CNME Editor Mark Forker managed to secure an exclusive interview with Mark Ackerman, Area VP MEA at ServiceNow, to find out more about the best practices businesses need to pursue to achieve digital resilience and transform their operational processes, the impact the latest Utah release of the Now Platform will have, and what differentiates the company from its rivals.
In 2024, ServiceNow will celebrate 20 years in business.
The success the US software company has enjoyed during that time has been nothing short of staggering.
Its mission statement as a service provider is to leverage the power of technology to make the world a better place for all of us – and its tagline is the ‘world works with ServiceNow’.
It’s hard to argue with that claim, especially when you consider that 80% of Fortune 500 companies use ServiceNow.
CNME spoke to Mark Ackerman, Area VP MEA at ServiceNow, in an effort to find out how the company is helping regional organisations overcome operational challenges and implement organisational agility and resilience in their business transformation.
Ackerman joined ServiceNow in 2015, and has played a key role in the US software behemoths growth across the Middle East & Africa over the last eight years.
Ackerman kickstarted the conversation by outlining the state of play in the marketplace when it comes to the challenges and opportunities with business transformation.
“It has become quite evident of late, that the technology strategy has now become the business strategy. That viewpoint has been backed up by reports commissioned by IDC, and Gartner, that show that around 50% of the budgets are going towards modernising and enabling companies to be much more agile. In today’s climate, organisations don’t want to have to choose between innovation and speed, or between a great experience, or growth, they want to have all those things simultaneously,” said Ackerman.
Ackerman claimed that some of the biggest challenges stem from the fact that traditionally organizations have had digital silos, where they have operational excellence within those silos. Ackerman used a regional telecommunication operator as an example of the need for transformation.
“I spoke to the CIO of a major telecommunications operator last week regarding their archaic call centre operations and he explained that currently, customer service agents have six screens that they have to look at in order to service a customer request. This is highly inefficient, not to mention that in all likelihood this will result in a poor customer experience. What the agent really needs is one workspace that collates information across IT, the core networks, and the business, and serves it up as actionable data. The overarching message we are getting from customers is that they need to move faster, and be more agile. They can’t rip and replace, they have to create that golden thread across the entire organisation, so they can serve up data in a much quicker and efficient way,” said Ackerman.
Ackerman acknowledged the challenges facing businesses that have legacy software, be it HR systems or CRM modules, and said it was clear that rip and replace wasn’t an option.
“If we stick with the telco sector for a second, what we are seeing more of is in instead of having a CTO, and a CIO sitting separately, operators have created a CTIO, in an effort to give them better oversight on workflow processes that sits across networks, engineering and IT. Telcos have spent so much time integrating and delivering solutions in the traditional 3, 4 and 5G networks, that it’s very hard to rip and replace. ServiceNow has been innovating with telcos — like we recently did with AT&T to launch our Telecom Network Inventory solution — to start innovating at the core from an IT perspective, in an effort to help them create a structure where their service management workflows and service operations are modernised,” said Ackerman.
Ackerman also disclosed that they have created a system of interaction that sits across new telco solutions, and then slowly but surely have started to decouple the old legacy solutions, and replace them with more modern workflows that sit over those.
“This same model also applies to businesses in any other sector. It takes a brave CIO to go in and say we’re going for a full rip and replace of a legacy HR or CRM system for example. What we’re seeing is that system of engagement with a cloud workflow that sits above the legacy systems and provides a more modern view – and that enables them to go in and start modernising those solutions underneath them to create the cloud-first workflows that businesses really need in order to drive efficiencies, productivity and more positive customer outcomes,” said Ackerman.
Ackerman said that the same scenario facing customers is also being experienced from an employee viewpoint.
The Area VP MEA at ServiceNow said that in today’s current climate, employees, on average, globally are dealing with 24 different types of HR solutions.
“The CHRO is trying to elevate the experience from an employee perspective, but when you look at the biggest balance sheet expense from a P&L standpoint, that’s pretty much payroll. If you look at very large airlines, they may have 100,000 employees, but their top three expenses are fuel, the plane and the people costs. Organisations like Dubai Airports are starting to ask the question of how do we take that persona and make them a lot more efficient, and make work flow through the organisation much quicker? The system they want is one where when there is an issue with payroll, or expenses, they can be redirected to one place,” said Ackerman.
He added that another challenge from a persona perspective was partnerships and vendor supply-chain management.
“We know there has been a huge challenge around the global supply chain, and when you talk about ESG, the G — governance — is extremely important. How do you manage the entire governance across the supply chain? There is a lot of information being captured in different systems and when you start looking at your operational resilience, how do you measure, capture and report on that in real-time? You have to accommodate vendors in terms of the way they work, and that needs to be in tandem with your organisation in an effort to be more seamless, and efficient to ultimately help them to reduce costs,” said Ackerman.
According to Ackerman, every single government, public and private sector organisation is grappling with getting on top of their governance and operational resilience.
“We’re seeing organisations that want to have their continuous compliance controls across all of their different workflows. Business continuity is a big priority — should another pandemic take place god forbid, it’s critical that the organisation can continue to function, so all of these different processes are now coming under scrutiny, and this has now become a board level discussion. Previously, we were speaking to CIOs about how we can work together and expand, but now we are speaking to COOs, and Chief Risk Officers about how we can help control these risk processes,” said Ackerman.
Ackerman said that ServiceNow are working very closely with organisations on their ESG programs to serve up the dashboards needed to help them understand what ESG looks like within an organisation.
“We are creating long-term programs, and are helping them from a project portfolio demand management perspective. We are taking all of the data from the different source systems, and are serving that up into analytics and dashboards, and then we utilise the AI capabilities within the platform to start pointing out the successes, and the areas they need to improve on,” said Ackerman.
ServiceNow has recently announced a major platform expansion with the Now Platform Utah release.
Utah has been built to help organizations future-proof their businesses and drive outcomes faster in the face of continued economic uncertainty.
Ackerman believes it has allowed ServiceNow to become ‘more relevant’ to some industry verticals.
“Large organisations in manufacturing and transport have really increased their focus on health and safety, and they can now leverage the platform to help them around this area. This is a good example of how we have taken the platform, and become much more relevant to multiple industry verticals with a single upgrade,” said Ackerman.
Ackerman also highlighted how there has been a constant barrage of risk events, incidents and disruptions globally.
“At ServiceNow, what we are trying to do is help organisations navigate this increasing complexity by bringing that threat detection and response into a single workspace. We have been able to create the custom workflows, and the correct response from a security incident perspective into the platform, so we’re not using bespoke IT processes,” said Ackerman.
The ServiceNow executive also added that they have attempted to get on top of operational risk and resilience, with the ServiceNow NEXT experience module.
“We provide an enterprise view of all the critical risk information like vulnerabilities, outages and failed controls. Now, if you’re a company that has thousands of employees, then having the ability to serve up the most important operational resilience tasks to the highest level, and onto the CIO dashboard, is a very powerful capability to have. The look and feel have certainly changed a lot for Utah, and there is a lot more around experience for various agents and personas on the platform. We have also tried to brand and theme the platform better, so organisation can have a single look and feel for the entire organisation irrespective of ERP, CRM, or whichever solution they are working on,” said Ackerman.
In terms of what differentiates ServiceNow from their market rivals, Ackerman said the fact they have never wavered from their single line of code and single database, was a key market differentiator for them.
“From the beginning, ServiceNow have always had a single line of code, single database. From my perspective, particularly for organisations that are worried about the potential complexity of managing integrations, this is really where they will see value from the Now Platform. We have stayed true to that single line of code, single database. For us, that’s the power, and the silver bullet that differentiates us from our market rivals,” concluded Ackerman.