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June 2, 2017updated 28 Jul 2022 5:08am

ServiceNow CIO: Automation, Automation, Automation

Chris Bedi outlined three core focuses of digital transformation - velocity, intelligence and experience.

By Ellie Burns

From revolution to evolution, digital transformation has been tagged with many a metaphor and moniker. Meeting with CBR stateside, ServiceNow CIO Chris Bedi chooses the most loved-metaphor, albeit with a twist.

“Its absolutely a journey. It’s a never ending journey – you are never done being efficient, you are never done being faster. You learn, you iterate, you get better .”

18 months into the job at ServiceNow, Bedi has been a long-time ServiceNow customer in past CIO roles at JDSU and VeriSign. Now tasked with transforming the very company which used to provide him with the tools and services to transform elsewhere, Bedi made it clear that his role is to lead from the front.

“I think CIO’s need to own it and drive it. The whole digital transformation journey is powered by technology and there is not a single business process, customer interaction or experience that happens without an IT platform. I look at it as if not the CIO stepping up and leading it, then who?”

chris bedi

Chris Bedi joined ServiceNow in September 2015 and currently serves as ServiceNow’s CIO.

As any CIO knows, digital transformation encompasses many factors and elements; reskilling and talent, innovation, business outcomes, R&D, strategy, agile development – the list goes on and on. For Bedi at ServiceNow, there are three core areas which need to be at the centre of any digital transformation.

“When I look at where IT needs to focus, its really along three dimensions; velocity intelligence and experience.

“Velocity is simply how can we get everything to go faster – from getting products out the door, servicing customers, and closing the books on everything in-between. A lot of that is rooted in automation. Automation, automation, automation,” the CIO told CBR.

The business case being built for automation is a strong one – vendors are pushing it as the future for everything, from cyber security to customer service. Indeed, ServiceNow recently published research which stated that highly automated companies are six times more likely to experience revenue growth of more than 15%, versus companies with low automation.

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However, the topic of automation is undeniably always linked to the displacement of the human workforce, with many a headline conjuring up images of a terminator-esque robot uprising. This, Bedi says, is a major barrier to the adoption of automation.

“One barrier is the fear, uncertainty and doubt, the human resistance to change that creeps in, because we are changing the way peoples jobs work in a very dramatic way. A lot of it is moving work to machines, that’s unsettling to people because it raises the question of what do I do now”

However, Bedi believes that it comes under the remit of the CIO to help with this change, helping employees through the massive technological shift. For Bedi himself at ServiceNow, automation freed up his workforce to do more interesting, value-add work. The CIO saw an 83% increase in IT productivity and saw a 85% decrease in time spent on on-boarding thanks to automation.

“It’s not necessarily replacing humans, its augmenting humans. You get to do higher value work. Its being that change agent in a positive, but sometimes disruptive , way because this all isn’t going to happen unless someone declares that the states quo just isn’t good enough,” said Bedi.

Automation

Although automation is vital, it is only the first in the three core areas that Bedi focuses on. Explaining the second and third areas, Bedi told CBR:

“On the intelligence side, how do we start to leverage machine learning and predictive analytics – not in some science experiment sort of way, but real use cases that drive business value.”

“On the experience side, I think it’s about shifting the conversation a bit. For the 20 years I have been in IT, cost and efficiency in and outside IT has dominated the conversation, but I think it’s shifting to say let’s create incredible experiences for our customers, lets create incredible experiences for our employees. By shifting the conversation and leading with experience you get the great experience, but the cost and the efficiencies naturally drop out. Its impossible to design a great experience and have it be cumbersome and slow, you just can’t do it.”

The CIO made clear that it is not only intelligence, but the entire digital transformation journey that is predicated on business outcomes, which sometimes necessitates talking to the business in a language they understand.

However, sometimes business outcomes needs to come second when thinking about change and innovation. Ultimately, with velocity, intelligence and experience – the elements of a successful digital transformation – any IT department must be prepared to take risks and innovate.

READ MORE: Shell Downstream CIO: Credibility is key for digital transformation success

“You can’t learn how to ride a bike by watching a load of youtube videos. At some point you’ve got to get on the bike. You cant learn how to use machine learning, predictive or augmented reality without actually doing it. Whenever we have a new technology we actually just try something, then we figure out the right outcomes,” said Bedi.

“If you had asked me three to four years ago about machine learning and predictive and augmented reality I would have said that’s things companies like Facebook and Google are doing. Now, those are here and now for the enterprise. If you are not starting to adopt those things to transform your business then you are doing your company a disservice because its going to be less competitive.”

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