Turning the lights back on in the Vaccine Economy - the biggest workflow challenge of our time and one that ServiceNow CEO Bill McDermott aims to meet

Profile picture for user slauchlan By Stuart Lauchlan April 29, 2021 Audio mode
The global economy is opening up again as vaccine programs take effect, but organizations need to face up to the workflow challenges ahead in the new Vaccine Economy ahead.

Image of Bill McDermott ServiceNow CEO

Our culture was born for this moment.

A rallying cry from ServiceNow CEO Bill McDermott and one that, in various forms, we’re likely to be hearing from more and more companies as they stake their claims for their roles in building out the Vaccine Economy around the world. With vaccination programs being rolled out and many countries able to contemplate re-opening for business, digital investment is set to reach new highs as savvy organizations use the enforced downtime from COVID to reassess strategic priorities - and a lot of that thinking needs ot be around workflows.  

Certainly McDermott reports continued digital acceleration in the markets, citing a “workflow revolution” at the epicenter of which sits ServiceNow:

The digital economy is firing on all cylinders, and so are we. Our culture was born for this moment. Our team of 14,000 colleagues are exponential thinkers. This is how we continuously bring innovation to everything we do. In just the past 18 months, we have more than doubled the features and functionality of our platform for our customers…Our purpose has never been more relevant. We are making the world of work, work better for people. 

The company has just released its latest quarterly numbers. First quarter revenues of $1.36 billion were up 30% year-on-year with net income of $82 million. Subscription revenues were $1.293 billion, also up 30% year-on-year growth

Other stats of note:

  • EMEA is “smoking hot”, with 80% year-on-year growth.
  • Renewal rate is 97%.
  • There were 37 deals greater than $1 million value in the first quarter, including seven net new customers.
  • Multi-product deals continue to increase, with 17 of top 20 deals including three or more products.
  • The quarter ended with 1,146 customers with more than $1 million in annual contract volume, up 23%.


Among customer successes, McDermott cites a number of use case exemplars, such as Xerox:

Xerox is leveraging our field service management, their technicians will use Machine Learning to proactively solve customer problems. They're using virtual and augmented reality tools to resolve their customers' issues via desktop, mobile and smart glass devices. 

Meanwhile HSBC is using ServiceNow in a multi-year partnership as their Workflow Partner of Choice to simplify their architectural landscape, while Australia and New Zealand Banking group chose the ServiceNow platform to consolidate, simplify its IT systems and streamline operations to improve the employee experience. 

Elsewhere Telia, a multi-national telecommunications company, which is transforming its service operations, connecting network operations, employees, and customers around the world, and Zalando, an online platform for fashion and lifestyle is implementing a central employee services portal as part of its HR transformation program.


The company’s latest Québec release, complete with 1,700 new features, is already paying dividends for customers, says McDermott, particularly around its use of low-code development tech:

With Québec, we are delivering new low-code tools that move app development beyond the borders of the engineering organization and into the hands of citizen developers, employees without software expertise who need to quickly create workflow applications. We're seeing strong response.

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) at the US Department of Health and Human Services is a great example. NCI has established a digital service center around ServiceNow's low-code app engine platform. In just 10 days, NCI leveraged ServiceNow to build a new application for an online portal to collect and track specimens from COVID-19 patients. ServiceNow's low-code app is helping NCI staff support the global research community in understanding how genetic factors contribute to the severity of COVID-19 cases.

He adds:

They established a digital service center of excellence, and they've done that around ServiceNow's low-code app engine platform. And when you think about time to value, it's just 10 days - they were up and running with an online portal to collect and track specimens of COVID-19 patients.

Mention of COVID brings us back to vaccine programs and McDermott is quick to emphasize ServiceNow’s role here:

Organizations are trapped in the last mile of vaccine management as they lack the processes and infrastructure needed to vaccinate people quickly. This is the workflow challenge of our time. To address these challenges, organizations are using the Now platform as their vaccine management center. Our workflows are connecting organizations existing technology infrastructure to help orchestrate the critical elements of the vaccine management process, including distributing administering and monitoring vaccines.

He cites a couple of examples of how this is playing out in practice, noting that ServiceNow is working with over 100 organizations and governments globally to help vaccinate people at scale:

The Minnesota Children's Hospital implemented our vaccine administration management in five days, so they can stay focused on their number one priority, caring for children. The hospital is using ServiceNow Virtual Assistant to answer questions and scheduled patient vaccinations. They are leveraging inventory tracking and scheduling to ensure appointments, staffing levels and vaccines are all in sync.

Germany's largest state, North Ryan Westfalia, is using ServiceNow to support vaccinations for millions of people. Within two hours of the portal going live, 120,000 people have registered and received an appointment.

Such efforts inevitably help towards the re-opening of the global economy, as McDermott concludes:

Keep in mind, we're now in a global economy that is shifting quickly to lights back on. Last year, GDP was down substantially in the global economy, yet digital transformation spend was up. This year as the economy comes back, they're not slowing down digital transformation spend - actually, it's also going up - but the economy is waking up…I've been in this business for 20 years. I've never seen an opportunity like this in my career, and I actually think we're just getting started.

My take

Even the Willy Wonka chocolate factory can run better on the backbone of the ServiceNow platform.

No-one can doubt McDermott’s passion for his company and its offerings. This was a strong quarter with the continued backdrop of COVID uncertainties doing little to slow down digital transformation thinking, as he notes.

As I said at the start, what’s going to be particularly interesting in the months to come will be to see which organizations have indeed used the terrible events of the last year to focus attention on how to optimize for the new realities of the Vaccine Economy. The ‘New Normal’ was always an empty phrase, but it contains enough truth in so far as things aren’t just going to bounce back to the way they were.

Companies and governments will need to rethink the way they operate in and interact with the world around them. That, as McDermott rightly pitches it, is one hell of a workflow challenge. And, of course, for challenge, read opportunity.