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ServiceNow gets results with use-what-you-sell thinking

IT companies for years have been urged to use what they sell — how can tech purveyors expect customers to take the leap of faith when the sellers have yet to make the same commitment? The same kind of thinking holds true in the cloud computing era, and one example of the internal use philosophy is ServiceNow, an enterprise software as a service and platform as a service provider.

ServiceNow, based in Santa Clara, Calif., launched in 2003 in the IT service management (ITSM) space, but has since become a more generalized cloud platform for automating workflow in a range of corporate departments. ServiceNow deployments, moving beyond the IT organization, span corporate departments including human resources, legal, field services, marketing and facilities.

That expansion is mirrored in ServiceNow’s own experience.

Chris Bedi, CIO at ServiceNow, said the company initially started in ITSM, using the product to manage its own IT operations. Expansion from that starting point was gradual, but the company now runs end to end on ServiceNow.

The scope of internal use includes ServiceNow’s channel partner program. The company had been running 10 partner portals, based on a mix of commercial platforms and home-grown code. The company used the ServiceNow platform to build an application that consolidates partner communications to a single portal.

“As we grew revenue with our partner ecosystem … we needed a better way to do business with them on joint marketing and customer implementation,” Bedi said.

The portal project, which was completed in about 12 weeks, did more than create a unified partner experience. It boosted deal registrations by 33%, according to ServiceNow.

The consolidation effort is emblematic of Bedi’s approach to getting the culture right within IT. He believes CIOs should own responsibility for the overall velocity of the business, become accountable for employee productivity and focus on user experience.

“We lead with experience” Bedi said, noting that the traditional IT emphasis has been on efficiency.

But efficiency and productivity flow from improving user experience, which also influences velocity. Once users are sold on the prospect of a better experience and improved productivity, they are not going to want to wait months to see the vision manifest itself, Bedi explained.

“We’re not talking about 9-months projects involving a small army,” he said.

Instead, ServiceNow deploys small scrum teams to tackle projects that take a few weeks, rather than several months, as was the case with the partner portal.

Other results of ServiceNow’s IT culture and internal product use include:

• Faster onboarding – The company said IT processing time for new hires shrank from a bit more than one hour to 10 minutes. The resulting labor savings was 85%.

• Manual labor reduction – ServiceNow cut about 4,500 hours of manual work by automating the financial close process, boosting finance productivity by 45%.

• ITSM boost – Service management productivity in the IT department increased 83%, due to automation and self-help tools that let the team increase incident volume throughput without adding headcount, ServiceNow noted.

One piece of advice Bedi has for organizations seeking similar results: avoid incrementalism. He suggested organizations set high goals, adding that ServiceNow’s ITSM productivity gain was inspired by setting an objective of 50% improvement.

“It’s easy to achieve a 10% to 15% improvement on anything,” Bedi said. “We set a target that forced us to think differently, instead of staying in the comfort zone of incrementalism,” he said.