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What is ServiceNow?

With so many technology solutions vying for your attention, it can be tricky to know which are worthy of your investment. Here’s everything you need to know about ServiceNow and why it isn’t “just another cloud platform”.

No organisation stays competitive without investing in the Cloud, not in today’s digital landscape. New ways of working abound, with businesses trying to balance the holy trinity of innovation, efficiency and return on investment.

Amongst the giants of the cloud solution space, ServiceNow is fast becoming the go-to platform for improving how companies operate in a way that sets them up for future success.

But why is that? And what exactly is ServiceNow and how can it help you? Fear not, in this blog we’ll answer all of these questions and more, helping you understand exactly what all the fuss is about – and why you’ll want to take notice.

ServiceNow explained

Established in 2003, ServiceNow is a cloud-based workflow automation platform for enterprise organisations.

What does that mean? Well, think of it as a single platform to connect every element of your IT network, marry it up with business and employee requirements, and manage it all in one place.

Starting out in the IT service management (ITSM) space, ServiceNow began life as an IT workflow system based on forms stored in the cloud.

Its founder, Fred Luddy, established ServiceNow as a competitor to IBM and HP in the ITSM market. The intention was to build a cloud-based platform that improved efficiency by streamlining and automating routine work tasks.

He aimed to automate the repetitive actions caused by employees or customers raising issues, or ‘tickets’, for an IT ‘help desk’ to resolve. This would speed up the process and generally make life easier for everyone.

At its core, that’s still what ServiceNow does, though it’s since expanded far beyond its original scope.

Fast forward to 2023, and ServiceNow describes itself as the ultimate service management platform, offering a single solution to unite all of your business functions. Whether it’s customer service, HR, security, finance, marketing, whatever – ServiceNow can help you integrate and manage everything better, resulting in improved performance and efficiency.

What is ServiceNow used for?

ServiceNow is used to set up systems that define, manage, automate and structure IT services for companies. At a very simple level, think of it as a tool that allows you to raise and track tickets as well as process and catalogue regular IT service requests. These requests can include:

  • Incidents: An issue or something not working correctly.
  • Changes: A request for something to be changed.
  • Problems: An incident or collection of related incidents that can’t be resolved easily.
  • Other: Equipment requests, etc.

Due to being entirely cloud-based, ServiceNow has proven ideal for organisations providing IT services at scale. With no servers to maintain, customers essentially rent the entire platform and benefit from the addition of new services, deep customisation options, and highly flexible integrations with third-party solutions.

Because of its flexibility, scale and ease of use, ServiceNow has been widely adopted across the following sectors:

  • Healthcare
  • Financial services
  • Government
  • Manufacturing
  • Telecommunications
  • Education

ServiceNow organises its cloud offerings into five categories:

  • Security
  • Customer service
  • IT
  • HR
  • Business apps

Across these five categories, you can benefit from the following functionality:

  • Service portals
  • Subscriptions and notifications
  • Knowledge bases
  • Service catalogues
  • Workflows
  • Developer tools
  • Reports and dashboards
  • Single databases
  • Contextual collaboration
  • Orchestration

Find out how you can transform your business with ServiceNow.

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Key benefits of ServiceNow

With 80% of the Fortune 500 as loyal customers, ServiceNow has gone from strength to strength – and shows no sign of slowing.

Particularly suited to enterprise-size organisations, ServiceNow provides some key benefits that help businesses operate more efficiently and deliver better value to their customers:

  • It takes the repetition out of the routine: ServiceNow’s automation capabilities get better by the day. Tickets or activities with multiple steps can be reduced to a single click instead of 60 – saving your IT team thousands of hours every year.
  • It prioritises and assigns work automatically: Because of its joined-up approach, ServiceNow can identify the relevant team or person best suited to a task and assign it automatically. It cuts through the noise of alerts and helps you identify which incidents are having the most impact and should take priority.
  • It brings everything together: With everything feeding into one platform, you get clear visibility and context into what’s happening across your IT estate. This improves collaboration between teams, provides strong data controls and trails for auditors, and allows you to act on accurate insights to improve how you operate.

Part of ServiceNow’s popularity lies in its flexibility and compatibility with third-party software, including legacy on-premises solutions.

This has made adopting the platform a much easier option for organisations vs. having to justify replacing what they may already be using.

ServiceNow benefits by business function

IT (Service Desk)

Given that this is where ServiceNow began, it’s no surprise that ServiceNow’s help desk functionality is second to none.

Employees and customers benefit from a self-service portal that allows them to message the relevant team or staff member. Through the ConnectChat feature, IT teams can respond in real time to a ticket.

Incident files can be attached to the conversation to help the resolving agent quickly understand the incident history and any involved users, services, or devices.

Security

Security solutions are abundant on the market but most only add more alerts to an already overwhelmed analyst’s dashboard.

This makes security alerts difficult to resolve, even when they can be identified. ServiceNow helps filter out the noise and, because it’s plugged into everything, it can quickly prioritise incidents based on their severity and impact on your organisation.

This significantly reduces the time and manual effort involved in remediation, helping you stay on top of your security.

HR

HR is infamous for its repetitive tasks. With joiners, onboarding, role changes, and leavers to manage, it’s an excellent use case for the benefits of ServiceNow.

Manual processes and physical documents can all be digitised and streamlined, using automation to cut out repetitive steps and establish a consistent workflow. These workflows can then be applied across your entire organisation, resulting in a process that’s faster, better integrated, and easily governed.

Customer service

ServiceNow’s Customer Service Management product helps connect the right people, systems, and workflows across your organisation. This joined-up approach results in a faster service to customers that feels more personal instead of feeling like they have to start from scratch after every interaction.

And it’s not just limited to tickets – if a customer is having an issue of any kind, you need to be able to locate its root cause, fast. There’re two reasons for this:

  1. You don’t want to potentially lose customers because of a bad user experience.
  2. Resolving the cause rather than finding a workaround will mean fewer tickets in the long run.

Using its Service Mapping capability, ServiceNow can cross-reference your service, user, and operational information to identify where the issue began.

Business applications

ServiceNow’s low-code approach to business applications has only made it more appealing as more and more business is done online.

The ability to create custom business applications through drag and drop without a single line of code being written has made life infinitely easier for organisations without a dedicated development team.

Components and workflows can be reused between applications, saving yet more time and speeding up the development process.

ServiceNow products

As ServiceNow has grown over the years, it’s expanded its service offerings to accommodate the needs of the modern organisation.

While ITSM and ITOM form the core foundation of the platform, there are several additional products or ‘modules’ that you can add to your ServiceNow instance to complement and unlock new features and functionality.

ServiceNow organise these products by the intended user or ‘workflow’. We’ve summarised some of the key products within these workflows below:

IT workflows

  • IT Service Management (ITSM): Focuses on IT service delivery, processes, and improvement for both employees and customers.
  • IT Operations Management (ITOM): Focuses on the ‘things’ and infrastructure that makes your IT work, using automation and data to predict issues and streamline resolution.
  • Strategic Portfolio Management: Formerly known as IT Business Management (ITBM), this product helps you connect your IT strategy to intended business outcomes.
  • IT Asset Management (ITAM): Easily identify and manage the lifecycle of your software, hardware and cloud assets.
  • Security Operations: Detect, prioritise and respond to threats using advanced automation and orchestration features to stay secure.
  • Governance, Risk and Compliance: Stay compliant and prove good governance to auditors by managing risk and resilience in real time.

Employee workflows

  • HR Service Delivery: Connect and streamline your HR processes across every section of your organisation. Engage employees and speed up the onboarding process.
  • Workplace Service Delivery: Enable your people to work from anywhere on any device. Easily manage your workspaces, whether physical or digital.
  • Legal Service Delivery: Eliminate silos and replace manual processes with automated workflows to reduce risk and increase productivity.
  • Procurement Service Management: Create joined-up procurement processes that are automated end-to-end, so your people get what they need faster.

Customer workflows

  • Customer Service Management (CSM): Connect your teams and proactively address customer issues. Enable customers to self-serve and find solutions without ever having to pick up the phone.

Creator workflows

  • App Engine: Create efficient workflows and applications with little to no coding experience required.
  • Automation Engine: Take ServiceNow’s automation capabilities to the next level with advanced API integrations and process automation.
  • Integration Hub: Easily connect workflows across your organisation to simplify and automate repeatable processes.

Ready to take your business to the next level with ServiceNow?

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ServiceNow vs. Salesforce

On the surface, it’s easy to see why there’s confusion between these two cloud-based platforms. Dig a little deeper, however, and they serve two quite different purposes.

Salesforce is a cloud-based customer relationship management (CRM) tool. It handles the relationship between an organisation and its customers, typically things such as contact details, sales opportunities, deals and support requests.

Similar to ServiceNow, Salesforce is highly compatible with a wide variety of third-party solutions and services. Enterprises of all sizes use Salesforce to manage and enhance their marketing and sales activity primarily – getting potential leads into the database and tracking their journey through to a closed deal, then managing that relationship going forward.

So if Salesforce is the front door of an organisation’s IT, then ServiceNow makes up the rest of the house. It contains and connects all of the processes, business units, software, teams, people, devices, etc. that allow an organisation to function effectively.

Whilst both offer insight into the customer journey, the focus is quite different. Salesforce focuses on deep CRM and sales functionality, whereas ServiceNow is primarily service delivery focused.

So whilst there is some overlap, it doesn’t make sense for a direct comparison as each platform will help you achieve different ends and can work harmoniously alongside each other.

ServiceNow Pricing

ServiceNow doesn’t offer any hard and fast numbers when it comes to pricing. You won’t find any listed on their website, and, as you head down the funnel, you’ll eventually be asked to get in touch to get a customised quote.

Now, this can be understandably frustrating, particularly if you’re trying to get a rough idea of costs or even make a comparison. The reason for it, however, is that every deployment will look different depending on your specific needs – which makes it hard for any ‘one size fits all’ pricing.

Several factors play a part; the size of the organisation, how many users, which modules are needed, whether there’s an existing ServiceNow instance to add to, etc.

So, whilst this approach may frustrate at first, it’s ultimately done to provide the flexibility to build a solution that works best for you. Otherwise, you run the potential risk of paying for functionality you neither want nor need.

Our recommendation would be to seek out the support of an established ServiceNow partner. They’ll help you identify your requirements and handle the entire process from start to finish – taking the headache out of navigating licensing and ensuring that you’re getting the very best value out of the platform.

Key takeaways

  • ServiceNow is a cloud-based workflow automation platform that unifies all of your IT needs into a single platform for improved service delivery and efficiency.
  • ServiceNow started in the ITSM space but has grown into a comprehensive IT management platform adding operational, governance, and security products to its offering.
  • Over 80% of the Fortune 500 use ServiceNow as their platform of choice.
  • ServiceNow helps establish consistent processes and data across your entire organisation enabling advanced automation workflows that save thousands of hours in productivity.
  • Pricing for ServiceNow can be complex, so seek out a recognised partner to support you and ensure you get the best experience and return on your investment.

Next steps

If you'd like to find out more, get in touch to arrange a free ServiceNow consultation with FlyForm today.

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By Jonathan Else
13th Feb 2023