Former Salesforce Exec Charged with Scaling ServiceNow's ISV Channel

Avanish Sahai, ServiceNow’s vice president of ISV/technology alliances, is in the process of building up the vendor’s ISV program, similar to his task at Salesforce.

Channel Partners

May 11, 2017

7 Min Read
Former Salesforce Exec Charged with Scaling ServiceNow's ISV Channel

Edward GatelySERVICENOW KNOWLEDGE17 — Several years ago, during the early days of the cloud, Salesforce tapped Avanish Sahai to build its ISV program.

Sahai grew Salesforce’s ISV ecosystem to nearly $1 billion, so when ServiceNow decided to grow its ISV channel, the vendor knew the right person for the job.

ServiceNow hired Sahai as vice president of ISV/technology alliances. The vendor’s ISV channel is about two years old, includes about 200 partners and about 260 applications.

At ServiceNow’s Knowledge 17 conference in Orlando, Florida, Sahai sat down with Channel Partners to discuss his plans for building up the ISV program.

Channel Partners: What will be the process for expanding the ISV program?

Avanish Sahai: ServiceNow was born as a platform, and part of being a platform allows us to expose that platform to third parties who want to build their own applications on our platform. That applies to customers who build custom applications, but also ISVs or other companies who are looking for a high-performance, secure, born-in-the-cloud platform. So that’s what we’re offering to these companies, a way to build their solutions on our platform, leverage all the investments we’ve made, all the IP we’ve built … and really allow these ISV partners to bring their unique IP.{ad}

ServiceNow's Avanish SahaiA great way to think about this is can we help our partners come to market faster with products that are innovative, and we keep driving our innovation so that they take benefit of that. But for them, it becomes a way to get to market faster, and frankly, at a more affordable capital and operating cost than they would otherwise. So that’s really the heart of it. We want to build a program that allows our customers … and frankly net new customers to leverage our underlying platform to solve all the issues we solve with our applications, augment those with partner applications and then also have completely new applications that leverage the same underlying platform.

CP: Are there challenges associated with this task?

AS: It’s not so much of a challenge. I think it’s more we want to be thoughtful about who we think are good fits. There is a certain class of applications that we think are a great fit for us. To use an extreme example, if someone came in and said, “we want to build the next Facebook,” we’re probably not a great platform for that. This is really for business applications, which are heavily workflow driven where there [are] a fair number of interactions happening. So that’s part of it, identifying what are good fits.

I think we want to look for probably three categories of companies. One, companies that have already built their application perhaps in an on-premises world so we can help them bring applications to …


… the cloud world. There [are] tons of companies still in the on-premises world. No. 2, companies that are sitting on other clouds and for whom we can perhaps bring more innovation, more uniqueness. And if we can do that, that can drive their innovation faster and operate faster at lightspeed.

No. 3 is an interesting one. We have a lot of services partners who specialize in the ServiceNow ecosystem and often they’ll find themselves repeating the same services project for different customers, which means they’re probably solving a problem that others have. So we have partners in our ecosystem who have been services partners who are now building a product business. So that’s another category where we’re recruiting.

CP: Is partner input playing a role in the formulation of your plan to recruit more ISVs?

AS: We meet regularly with our partners. In fact, this event is a great place, where we’re running from office to office meeting with different partners, and in those conversations, we get a few things going. So one, we’re asking them for feedback. We’re asking them what are the things we’re doing well, what are the things we can do better and that applies to the technology, the platform, how we help them grow their business, how we help them perhaps market together (and) how we introduce them to our own sales organization. So this is one forum for that, but also we do regular quarterly business reviews with our partners to understand … their business growth objectives … their challenges … the things that we can help them with. We’re trying not to be arm’s length, and I think that’s one of the unique things about a cloud ecosystem is we’re working very, very closely together. Our platform is in the cloud; their applications run in our platform. So it’s a very, very symbiotic relationship.

CP: What’s the timeline for the ISV program expansion?

AS: The program itself, we call it the ServiceNow Store, was launched about two years ago, so we’re in the third year and it was launched at Knowledge 15 …  so it’s a continuous process. These are applications already on our store, and they’re going to continue innovating and upgrading them, and the customers will do the same. So that’s a part of the infrastructure in process that we provide. The other part of that is we are now building a team of partner managers to go recruit more partners. So the goals are to build this out with more applications, more application categories, and really continue to make it a core part of our story.{ad}

CP: What was your experience like with Salesforce, and how do you know what does and doesn’t work when building a program like this?

AS: The idea was very similar. There was a platform and we built a team that basically looked at this from a recruitment perspective. We spent a lot of time asking our customers what were other applications – these were the early days of the cloud – that they wanted to bring into a cloud model. And then what we did was we went off and created a set of targets, and frankly, recruited a number of …


… partners, from very well-established, large companies to startups. And we pitched them … the value of our cloud platform, how we could help them come to market, how we could help them reduce their cost and how could we help give them the access to an install base. So that program grew very dramatically over five years or so that I ran it, and we had a lot of great lessons learned from that. And part of the opportunity here is to do that again and to do it with a very targeted platform, which I think is a great way to kind of build that kind of model.

CP: Are there more advantages this time to building up an ISV program?

AS: Some of the advantages are lessons learned … from the other environment. I would suggest we will probably be a bit more focused. One of the things we’ve talked a lot about is it’s quality over quantity. We want to make sure we recruit the right partners who are really going to bring tremendous value to our customers and to their customers. And sometimes that means there may be some examples that are not a good fit and we’ll probably work with the prospective partner in educating them about that. Two, I think there is a tremendous opportunity for us to leverage the expertise of our ecosystem around vertical challenges and vertical problems, and bring ISVs into the ecosystem that are focused and experts in those verticals, from a financial-services set of problems versus a health-care set of problems, versus a manufacturing set of problems; and how can we bring more of those deep vertical solutions. And remember the underlying platform is going to be exactly the same, so how do we leverage that to bring these vertical solutions. So we’ll probably do more of that and more of that faster.

Read more about:

Free Newsletters for the Channel
Register for Your Free Newsletter Now

You May Also Like