ServiceNow execs say they're using machine learning and security automation to take a bite out of the skills shortage.

Lorna Garey

October 17, 2017

4 Min Read
John Donahoe of ServiceNow

(pictured above: ServiceNow’s John Donahoe on stage at the company’s NowForum in New York City on Oct. 17.)

SERVICENOW NOWFORUM — ServiceNow is hosting a one-day customer event in New York City on Tuesday – one of eight held globally – bringing its CEO, CTO, CIO, partners and customers together to share their experiences of “working at lightspeed” — the ITSM provider’s riff on digital transformation.

At last year’s NYC event, the company hosted 1,000 customers; this year attendance doubled to 2,000. ServiceNow posted $1.4 billion in revenue for 2016 and says it’s on track to reach $4 billion by 2020. That growth will be aided by partners, company senior director of strategy Chris Pope told Channel Partners.

“You help each other,” president and CEO John Donahoe, who joined ServiceNow five months ago from eBay, told the overflow crowd. “There’s a real sense of community.” Donahoe says he’s been on a listening tour, asking more than 300 customers about their concerns and priorities.

“Employees want consumer-grade experiences,” he said, contrasting a consumerized mobile app to the typical complex, bloated enterprise application interface. Donahoe used the example of employee onboarding – combining HR, IT, facilities, training and security departmental functions – into one simple interface.

Execs also updated attendees on progress pulling AI and machine learning technology from Qlue and BuildOnMe into the main ServiceNow platform. The goal: Spot problems before they affect employees or customers. It’s clear that ITSM will be one of the earliest production use cases for machine learning, and for partners, an investment in training on a system like ServiceNow can pay off in freeing up technicians’ time. Donahoe cited some current customer experience stats: 20 percent more self-service, 25 percent fewer P1 incidents with significantly faster response times, and a fourfold increase in time freed up for innovation.

Chief product officer CJ Desai called out the problem of unstructured workflows keeping service providers from meeting SLAs. For cases where specialized workflows are needed, the company is investing in enabling “low code/no code”  application creation. Again, a win for partners looking to focus on particular verticals but lacking development expertise.

“We run in the cloud, and our availability rate is high, 99.96,” said Desai. “We are a multi-instance architecture, so you have flexibility.” Assigning customers dedicated instances also avoids the noisy neighbor problem and allows ServiceNow instance to scale with demand, useful for MSPs.

Jakarta to Kingston

ServiceNow runs a six-month release cycle; the newest Jakarta version includes updates of interest to service providers, including better financial reporting and charging, software asset management and license compliance (Microsoft and Oracle now, Adobe and VMware to come), a native user survey, a visual service-level timeline and easier management of service catalogs.

The upcoming Kingston release will deliver …

… shorter incident triage times by using machine learning to improve accuracy in assigning tasks, better SLA performance and better simplified service requests in a drive to improved customer service scores.


ServiceNow’s CJ Desai

“We also take security very seriously,” said Desai, citing continual patching of all instances. Security automation and orchestration was another key theme. Given the cost and scarcity of security pros, his call to help make security operations “as efficient as possible” resonated with the audience.

ServiceNow first announced its Security Operations solution in February, including integrations with a who’s who of top security providers that integrate with the platform through APIs. Service providers can import incident data from customers’ existing security tools into a response engine with a single portal view, then prioritize and address threats based on their severity.

Extending the consumerization theme, Desai cited Forrester findings that 80 percent of companies believe they deliver superior customer service — but only 8 percent of customers agree.

“That’s a huge delta,” he said. The answer, he says, is an integrated and proactive response; he says ServiceNow customer Vodafone has realized a 20 percent increase in customer satisfaction.

In tandem with the NowForum event ServiceNow released its Global CIO Point of View report on CIOs’ adoption of machine learning and business digital-transformation initiatives.

For the survey, ServiceNow worked with Oxford Economics to poll 500 CIOs in 11 countries and across 25 industries. The top-line finding is that companies are increasing their investments in machine learning, but they face barriers around not just technology but talent and business processes. The message from ServiceNow is that it’s smart for both enterprises and service providers to invest in machine-learning software that can analyze and improve its own performance without human intervention.

For customers, the payoffs are speed and accuracy. More than two-thirds (69 percent) of responding CIOs say decisions made by machines will be more accurate than those made by humans. For partners, the number of respondents making at least some investment in machine learning will nearly double over the next three years, to 64 percent.

Event sponsors include Accenture, which has made major investments in ServiceNow, as well as CipherCloud, KPMG, IBM and Okta.

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