ServiceNow amps up its focus on people at Knowledge18 and unveils innovation roadmap

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One of the most noticeable signs of ServiceNow’s growth over the last decade or so is the expansion in size of its community. Once a year, some of the ServiceNow employees, customers and partners that make up this community come together for Knowledge, the ServiceNow user conference.

Like many technology companies, this annual conference provides ServiceNow with a platform to share customers’ stories and experiences, launch new products and share other information important to the ServiceNow community.

This year’s event was attended by around 18,000 people, making Knowledge18 the largest to date. Walking the floors and talking to many attendees, I found a very interesting mix of people from all regions of the world and from all service towers within organisations, as well as partners providing ServiceNow services and complementary technology.

Those who have been involved with ServiceNow for a while would have noticed an evolution of the key themes and messages over the years. These changes in theme can be tracked by changes in the company’s CEOs. It is very clear that the current CEO, John Donahoe, centres his messaging around creating great experiences for people. From the very beginning of the first keynote, it was clear that the annual event is no longer just about the ServiceNow technology, but how it can help people.

Information and ideas presented throughout the conference can be broadly divided into two areas:

1) Focus on people – a ServiceNow branding change

ServiceNow unveiled a new brand tag line — Works for you™ — and logo at the event. The removal of the power button as the “o” in the logo and replacement with a human form is symbolic of ServiceNow’s shift away from focusing on technology, to focusing on people — captured also in the company’s renewed purpose and Donohue’s keynote title: “Making the world of work, work better for people.”

2) What ServiceNow customers are asking for

The ServiceNow executive team, particularly Donahoe, regularly meets with ServiceNow customers. According to Donahoe, most customers ask the same things of ServiceNow, which can be grouped into five areas:

  1. Allow for more “out-of-the-box” (OOTB) implementations.

    The more features included as standard in ServiceNow applications, the lower the configuration/customisation required by the customer. This means, for example, customers benefit from more mature and complete processes and workflows, more standard reports, more standard templates and so on.

  2. Avoid the need for customisation.

    Related to the ask for out-of-the-box implementations, customers want to tailor to their requirements by configuring platform features, not through customisation. Therefore, customers are asking ServiceNow for as many variable changes as possible to be available via configuration. This means providing support for more configuration changes to be made through selecting options in the GUI, rather than through scripting and code changes.

  3. Easier upgrades.

    One of the major advantages of ServiceNow over its competitors is its multi-instance design, allowing customers to decide for themselves if and when to upgrade. ServiceNow asks customers to remain no more than two versions behind the current release to ensure that they benefit from the new features available to them.

  4. More trained people in the ecosystem.

    The growth of ServiceNow, both in terms of customers and features of the platform, has led to a high demand for ServiceNow skills. To respond to this, ServiceNow has recently revamped and expanded its training and certification program.

  5. More predictable release schedule and roadmap.

    ServiceNow has become a strategic platform for many of its customers. This has led to an increased focus on planning for ServiceNow upgrades and enhancements. Recognising the need for certainty in the planning process, the company has committed to a more predictable release schedule (Q1 and Q3 each year) and more transparency in its product roadmaps. Releases are named after global cities in alphabetical order, with London the upcoming release.

    ServiceNow release timeline

    ServiceNow release timeline – Source: ServiceNow

How ServiceNow customers become successful on the platform

ServiceNow sees four characteristics as being key to customers’ success on the platform:

  1. Commit to “OOTB.”

    Don’t lift and shift bad process; redesign processes as part of a shift to new ways of working.

  2. Provide clear leadership and governance for the platform.

    This is becoming increasing important as ServiceNow expands into more than one service area.

    • Executive level ownership of the platform
    • Clear sponsorship for OOTB
    • Commitment to regular upgrades, at least one per year
    • Standards definition and management
  3. Invest in organisational change management.

    Build a ServiceNow centre of excellence to help oversee the platform, drive innovation and create excitement.

  4. Drive business outcomes.

    Set and continually measure and review business objectives.

These four characteristics have help shape the recently launched ServiceNow Customer Success Centre, designed to help customers become and remain successful on the platform. The centre includes new and existing content to help customers adopt recognised best practices, both from a technical perspective (such as development standards and guides for upgrade preparation and best practices) and a non-technical perspective (such as adoption tool kits, value calculators and organisational change templates).

New ServiceNow products and technology

ServiceNow has announced features that are sure to make customers smile:

  • Agent Workspace

    Introducing a completely revamped fulfiller experience in the London release, Agent Workspace brings together all contextually relevant user and case information onto a single page, eliminating the need to move between multiple ServiceNow applications to resolve a case. This change will dramatically increase the efficiency of fulfillers and allow for a more proactive support approach by using AI to suggest knowledge articles and catalogue items.

    ServiceNow agent workspace screenshot

    ServiceNow Agent Workspace screenshot – Source: ServiceNow

  • New native mobile application

    A new native iOS and Android application will be introduced in Madrid. The mobile application developer within ServiceNow will give organisations the ability to develop their applications for mobile (to be contained within the ServiceNow mobile application) through a GUI interface with codeless ServiceNow’s mobile applications will be able to integrate with a phone’s hardware directory to access functions such as the GPS and camera. Even bigger news is that the new mobile applications will include offline read/write access, something that has long been demanded by customers.

  • Enterprise DevOps

    Recognising the need to evolve and integrate with a wide range of tools and platforms in a DevOps style of working, ServiceNow will be gradually introducing DevOps-friendly capabilities into the platform, starting from the London release. In doing so, they recognise that developers will continue to track development, manage code, etc., in other tools, but that those tools should talk to ServiceNow to track changes, releases, configuration and so on. The main benefit to customers will be the ability to view information about development in one place and tie these projects into changes, projects, incidents and configuration items also managed on ServiceNow.

  • Flow Designer

    In line with ServiceNow’s goal to allow anyone to build process flows using natural language and without the need to code, Flow Designer allows users to create workflows using a GUI and selecting from a library of predefined and reusable objects and actions or creating their own. In addition to making the development and management of workflows easier, Flow Designer helps lower the effort and risk of upgrades by reducing the need for complex scripts and other customisations.

    ServiceNow flow designer screenshot

    ServiceNow Flow Designer screenshot – Source: ServiceNow

  • IntegrationHub

    As an extension to Flow Designer, IntegrationHub is about making integrations between ServiceNow and third-party systems easier. One of the big benefits to customers will be the prebuilt connectors to other systems. This library of standard integration and orchestration actions is populated by actions built by ServiceNow (such as for Slack and Microsoft Teams) or third-party developers.

  • Virtual Agent

    Virtual Agent is an on-platform chatbot for ServiceNow available in the London release and based on ServiceNow’s acquisition of Parlo. Virtual Agent sits at the platform level, meaning it can be used with any standard or custom application, as well as through APIs to ServiceNow and non-ServiceNow mobile applications. Some standard integrations with third-party applications are pre-built, including for Slack and Microsoft Teams. Conversations with the Virtual Agent are predesigned using the platform’s Virtual Agent Designer, which is built on Flow Designer. Some pre-built conversations will be provided with Virtual Agent, mostly for ServiceNow more population applications of ITSM, HR and CSM.

If you’re a ServiceNow customer, you have access to the world’s leading enterprise service management platform, with an exciting roadmap of innovation to further strengthen the solution’s position in your company. To maximise the benefit you get from your ServiceNow investment and to take advantage of these innovations, you need to ensure your platform is operating at its best and is tuned to your organisation.


Andrew Meek headshotAndrew Meek is the Chief Technologist for DXC Fruition in Australia and New Zealand. He has worked in the areas of enterprise service management, business technology and digital transformation for over 15 years. Andrew is passionate about working with customers to help them transform and shape the way they use technology.

LinkedIn: @andrewmeek

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