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Knowledge17: ServiceNow CEO wants all of the enterprise, not just IT

Annual conference also saw the launch of the company's Intelligent Automation Engine.

By Ellie Burns

John Donahoe has only been in the top job at ServiceNow for just 49 days, with the new CEO using his debut at the annual Knowledge conference as an opportunity to outline his strategy and vision for the cloud company.

First a round of introductions from the self-proclaimed “new kid on the block’, with Donahoe first showing the audience a glimpse into his personal life, projecting a picture of his wife and kids. It was a nice touch by the CEO, bringing a personable touch to the keynote and drawing laughter from jovial claims that his daughter is his favourite child.  The personal touch is not only a departure from the bullish nature of founder Frank Luddy, but also speaks to the ecosystem which ServiceNow is trying to create – one of connections, learning from customers and building solutions together.

“He seems very personable, and has made no secret about his style of leadership – most notably, in how understanding and responding to changing customer needs must be a key organizational objective,” said Ovum senior research analyst Adam Holtby.

Then on to his illustrous past experience, with Donahoe detailing his previous roles at Bain & Company and, of course, his seven year tenure as eBay president and CEO. It is at eBay, Donahoe told the audience, where he truly learnt about the power of the customer and the importance of driving great user experiences. His role at eBay also exposed him to ServiceNow – exposure which made his decision to join the cloud company an easy one.

“My decision to join ServiceNow was an easy one. I was a customer of ServiceNow when I was at eBay and a very satisfied customer. As I got to know the company more deeply over the last year, simply put, I fell in love with this company. I fell in love with its purpose, I fell in love with the technology…I fell in love with the people, both the employees and the customers, and I fell in love with the opportunity of what is ahead of us. The opportunity to transform how enterprises operate.”

Knowledge17: ServiceNow CEO wants all of the enterprise, not just IT

CEO John Donahoe takes to the Knowledge stage for the first time.

Not only did his time at eBay instil his “love” for ServiceNow, but it also formed his customer-led strategy – a nice segue by the CEO into what was the primary focus of the keynote. The customer is so important to Donahoe, that his organisational structure has the customer at the top, with the CEO at the bottom.

“Most people think of organizational models as a hierarchy, but the model that I have learned and adopted is the exact opposite of that. We exist to work in an upside-down triangle with our customers at the top of the chart and me as the CEO at the bottom. This means we ‘start’ with our customers at the pinnacle of our operational objectives. It is an upside-down pyramid, but that’s okay because I’ve got broad shoulders,” said Donohoe.

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The CEO again went on a more personable drive, saying that the first 49 days in the CEO’s chair were dedicated to listening and learning from customers. Having met a large number of customers, who acknowledged how the company’s approach to ITSM was a ‘game-changer’, the feedback pointed to digital transformation not just in IT, but across the enterprise.

It is in this, the simplification and automation of workflows across the entire enterprise, which could prove another important game-changer for ServiceNow. Although CEO Donahoe was quick to state that “ServiceNow is committed to continuing to invest heavily in your success within IT”, the trend emerging was customer demand for simple and automated workflows outside of IT. Pointing to ServiceNow delivering on that customer demand with last year’s release of cloud services in HR, security and customer support, Donahoe said:

“The ServiceNow platform is your digital transformation partner as you drive transformation, not just in IT, but across the enterprise.”

This is a bold move by ServiceNow – they are a leader in ITSM, but they are now making an ambitious broad, cross-functional play. Although Ovum’s Holtby highlighted the challenge in raising awareness of the ServiceNow platform outside of IT, there is some key common themes which ServiceNow is well positioned to support.

“Most notably the need to help orgs improve cross-functional workflows, make work more transparent, improve in-context collaboration, and enabling companies with automation capabilities that can help them realize new process efficiencies,” said Holtby.

Automation and AI was billed by Donahoe as a key element in the future of the company, with the CEO pledging to “build, partner or buy whatever is necessary” in regards to machine learning. Pointing to the company’s partnership with IBM Watson and to the recent acquisition of machine learning start-up DxContinuum, the CEO pushed his commitment to innovation. As case in point, the CEO used his keynote address to launch the company’s Intelligent Automation Engine.

Essentially, ServiceNow has embedded intelligence across its platform, tailored with each customer’s data. The Engine is machine learning intelligence applied to four of the biggest use cases that IT has today. These are geared towards preventing outages; automatically categorizing & routing work; predicting future performance; and benchmarking performance against peer systems.

Dave Wright, chief strategy officer at ServiceNow, took to the stage to explain the company’s new Intelligent Automation Engine.

Taking to the stage to talk about the launch, Dave Wright, chief strategy officer, was quick to dismiss concerns that Intelligent automation would be a flash in the pan technology, saying:

“When you start to look at the way data policies are changing and how data quantity is changing, you start to understand that it’s not just going to become a nice to have, its going to become a necessity. This is going to be the oxygen that helps your business live in the next four years.”

For Ovum’s Holtby, the Intelligent Automation Engine could hep the company realise the value of IoT, with the senior analyst saying: “I was encouraged by the intelligent automation capabilities showcased, as this is functionality that can potentially help organizations make sense of environments that are becoming increasingly connected. When we think about better personalizing service experiences, the value of IoT becomes evident, so I’m certainly looking forward to seeing how ServiceNow further evolves its capabilities in this area.”

Wrapping up his first Knowledge keynote, CEO Donahoe reiterated his company’s commitment to digital transformation – namely helping and supporting  in that digital revolution.

“Digital tranformation is about delivering great experiences to employees and customers, doing that by streamlining and automating workflows across the enterprise and then using technology, leading in technology like machine learning, to deliver delightful experiences.

Donahoe made a great impression on the attendees at Knowledge 17 – the personable touch, coupled with extensive experience in big leadership roles, points to the fact that ServiceNow is in good hands moving forward. Steady hands at the helm have never been more important for the cloud company; big ambitions to serve across the enterprise alongside innovations in areas such as machine learning will, if accomplished, make ServiceNow one of the most formidable software companies in the world. However, the challenge for the company remains in stepping outside of IT and making it known that they are ready to take on the whole enterprise.



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