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May 11, 2017updated 12 May 2017 11:45am

ServiceNow CEO: We have great steak, but no sizzle

ServiceNow is looking to escape its 'prison of success'.

By Ellie Burns

I go to a lot of tech shows, but this week was my first Knowledge conference with cloud company ServiceNow – and many big vendors could learn a lot from the ITSM leader.

Yes, the show had the big stage, loud music and the standard roll-out of products, strategy and vision – yet it was the execs that made a difference. I know it goes against the grain to heap praise on big vendors, but everyone was personable and all completely, and genuinely, bought into the company culture and vision. That says a lot for the confidence the company instils in its employees, as the company’s vision is certainly ambitious.

READ MORE: Knowledge17 Lightspeed Recap

The seemingly bold vision and strategy sold to me throughout my time at the conference was centred on the company escaping from its “prison of success”, as global VP Michael Hubbard put it to me. The company is known for its success in ITSM, with the company setting its sights on going enterprise-wide and serving departments outside IT. However, new ServiceNow CEO John Donahoe was quick to tell me that it is not his attention to go after “the whole world”.

“We are trying to leverage what we are really good at, so we are not trying to be the HR system of record, we’re not trying to be the financial system of record or CRM system of record,” said the CEO.

ServiceNow CEO: We have great steak, but no sizzle

ServiceNow CEO John Donahoe delivers his keynote at Knowledge17

What the company is trying to do is answer customer demand, namely for simple and automated workflows outside of IT. The company responded with cloud services in HR, security and customer support – and yet the shadow of IT was seemingly still casting its shadow onto the cloud firm.

The perception of ServiceNow is that it is little known outside of IT – but, as the CEO directly told me at an exclusive roundtable, that perception could not be more wrong. Stating that customers are already buying outside of IT, the CEO set the record straight saying that customers are increasingly “buying multiple products right up front.”

The company’s Q1 financials backs the CEO’s statement up, with the results pointing to the fact that the company is already moving towards it’s goal of diversifying its business mix. According to the financials, 73% of ServiceNow customers license more than one product, up 50% from two years ago.

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So ServiceNow is not just a cloud company for IT – so why do those perceptions of ServiceNow just being an ITSM leader persist? It’s all down to steak, the ServiceNow CEO told me.

“Our brand awareness, our marketing materials, our narrative is almost behind the reality. The typical software company promises a lot and then delivery lags – all sizzle and not a lot of steak. That’s not just the story of software, its the story of tech to some extent,” said Donahoe.

“This company has great steak and we are just learning how to communicate and market that.”

The CEO is seeing a change – hoping to get the sizzle to market the great steak – with new CMO Dan Rogers, who he says has started for the first time “to commuicate in any systematic way our brand awareness and our brand identity.”

“I do think that lags. I do think our brand identity, our brand awareness on average is very IT orientated. If we look at the front-line customer behaviour, the financials and the facts would say actually its expanded and its expanding.

“Brand-wise we have some work to do,” the CEO told CBR.

The company could be on to a winner if they could bolster marketing with the passion and drive which I have seen from ServiceNow execs over the past two days. They have a great product, partners and employees – now they have to let everyone know it.

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