| Elite Partner

Digital Transformation Trends in COVID Times

Phil Davies (FlyForm CEO) and Chris Pope (Former Global VP of Innovation at ServiceNow, Inc.) sat down for an in-depth chat about the impact of COVID-19 on the way we work and what is meant for digital transformation projects in the near future

Phil - Well Chris, great to be with you today. So just for everyone's awareness watching. We're here today to talk about trends and shifts for customers during this especially unprecedented time how they can stay nimble and maximise their investment. with ServiceNow and other tools to get through it. So my name's Phil Davies, I'm the CEO of FlyForm. We're an elite partner serving the UK market. We're very proud of typically holding one of the highest CSAT in the world. So that's our background. (chuckles)

Chris – Cool

Phil - Great.

Chris – Thanks Phil. Many of you do know me, hopefully, if not, Chris Pope. I run our innovation team here at ServiceNow, and I'm a big fan of our smaller, let's call it boutique partners, and obviously FlyForm, small but mighty. I think is probably the right phrase, and what you guys get up to, so It's always good to catch up, always good to connect and understand what's going on outside of the big stories, front page news and the press releases that obviously we make. But also see more of other local, almost on a practitioner level, the work that you guys are up to, and what you're seeing and what's going on.

Phil - Yeah. Great and I really appreciate you taking the time out to speak today. So hopefully we can bring some values to the clients as well. So just going into the first stuff to talk about Chris, what are some the biggest changes you've seen, in the way the customers work as a result of, since the pandemic has hit.

Chris – Yeah, it’s interesting. I actually just got off a press briefing about similar things, which was talking about, we're all working remotely, right? It is what it is. Deal with it (chuckles) sort of thing. I'm beyond that whole concept of the new norm. This is just it. This is the way we work. Seven months for me without a flight is crazy. You look at my history, but this is just the way we work. I think what's really been interesting with customers is often when you see situations around the world with various crisis or natural events, whatever it may be, it's fairly isolated, and it's bad for that scenario, that situation in that country, and everyone else sort of carries that. Well, this is the same for all of us, right? Never before. This is it. We're all in the same boat together. Things kinda stopped. I think what's been really interesting is the workforce resilience. Where yes, there are challenges with everyone now working from home or wherever it is. I'm fortunate, I've got my own office at home, and the rest of the house is there and I can close my door. That's not the same for everybody. So then you have to think about work patterns and the way people work. I've got three children, people have got whatever, and schools and half terms and things. I think that's the adjustment is that, great, you're no longer commuting and that's time saved. But that doesn't mean it's more time for meetings. I still have my other side of my life to manage.

Right. I think we've seen that productivity go up, and happier employees if you will. But that doesn't necessarily mean we can put more on them. We need to keep the balance. But at the same time, be cognisant if you will, of their surroundings, their scenarios of what's going on, and given, here we are in the UK and Ireland, Wales has got rules, Scotland's got rules, England's got rules and Northern Ireland, right. We're essentially separate countries in terms of the rules. I think being aware of that from a customer standpoint but also knowing their workforce is as distributed, if not more distributed than our own. That's really important. -

Phil - Yeah. We've been very fortunate because of, similar to ServiceNow and a lot of the other partners, that a lot of our workforce were remotely working anyway. Even in the UK and Ireland, but these days, especially in our ecosystem, most people demand it almost now. They wanna be based at home and they expect that, especially developers, and a lot of the time people used to be on client sites and then back home, et cetera. For us it was a very seamless transition from a people perspective, apart from, as you said, a lot of people, no offices at home. They didn't even have a desk to work on. They were (chuckles) cooped up on the sofa or sat in the bed and stuff. So a lot of people frantically sorted that out.

What was interesting was we didn't really realise until the start of the pandemic. We never delivered a whole project end-to-end remotely. It always been as a minimum. The first two to however many weeks of workshops, project kickoffs, face-to-face relationships, and then they'd all drop off remote, and then somebody or people would be popping in every now and again every week, whatever, catching up. But we've done that. So I think, going straight back to March and April, starting off with doing the whole workshops remotely, it was a learning curve. We did lots of dry runs internally, and fortunately these days with the tools like ServiceNow and Zoom, we could quickly get set up to do that. But it was definitely a shift to people, and lots of prep going into it.

Chris - You know, people talk about the coffee moment, the water cooler moment, whatever you call it. And often that's where a lot of the ideas and the collaboration like you do in a workshop. Right. During the breaks is often when, we just catch up or talk about something. Then you come back in, you're like, "We just thought about this a little bit differently. The change of scenario or scenery that's triggered a different thought or a different feeling. And you bring that in and you sort of move forward. I think you're right. That classic, let's call it, time and materials approach, where you have consultants on site and all these sorts of things.

They've got work-life as well. They've got home-life as well. So the balance of them traveling is key. But I think that's where that flexibility where you say, well, yes, ServiceNow is in the cloud and it does all these great things, and you can connect to it and access it from anywhere. That helps massively so that you can keep costs down when everyone's being cost-conscious anyway. But at the same time, if you as the partner can show your flexibility, like that's okay. We might take a little bit longer doing certain things where we don't have the luxury of being together in a room, but let's plan for that and let's understand that. You actually end up with a better outcome as a result.

Phil - Definitely, it requires a lot of people to be a bit more focused on the outcome, but go back to those coffee conversations, you're absolutely right. We actually suffered with it internally a little bit for the first couple of months where the senior management team, obviously we were all remote as well, and we felt like things were okay and they were. Things were running well. But then we said, "Guys I think we're missed a bit of face time. "Let's get into the office for one day. "There's only gonna be four of us "and we can distance - all the usual regulations." And it was actually the majority of the benefits that came out of that was when we were sat at our desks, outside of the board meeting, just all of a sudden we'd have a conversation and you'd go for 10 minutes, 30 minutes into some topic or challenge or change of the markets. And you realise, all of a sudden those are the bits we're missing because we're not gonna just jump on Zoom all day long and leave it open while we wait for a conversational matter to come up.

Chris - Yeah. We created a bubble. So we've opened our Staines Office and we've created a bubble for our team, the innovation team on the second floor. We've gone in and done some of the stuff we're doing around the digital experience, but also we'll go in and record videos and podcasts, and different things very much like this. But actually, we've got a work area set up. Again similar, two meters between everyone's desks. But someone was just talking about something or makes a comment or asks a question, and like you say, 10 minutes later, you kinda go over there somewhere and the tangent but you've actually solved a problem when, like you say, someone on the team wouldn't necessarily pick up the phone or say, "Hey, let's jump on a Zoom," and suddenly start writing a deck and producing slides and goodness knows, what else. Whereas that off-the-cuff almost like a rumble, for want of a better word, you actually get a much better idea or more ideas from the team. You might not invite everybody to a particular meeting, or everyone might not be available, but if you're all sat around four or five of you, and you hear something you're like, "Oh yeah, absolutely. "I can contribute to that." And that's where a lot of that innovation and ideas come from.

Phil - Yeah, absolutely. So have you got any good examples, Chris, of customers how they stay in nimble and flexible in this time?

Chris - Yeah, I think, the real surprising thing and it was a good thing, I think, was procurement and vendor relationship teams where those traditional more longer-drawn-out cycles of RFIs and RFPs have been shortcutted in many cases because they need to make decisions. It's been good in a way because that way they really focus on the value, the partnership, the relationship and if you're engaged, they've already done their due diligence on the technology. Right? Yeah. - And you know, many of our customers as we know, the existing customers that are doing more with us, all the groundwork's been done. This is accelerating other stuff that may have not been a priority previously.

I think that's where that nimbleness is coming in and you really see the value of partnerships and relationships versus that typical supplier-vendor situation. We've seen them as well, where outside of our sphere of influence, if you will, certain customers have come to us and they spend time with the evangelists and said, "Hey, we can't be the first to try to figure this out. "What are other people doing? Or, "Are they using ServiceNow to do this this way?" And you'll do a design workshop, an innovation session and sort of go with it. We do a lot as a team with things like Miro and Visual Task Boards as well, and you just sort of throw the ideas onto it and everyone thinks, "Yep, nope. "That's what we're thinking about. "That's what it is. "Let's have a go. "What's the worst that can happen? "It's worse if we do nothing. "At least if we do something and try, we learn "and it might not be exactly the outcome we want, "but if we know what we don't want, "that's as valuable as well." Right. We've seen, certain customers where they've made decisions in eight, nine days, that typically would have been six, eight months, and they're live within two or three weeks. And you're like, "Wow." It's not at the cost of cutting corners or quality, but it's just that everyone's got the same focus. We all know where we're going. Let's go, let's do it.

Phil - I think that’s the thing you said, focus is that key, isn't it? And they then get rid of that red tape, just having through the decision. We've got a great example actually. One of our large public sector customers, and they're actually one of the ones I really love working with because some can be extremely slow in governance and some are a little bit more forward-thinking. This particular agency is very forward-thinking. They like to be at the cutting edge wherever possible, or at least aim in that way. But the one of the strangest thing was, they had a super successful app in the app store on Apple. So they did lots of stuff in the UK, which is really good, yet the service desk was still using no live chat, there was no virtual agent, they still wanted to pick up the phone. When the pandemic hit, it was a great story for us as the partner. It was great for ServiceNow and great for the internal people there to be able to do it. But these people on the service desk were working on desktops, so they weren't on laptops there were desktop machines with no mobiles.

So they just had the phones in the office and this agency didn't really have the concept of set up of soft phones, they couldn't just reroute these numbers home and stuff on to the cellphones. So it was a total like right, the office is closed and how do we deliver the service? And the great thing was they came to us and said, "Well, can we get this stuff in ServiceNow on a little bit more quickly?" We were like, "Yeah, we can we turn it on right now." So just turning it on the live chat for the service desk. So all these people got sent home literally day one, we enabled live chat straight away, and they ported the entire service desk function through live chat, instead of through their phones immediately, whilst they got mobiles distributed as well to kind of beef it up. But in the interim, they just deployed the entire service straight onto live chat.

That was only because obviously the platform was already in, they already had that foundation, and it was a click of a button, a little bit of due diligence or get it live properly, but it was immediate. That was really exciting for me to see. 'Cause we all go in and we tell the clients and prospects what you get from this product. And as you said, a lot of the time it is slowed down by decisions and focus. So it was nice to see for a change The technology is there to help you solve this problem, and they were away and the service is running great. And since then that same agency now is fast tracked. We've got the virtual agent on, that's being beefed up with a phase two right now. So it really has pushed it forward much quicker than we were ever seeing before.

Chris - And do you see, it's really interesting, right? That's a real tangible example. Do you see where the, let's call it the manufacturer, for want of a better word and you're one of our elite partners. Have you seen the engagement model change with your customers where they may be coming to you more to be more consultative or more opinion, or prescriptive in some regards of like, we know what the problem is, what's your view? What's your opinion? How can you help us?

Phil - Yeah, definitely. I think it's a combination of both ,it is consultative but also they're looking for us to be prescriptive on the back of that. So it is very much... and in that case I gave you, they rang and said, "We've got to close the office "in the next two days. "We got no mobiles. "We've got their laptops. "We can't pull the phones, what do we do?" The first thing was well look, we would just live chat, step one. Let's get live chat on. Get one of your agents quickly trained to show them how to use it. Quickly, roll out some content to your end users on this is what's happening. This is how you get there. This is how you use it. But again, they were looking for us to prescribe that to them and put it in. On the back of that, it was, well, how could we make this even better while we're doing this? And again, its just that same stand of virtual agent, we're looking at predictive intelligence has been turned on as well now. So we're really seeing a lot of let's grab this bit of momentum and really try and plow through. You're already paying for these benefits.

Let's get them in now and really showcase the platform to your senior management and your clients. Definitely it's been interesting with lots more of that kind of engagement and alongside the kind of existing clients then really pushing fast. It's actually generated some work that's completely net new. So we're talking to another public body right now around the test-and-trace kind of support. And again, these people are ringing us whereas before, as you said, it could be lengthy RFPs or procurement processes. They're still following the rules obviously, but it's "we need start this project in two weeks" "and we need something to go live in four." "What can you do?" (chuckles) And again, go back to your points. It's kind of, and how would you do this?

As the experts, If you've got four weeks, what would you put in to be safe, but to achieve the goal? So again, first, very prescriptive, but look what is today's process look like? There's spreadsheets, there's this, there's that. We were like, let's just get out-of-the-box on, let's get the core ITIL process in And even if it's incident requests day one, let's get that in. But again, very different engagement model to the usual stuff we see.

Chris - And then you see, it is great. There's phone calls, there's connections, and those types of things. Do you see, from I guess the quality of the relationship or the trust side of the relationship, like with your existing customers, has gone up, has grown and those conversations happen quicker versus the more I need to sound these guys out and are they who they say they are?

Phil - Definitely. And we're lucky, as are some of our other colleagues in the partner ecosystem, that we're highly referenceable. We've got a good track record. So we can quickly, we take the approach to our prospects or existing clients where they want to look for a reference, we just give them the entire client list. And we say, anyone on the list will speak to you. (chuckling) And some will talk to you this week. And we're lucky that our existing clients they're really accommodating to do that. That kind of helps a bit. But it does also, as you say, you get into those deep conversations quickly, you're shaping these solutions very quickly for them. And also just being, as we've talked about previously, being very flexible right now. So if they say, look, this is the time we've got, this is the budget we've got, what can we get done? But we have to achieve these three outcomes.

How do we do it? It's just about us as well, bending around that then. Okay, well look, we can move these bits and these bits out, but we can still get you there. I think in terms of the trust and the relationships, it's all going okay. It's strange for me and probably for you, because you're used to traveling and being in front of people a lot. I enjoy the energy of the room. I like to be in front of even conversations like this, you like to be with a person. You kind of feel that energy and things are very different. And I think that was, and especially if you imagine the sales team, they are road warriors normally. You're a plane warrior. (laughing) They're on the road every day. And all of a sudden, they've had to adjust to this completely, non-road-based role. And I think they were nervous at first. I think they were worried it would affect how the business went. Could they still sell the same way and build the same relationship? But I think once people got over the initial, we were used to it. Like you, we were doing Zoom all day every day. But a lot of businesses weren't. And especially with all of our public sector clients.

We had lots of: first two weeks no cameras were on, and people didn't really know what to do and getting the software set up. But once we got over that hurdle I think that people quickly adjusted to that. And it has become a new way to build out a forum. I still look forward to getting in with everyone and meeting these people as well. But it's definitely, I think it's, as you said, there's benefits to it. Which is for a lot of people who do have children or busy lives and other stuff, it means in the future, they might not have to drive three hours across the country for one-hour meetings, which we've all done. We can say, do you wanna do this on Zoom instead this time? And depending on the type of meeting that could be feasible. I think that brings its own benefits and pluses as well.

Chris - Absolutely. It's interesting. We were just on this press call that I just did. We did this survey a couple of weeks ago, and it sort of talked about, the future of work or the work survey and the difference between managers and employees and things like that. One of the really interesting questions that came out of it was, if a second wave or a second lockdown was to occur, how do you sort of go again? Right. Coming down the hill, (chuckling) you going back up the hill. Right. How do you motivate people? How do you think about that? Do your plans to change? Do they not? And what does that look like? They were directly asking me about our innovation team and what we do, and what have we done or what have I done as a leader, if you will, to try to help with some of those scenarios and situations? And that's everything from, doubling up on one-on-ones weekly, regional meetings with the team, but not about work. Just catching up, checking in. If you wanna do it, we can do it. If you just wanna do a regular phone call, we can do a regular phone call. You wanna do it while you're walking the dog? Walk the dog.

That's absolutely fine. And I think it's interesting, like you say, how people stay nimble and pivot to deliver some of these projects. It's having that other time available as well. We all monitor our children's screen time, right. On their phones and devices and Xboxes and governance. Who's monitoring ours? How long do we sit in front of Zoom all day? No one's looking at that, really, in that sense. So it'd be interesting, from that view, as the CEO of FlyForm, how are you finding that interaction with your teams and then obviously clients as well?

Phil - Yeah, it's a good question. I think we've probably been, if I was being very holding integrity to myself, I think we'd be far better internally. Our focus immediately shifted to how is our staff's mental health? How are people holding up? 'Cause we've got a very people-based culture. So we typically, we've got the headquarter in Cardiff with these core people. But literally every week there'll be different people visiting the office. And typically once a month, like three quarters of the staff will come down. We do a Thursday lunch out normally, which we pay for, so everyone goes for lunch together. Once a month, we do an actual night out. So we do Go-Karting, laser tag, and obviously everybody gets to be together.

So even just missing out on those interactions, we're very open in FlyForm about things like anxiety, mental health, being stuck in the house on your own. So we shifted immediately to that and the things we did, we started off with kind of a daily, just like an open Zoom to come and have a coffee, I think we call it like the daily coffee break or whatever, and everyone was jumping off a bit of that. And then obviously the one-to-ones and all those things got stepped up. The daily coffee thing was fun at first, but that seemed to fizzle out. People kind of, it's because again it doesn't have the same energy and interaction. You kind of do it for a little while. - Hard to maintain it. - It is yeah. And people just kind of, different people dropping on and off different days. We've just started something new about four or five weeks ago. Now where we've got these little 10-minute one-on-one check-ins but with a random pairing. So basically we've asked everybody to opt in who wants to do it. And then it's basically each week is kind of randomised. Someone gets paired with someone else. I do it as well. And then we just, it says 10 minutes.

Most of us end up spending 20, 30 minutes on the phone. But it's just, that conversation is how you are holding up? What's going on in their life? And it might be talking about someone's divorce or the baby's up all night or just whatever's going on with them. But because it's filling that gap with of those little conversations across the desks that we are missing. So that's kinda been internally. I think the clients and even our partnerships with ServiceNow, they probably suffered a little more because that almost where talking about too much structure it became very much, those Zooms were mainly around, okay let's talk about this sales activity or let's talk about this new product line as opposed to let's jump on and have a catch up and see how thing are going on. People naturally tend to utilise a little bit of thtat time for that, but I think we've recently been talking again the past few weeks about who do we need to be catching up with on those casual conversations and let's try and make those a little bit more booked in and unstructured. But going back to the point where it's Zoom fatigue, you've got to watch them. Lots of people at the start will book in these back-to-back meetings, hour-to-hour and you're fried at the end. A couple of hours you kind of come off with sore eyes. So again, we've started telling people now leave a 15 minute gap between meetings, leave 10 minutes, get up, stretch your legs, grab a coffee, no matter who we talk to. It's being interesting going through that and watching that learning curve as well.

Talking about that sentiment of up hill, down hill At first, everyone was kind of a little bit off at their home, that everyone was kind of like, I really liked being at home. I've got all this time, but everyone's got Zoom fatigue that we haven't seen anywhere. And just walked through those little nuances as we keep unfolding as we go. I think winter is gonna be a challenging time for people - that's my view at the moment. I think it was easy during, when we could go in the garden all day in the sunshine, get a bit of an extra tan or walk, but when everyone's stuck in the dark and the rain the next few months I think we're gonna need even more stuff to keep us going. So we've introduced some yoga sessions like live yoga, and things like that, meditations. - Oh, cool. - We've got someone come on to do it as a company and trying to jump people on it just to keep them pepped up.

Chris - That's awesome. I think it's similar. We do the bi-weekly quiz across all EMEA, and got to say innovation teams won it three times. - No way. (laughing) The downside of it is whoever the manager or leader of that team is, we've got to pay for dinner for every member of your team. Some of my team have got three kids, and goodness knows what else so it's been quite expensive the best of time. But that's okay. That's the right thing to do. It's interesting how different people react and respond. And I think now that we're in the end of the year, like you say, the clocks have changed and all those sorts of things. What we were just saying earlier, right. Q4 is a big thing for all of us. What are you guys gearing up for the rest of the year, knowing everything that's going on around us, and hopefully there's a bright light of January the 1st 2021 and what that looks like. But you know, some of the activities you guys are up to over the next couple of months.

Phil - Yeah, so lots of planning, and for us that kind of looks like very much, now you're coming from this company is kind of, 50 people in size right now looking to be more like 100 this time next year, towards the end of next year. And it's for us there's a lot of that strategic planning. We've really capitalised to be honest on the pandemic. And I mean, it the way of, okay, well, things are slowing down and they did. Lots of stuff shifted, right? There were lots of our clients that were in sectors that got hit. Retail, construction, travel, who had to move projects out. So we were kind of, well how do we make the best of this time? And as lots of organisations, we looked at the back office. So let's look at our processes, let's look at our structure. How will we redeploy our own ServiceNow instance internally, which we used to say to our customers, - Out of the box of course. - Exactly yeah.

For rather than a few years ago, when we kind of got to in and out, how do we smarten this up now and get better at and out of it? So first it was a lot of work on how do we make this run a lot slicker so we can do it even deliver even more value to our customers when this stuff picks back up quickly. What we did see was there were a couple of months where things slowed down but they've very much picked back up in the past three I would say. And we're still seeing that happening. So again for us, it's okay, what does next year look like? Are we in the right product lines? Are we in them deep enough? Is our knowledge good enough? How do we get even smarter? I think the biggest, well, not the biggest, but one of the big challenges with ServiceNow probably thanks that you actually It's such a growing platform all the time. It's growing wide, and at the same time, each vertical part of the product line is getting deeper and deeper and deeper. And the feature sets are getting richer and the domain expertise in some of those, is getting more and more niche. So I, like yourself, I've been in this ecosystem since 2008 and back then it was just the basic incident type modules. You could know it all and be an expert in all platform, and you build whatever you wanted, whereas, now with all these, the various, the GRC, the SecOps, ITSM and then Pro and then even within ITSM, VA, Predictive Intelligence, all these different bits, - There's a lot. - and every module goes the same way.

So I think for us now is how do we get a little bit more specialised capability internally? Our CSM practice specifically, the ITOM practice just kind of knows how we're having these kinds of virtual units within FlyForm, where they will become the leaders of those particular product lines just to make sure we are keeping up the cutting edge. And when we do go into a client, we're still the experts. We know this stuff inside out We know the best practices where we're up to that architect. That's kind of the business side, on the other side of it, so our marketing campaigns and our sales campaign. So how do we work more closely with you guys? We just did Now at Work which was great as always. We've got some webinars coming up with some of the guys from the business units, and the other bits and pieces. So how do we keep getting that message out there and keep getting more clients onto this great product really, and helping them transform their businesses? There's some great stats actually. I've got them written down here. Things like Fortune Magazine and Deloitte Survey reported 77% of CEOs worldwide have accelerated in digital transformation plan.

The areas after crisis for most investment reported was infrastructure platforms and innovation, 40%, 36% for those. And then a Twilio survey said that 96% of UK enterprise decision makers noted that the pandemic sped up the digital transformation plan. So again, we know now the kind of verticals that are surviving/thriving, as we talk about, they're actually going harder, they go fast, much like the public sector we talked about. These guys now, all of a sudden, "Wow everything we'd been doing "and maybe dragging our feet over here on "it's not gonna get us through the next, "as you say next wave." We don't really know when it will end. Also, we never know what's around the corner in this world. Do we? Six months, eight, ten months ago, none of us were thinking this was gonna happen this year. So I think a lot of companies have realised they need to be prepared. So for us, it's kind of, how could we be best prepared to serve those in the best way? How can we be a great partner? And how can we keep looking after our people really? Which is the typical top of our list.

Chris - Yeah. This is gonna sound pretty wrong but it'd be nice to get talking about Brexit again. God, you know that there's so many things that just dropped off the radar when this came along. Isn't it? Crazy. It is, and those monthly calls with your team and your org, maybe at one of them you can invite one of us. We'll come and talk and-- - Yes absolutely. - do an open Q & A and see where people talk and what their questions are. Right. And what they wanna know and get some insights.

Phil - Thanks a lot Chris. We've had a really good conversation. You too. - We'll get more done and we'll get this out there and we'll talk to the FlyForm guys in the near future.

Phil - Great sounds good. Where's the best place to follow you Chris? If people want to hear more. Is Twitter your biggest - I know you're pretty active there

Chris - I would go Twitter and LinkedIn. They seem to be the two. Someone was talking about TikToK videos the other day and I was--

Phil - Oh cool? (laughing)

Chris - That ain't happening.

Phil - You've got to be pretty committed to those 'cause they're a bit of set up and a bit of practice and stuff. We like that stuff. We do some fun stuff on our Instagram channel. We keep Instagram in FlyForm for kind of the culture side. So the go-karts, the bowling and stuff and obviously LinkedIn and Twitter and all of a sudden we've messed around with some TikToks and things. We've got some quite funny stuff in the pipeline for Christmas. That's gonna come to you guys. So I'll keep you aware of that schedule as well.

Chris - Great stuff. Thanks for catching up Phil. Appreciate it.

Phil - Thanks a lot Chris. Have a great evening.

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