ServiceNow needs to do now is bring similar outcomes and product use cases - or at least examples and an education process around these - to the market. The company has already done this in many ways, but I would argue that we need to see more.

I want to see customers up on stage next year talking not about tickets and change requests, but I want to see how the ServiceNow platform is at the centre of an enterprise change story. How it has allowed a customer to break down faux organisational barriers to deliver better service to customers and/or employees. Give us examples of those services and show us how they work.

ServiceNow is heading in this direction. This year, in particular, it was noticeable in the company's response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the solutions it is bringing to buyers. For example, its ‘return to work' apps and tools - which include employee health screening, workplace safety management, and employee readiness surveys - are very clearly defined. And the response from buyers, according to McDermott, has been huge, with hundreds of customers opting to use the ServiceNow platform to help get employers ready for the ‘future of work'. McDermott said:

We are running them at ServiceNow and they're available globally at mass scale. We've had over 200 of the world's largest companies already download them.

In terms of other challenges facing ServiceNow, McDermott was honest about the need to expand the vendor's partner ecosystem. An announcement at Knowledge 2020 played into this (and the use case discussion above) - ServiceNow Partner Industry Solutions. This is a new marketplace that aims to showcase partner solutions designed to address specific industry workflow problems.

For example, Accenture will build telecommunications solutions. Atos is targeting manufacturing with quality inspection tools. Deloitte will provide banks with bespoke complaints management solutions.

This is what is needed. Because ServiceNow and the platform could effectively mean anything to anyone and different things to different companies (‘a workflow is a workflow'), the vendor and its partners need to clearly lay out the opportunities for partners. McDermott said:

We have to expand the ecosystem quite dramatically…I do believe the workflow revolution is in its early days and we have to be missionaries to make sure the word gets out. I believe the days of investing in heavy, complex systems of record will slow down quite dramatically. I believe that workflow is the revolution that will close that gap, enabling great things to happen to these customers. But we still have to get the word out to them.

Customers tell their stories

One of the best features of Knowledge 2020 has been ServiceNow's willingness to highlight dozens of customer stories and make them available on demand. There were too many for us to write them all up, so it's worth checking out the ones of interest yourself whilst you can.

The sessions we touched on covered a variety of use cases, which included:

My take

We've seen a refined focus from ServiceNow since McDermott took over as CEO last year. The messaging around process redesign and workflow revolution plays directly into a number of key issues facing enterprises as they consider their ‘change' strategies - particularly in a COVID-19 world. ServiceNow has a lot of opportunity in front of it - the key to fully taking advantage of that will be centering itself in those change stories, in the eyes of enterprise buyers. To do that it needs to be clear about the art of the possible with the ServiceNow platform, both in terms of solutions and an education process for buyers. Until Knowledge 2021, that's a wrap...

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