Review: ServiceNow Request Fulfilment

This independent review is part of our 2012 Request Fulfilment Group Test. See all participants and terms of the review here.

Executive Summary

Elevator Pitch A solid integrated platform, with the focus on improving the user’s experience of Request Fulfilment, and also focussing on the equally important business view.
Strengths They boast a unique approach of focussing on improving an end-user’s experience in engaging with IT through the Request Fulfilment process.
Weaknesses Although there are administration courses, all too often the responses relied on finding answers to configuration questions “in the wiki”.It is comprehensive, but when others promote that element of “handover” to the system’s custodians, ServiceNow seem to want to default to detachment.
Primary Market Focus Mid-size to Large Enterprise level customers

Commercial Summary

Vendor ServiceNow
Product ServiceNow
Version reviewed Berlin Release
Date of version release September 2012
Year founded 2004
Customers 1,200+
Pricing Structure ServiceNow offers a subscription license based on the number of IT process users, starting at $100 / IT process user / month with volume discounts available. There is no charge for end user access.
Competitive Differentiators
  • A single, organically developed ITSM platform built in the cloud with nothing acquired or OEMed that leverages knowledge management, collaboration, graphical workflow engine, ITSM stack, service catalog and request, runbook automation, CMDB, ITAM, software asset management, etc. all included in the subscription license.
  • An approachable, social and modern Web UI built to improve the end user experience with IT through an emphasis on usability and self service.
  • A configurable platform includes a content management system that allows IT to provide a user experience that is identical to existing customer Web properties and that matches existing user experience and IT workflow.
Additional Feature Service catalogue, service portfolio, and dozens of other enterprise service automation applications all provided through a single cloud-based platform.

ServiceNow

Independent Review

ServiceNow has been one of the fastest growing software companies in the world, since forming in 2004.

One significant difference I saw in looking more at the single-tenant commercial deployment scenario (opposed to Managed Service Provision) was how to leverage a business view of the service catalogue.

More importantly, that view can be combined with elements of the Employee Self Service portal to give users a lot more information about the services they use, even before they go down the Request Fulfilment route.

That is not to say that other vendors do not offer the same, but ServiceNow’s focus sees the tool as an enabler for information up and down the chain, about the affordability of the services IT provide, and the usability for end-users.

Request Models

End-users can come in to the Request Fulfilment screens through a self-service portal URL which provides them a simplified view of the options available.

This can be configured to provide a customer’s look and feel, and limits the choices in the sections so that the end-user is not overwhelmed with a mass of service catalogue options.

ServiceNow recommend the three main sections (Order Things, Knowledge, Get Help) and no more than four elements beneath that.

Requests can be bundled together (for example for new hires) and most vendors now adopt the look and feel of a shopping cart experience to good effect.

But they want to make the interface as intuitive as possible.

All this is laudable, but as always that freedom of intuition requires detailed thought and configuration behind the scenes.

Menu Selection

The back end allows administrators to configure routing options, approvals, even the addition of fields mostly through drop-down and selectable variable values.

There is the capability of doing further, more complex development and administrators would need to either have an understanding of Java Script programming, or (in their words) at least have a desire to learn.

But in fairness, ServiceNow also recognise that resources or skill levels in organisations may not stretch to that – and certainly enough can be done with the options available to build on the existing  templates, utilising a graphical workflow editor, pick lists and right-click UI controls .

Request Fulfilment Lifecycle

The first step in the ServiceNow world is to build up the items in a way that makes it an appealing experience for the end user.

Once the aesthetics are taken care of, then start tackling the more repetitive elements of the process first, and then worry about tackling your exceptions.

The graphical workflow is extensive, and tasks, actions, options attached to those actions are taken care of with drag-and-drop.

It is designed so that Business Analysts or Process Managers can translate those steps graphically to configure the back-end workflow.

In addition, a business service catalogue can be developed, and this has a two-fold purpose.

Often customers have difficulty in transitioning to a service model, and understanding what that really means to them.

Here, IT can define to the business what services it offers, the reasonable levels of availability and response that can be expected, and can obviously build from there, for example Email Services.

This view is also linked to an end-user’s view of their world, so they can proactively see (even before entering the whole ticket rigmarole), service alerts or issues.

Conclusion

ServiceNow are not alone in the market place at focussing on how customers want to set things up behind the scenes.

Administrators of the system should have a strong end-to-end process knowledge to get the best from configuring the workflows.

Their approach, though, differs between good practical advice in terms of configuration versus a wiki-focussed depth of support information.

For example, during the demo, I was impressed at the steps outlined for an approach to tackling the workflow configuration:

  1. Build the items you want the end user to see first
  2. Worry about process later (repetitive tasks first, then exceptions)

But I am also pointed to a range of links of everything in the wiki.

There is no doubt that the information is comprehensive and, given how much is in there, fairly well organised but it can be very time consuming to wade through the options to find things, and I speak from experience!

ServiceNow offer a foundations e-learning course that can be completed within an hour.

They also provide a three-day ServiceNow system administration class, a two-day advanced system administration class, and a three-day scripting in ServiceNow course. System administrators can be up to speed within a day and be extremely proficient within a week.

However, at its core, ServiceNow does offer a well-integrated Request Fulfilment module, and reminds us that business benefit should be a driver, and provide a well thought out visual capability in that area.

ServiceNow Customers

Screenshots

Click on the thumbnails to enlarge.

From The ServiceNow Brochure

  • Leading provider of cloud-based services that automate enterprise IT operations.
  • Suite of applications built on our proprietary platform that automates workflow and provides integration between related businesses.
  • We help transform IT organizations from reactive, manual and task-oriented, to pro-active, automated and service-oriented organizations.
  • Assessed to PinkVERIFY 3.0
  • Provides an open, no-registration-required live instance of ServiceNow: http://demo.servicenow.com

Further Information

Group Test Index

This independent review is part of our 2012 Request Fulfilment Group Test. See all participants and terms of the review here.

Gartner Magic Quadrant for IT Service Support Management Tools (ITSSM) 2012

The extra 's' - a genuine new market definition or marketing fluff?

Gartner have recently published their Magic Quadrant for IT Service Support Management (ITSSM).

The research includes Axios Systems, BMC, CA Technologies, Cherwell Software, EasyVista, FrontRange Solutions, Hornbill, HP, IBM, LANDesk and ServiceNow.

In a nutshell:

  • BMC came out on top, closely followed by ServiceNow
  • Everybody else is sat uncomfortably close together in the ‘must try harder’ niche players quadrant
  • Nobody made it into the ‘leaders quadrant’ (The RFP-shortlist-holy-grail)

What is ‘ITSSM’ anyway?

My first question when beginning to read this new Gartner Magic Quadrant was – what is ITSSM? Where did that extra ‘S’ come from and what does it mean?

The introductory text reads:

“IT service support management (ITSSM) tools offer a tighter integration of functions that correlates with the activities of the broader IT support organization. ITSSM tools leverage a business view of IT services, enabling the IT support organization to quickly resolve or escalate issues and problems, improve root cause isolation, and provide higher levels of business user satisfaction.”

I’m still none the wiser. Still looks like good old ITSM to me.

Marketing Fluff?

In the book ‘The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing’ by Al Ries and Jack Trout we are introduced to the ‘Law of Focus’. The authors argue ‘the most powerful concept in marketing is owning a word in a prospects mind’. The most powerful evidence of this is when a product is so totally engrained in our vernacular that it becomes a verb. We ask for a Coke, we Skype, we Hoover the stairs etc (i.e. one product name dominates the entire sector). This begins to explain why technology companies dream up new and exciting ways to explain markets and cook up new acronyms, to try to own the whole concept for themselves.

Perhaps ‘ITSSM’ is a misguided attempt at this new sector definition.  I think it is marketing fluff and does little to help the market. Would it really be that dreadful to admit dropping the previous ITSM Quadrant was a mistake? If it is a genuine new market sector they’ve done an awful job of defining it and educating the market.

Only Behemoths May Apply

My other criticism of this report, and Gartner Magic Quadrants in general, is over emphasis on global reach.

Some of the global players have an international network of offices that span the globe, but how many of the people in these hundreds of offices know about your product? I would ague that is probably about the same amount of people as the total team of a smaller niche competitor. i.e. BigMegaCorp operates in 50 countries with 20,000 staff and 35 of these people worldwide know about ITSM, compared to the small niche competitor with 35 staff – all of whom know about ITSM.

Similarly, vendors in this report had to have revenues in excess of $10M. Isn’t this threshold cutting out the most exciting and innovative vendors in the sector? The target audience for this report is typically large enterprises – but are they really that risk adverse?

In Richard Stiennon’s recent article he stated that:

“Gartner’s 11,000 clients are the largest organizations in the world and Gartner acknowledges that 80 percent of them are late-adaptors. They are much more likely to buy from HP, IBM, or Oracle than from a start-up with the most cutting-edge solution.”

Is that really the case these days? The old adage of ‘You won’t get fired for buying IBM’ is being replaced by users who can search what they are looking for on Google, buy it using a credit card and get the job done in the Cloud without a second thought.

Rudderless Industry?

Finally, I believe the fact that there are no vendors in the Leaders quadrant is a good reflection of the industry. Once upon a time ITIL aligned processes were the key market differentiator, and then came the ability to deliver in the Cloud – the market is now looking for new leadership and new differentiators.

The report is available here free from BMC.