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The opportunities and challenges facing businesses who want to harness the power of cloud platform technologies

Platform Power: ServiceNow at Cloud Field Day #2

Cloud computing and services platform company ServiceNow took part in the second annual San Francisco located Cloud Field Day #2 event this July 2017. Designed to be an open discussion forum for speakers and audience members to deconstruct and demystify the core mechanics of cloud, ServiceNow speakers were open and frank about the opportunities and challenges facing businesses who want to harness the power of cloud platform technologies in the context of new connected business models.

Structured workflow and automation
ServiceNow's Jonathan Sparks kicked off proceedings in his capacity as senior director of product management. Sparks introduced vice president of finance and corporate development Dominic Philips who underlined the fact that ServiceNow essentially offers structured workflow and automation between services across organizations.

Explaining how diverse the ServiceNow customer base is, Philips asserted that the company is not necessarily focused on any single industry vertical.

"We are seeing so much disruption in the consumer world (in terms of IT functionality) but we really don't see those same efficiencies being played out in terms of workflow efficiencies inside business. A large part of the problem is that work in modern businesses is being done in such an unstructured way using spreadsheets and email for example... and these are the pain points that ServiceNow essentially exists to address," said Philips.

Secret sauce is the platform
Positioning the wider ServiceNow technology proposition and explaining how it can be used as base for wider functionality, Philips said that the strength of the business is in the platform. This strength comes from the ability to customize structured workflow automation to specific use cases. The strength also comes from the ability for third-party software applications innovations to be built on top of it.

The platform has been now moved forward into new use cases for customers. This means that ServiceNow is now, for the first time, seeing more than 50% of its revenue coming from outside of core ITSM use cases. With ServiceNow claiming to perform well in, for example, areas such as Human Resources (HR), customers are seeing the value in the amount of automation they can bring to improve employee experiences such as onboarding (and other work lifecycle transitions) including relocations, leaves of absence, promotions, staff security needs and other core functions in this space.

Modernizing IT, one app at a time
As ServiceNow now looks to encourage firms to be able to build more business use case applications on top of its platform, the company has gone to market with a message that speaks to many aspects of the functions needed to make digital transformation happen.

But of course it's difficult to ‘sell a platform' oftentimes and ServiceNow is open about the fact that many times it will start its relationship with customers through the use of one particular application. From that initial point, it is often then possible to be able to expand the implementation of ServiceNow technology on a wider platform level.

Looking at user experience and engagement as core drivers for developing any new solutions, ServiceNow has explained that (again taking the HR function as an example) the ethos of the technology as a whole is to make employees lives better. Retaking the presentation, Jonathan Sparks insisted that too many firms work with point solutions that essentially end up creating data silos.

"From a platform perspective, we are pushing the development to the top of the stack so that customers can look at the application and the business solution are the primary areas of focus. No [back-end] mobile development should be needed to make sure an application can move to mobile, ServiceNow's platform is broad enough to shoulder those tasks. Taking this aspect of ServiceNow further, we have also been able to welcome non-technical users to the platform so that they too can start to build solutions," said Sparks.

As users are now building applications using ServiceNow, there should be an opportunity to eradicate the bad business processes that existed in the pre-cloud era. Although this responsibility ultimately comes down to the customer (rather than ServiceNow), the company works to try and help ServiceNow customers organically so that a positive dissemination of DNA creates positive experiences for users in other parts of the business.

Also here, with ServiceNow, all assets created in one application will be available in another application or use case. So looking at breadth, the European Organization for Nuclear Research CERN runs what amounts to being an entire city on ServiceNow.

Ecosystems matter
ServiceNow insists that no platform is a platform without an accompanying ecosystem. The ServiceNow store hosts some comparatively small software application teams that are betting their entire existence on the platform, via the store, as an essential means of being able to sell to end customers, some of whom may be multimillion-dollar organizations.

What ServiceNow now sees happening is a move towards a more integrated Platform-as-a-Service space. This says Sparks is really the space that ServiceNow now defines for itself as an area of practice. The company wants to now be able to encourage developers to use the platform as this essentially very integrated entity today.

Demonstrating the platform
This event was segmented into two parts with the second leg of the presentation devoted to a practical hands-on demonstration. Building from scratch and from the ground up, Josh Nerius, ServiceNow solution architect and developer evangelist detailed the power of ServiceNow and its ability to create application files with the option to branch out versions so that functional iterations can be pushed through to production.

Automated testing tools also exist in ServiceNow to make sure that the eventual business process that is being targeted can be properly tracked, addressed and managed. As applications then move into production, ServiceNow provides logs functionality to be able to track the performance of applications in their post production existence as they move to be part of an organization's workflow.

In longer-term operation, ServiceNow also delivers the ability to be able to provide a set of orchestration activities that customers can use to make external API calls without having to write code. In this way, customers can then engineer the applications they build with ServiceNow into their real world operations.

No-code integrated intelligent platform automation
The functionality of ServiceNow clarified, presented and ultimately demonstrated at this event centers around the platform's core capabilities in what is now clearly far more than service desk functions and ITSM. With options to finesse, customize and refine the User Interface (UI) element of what users are presented with for every application scenario is post-production life, ServiceNow has brought together an ecosystem of integrated technologies with cross-functional compatibility at the core.

About Adrian Bridgwater
Adrian Bridgwater is a freelance journalist and corporate content creation specialist focusing on cross platform software application development as well as all related aspects software engineering, project management and technology as a whole.

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