Automate with Service Now

Time to “fess up” about ServiceNow or “Why I fell for a tool!”


OK, so most of you got to know me via my consulting and leadership roles at Pink Elephant (the Dutch one ’98 to ‘01) and Lucid IT. Both organisations were clearly independent of the ITSM tool vendors. There was a simple but strategic reason for this:

As a trusted advisor and educator in the emerging ITIL/ITSM market
you couldn’t be an advocate for ITIL and specific tool vendors

But then… ITIL…. slowly…. commoditised over 10 or so years. There’s no need to be so precious about it anymore. The real question is how to best deliver capability that drives service value for the business.

And while on the topic of value, I’d like to point out a fundamental disconnect between the consulting process used by most ITSM process consultants and delivering business value from investments in ITSM.

When you separate the process design from the
tool implementation ……. you leave a lot of gaps

The gaps are as simple as “the tool can’t do that” or “that process design is not practical or is too expensive to build” or “we can’t capture & report those metrics”.  Sound familiar?

Often the consultant has already gone on to their next ITIL maturity assessment and is blissfully ignorant of the “value leakage” that occurred (get your buzzword bingo cards out). The tool integrator then has to do a “best” fit approach that often works best for them. The goals and business case for ITSM are subsequently squandered and we are stuck with the old world of Incident-Problem-Change according to <insert vendor here>.

Unfortunately, this is amplified by many consultants’ and IT managers’ mental-models (sic) based on the heady days of Business Process Re-engineering when we were taught by Hammer and Champy (among others):

“First Process design then tool/automation requirements”

In 2014, I find that a bit old hat (in fact I’ve found it silly for a long time…it leaves waterfall as the only option). This is the sort of thinking that led to the huge overruns in SAP projects in the late ‘90s (I appreciate there were a lot of other factors). Stakeholders need to know what the tools can do out of the box before you lock in the process design, otherwise bring on the customisations, lifecycle costs, yada yada….

Bottom line: The tools and processes are joined-at-the-hip and
should be part of an overall IT Operating Model design

For example; many modern IT tools incorporate chat, live feed, remote access and some even have visualizations that enable Kanban and scrum. Your ITSM consultant may still be working from the ITIL V3 concepts from 2007 and will not guide you to the improved customer experience, IT user experience and efficiencies available on new Cloud based platforms.

Having worked on the IT Operating model concept with customers for a while, I don’t believe that you can achieve the outcomes the business needs without a high level of automation.  Improvement needs to be driven by:

  1. Visualization of process and visibility of team performance to drive behaviour
  2. Correlation between the process design and service performance to drive capability improvement

You can’t do all this with pencil and paper, especially in a digital, hybrid-cloud and increasingly multi-sourced technology world.   IT has been constrained by the upgrade cycles and costs of monolithic traditional vendors.  This cannot be how we manage our IT capabilities of the future.

Perhaps most importantly, the processes don’t stick if they are not embedded and enabled by a tool that people work in every day – we can’t just be dusting off the docco when the consultants or auditors are coming! (In my experience many don’t even dust it off, especially if there’s been staff turnover )

Automation is central to developing IT capability
in line with the pace of change in the IT ecosystem

This is underscored in the recently developed IT4IT Reference Architecture and ValueChain models. The IT4IT consortium has developed an approach for articulating the IT Operating Model and how the various information artifacts should traverse the lifecycle. This is a fantastic frame of reference for IT capabilities and the way tools work together across the lifecycle and the Value Streams therein. If you have Open Group Membership you can explore the documents (if not, the enterprising among you will find the dcco somewhere I’m sure.  It is in the public domain ;-])

So why ServiceNow in particular?

ValueFlow IT was given the opportunity to configure and implement ServiceNow for Staples (Australia & New Zealand). During the project I was introduced to the ServiceNow SaaS platform, the ITSM capabilities and most importantly, the Project Management (PPM) and Governance (GRC) capabilities that allow build out of a full operating model. I was suitably impressed and trotted off to meet ServiceNow for a chat about partnership!

Since then, ServiceNow have added Demand Management and Vendor Management capabilities among many other innovations.  There’s more Technology Business Management (TBM) coming in the Fuji release. (see the ServiceNow CEO Frank Slootman Knowledge14 video from minute 25 onwards )

Did I mention the DevOps, Orchestration, SDLC (agile and waterfall versions) and App development functionality also in the current Eureka release?  The recent acquisition of Neebula is also strategic in bringing together the “single pane of glass” view we’ve been talking about for a long time.


I guess my point is emerging …. finally you say ;-]

In my 16 years of IT Management consulting, I’ve not come across a platform that is such a high value enabler for the whole IT lifecycle and governance model. Some vendors have made that promise but haven’t come close to delivering.  Perhaps that’s why ServiceNow has moved past their historical ITSM rivals according to most recent research analyst reports.  Interestingly, those reports tend to focus on the ITSM functionality and miss the value of ServiceNow as a highly capable PaaS.  There is much more value than meets the eye…

With each release, ServiceNow comes closer to delivering the full capability required to automate the modern IT Operating Model. Of course we still need great people running the ship but we need a lot fewer pulling on the oars. This automation capability is potentially transformative for the IT function and the value it can deliver. ServiceNow’s Fred Luddy and team have a bit of a “build it and they will come approach” (good on them I say!) ] That’s often a challenge for technology visionaries.  They might find that it takes some leadership from partners and forward thinking customers to extract full value for both the client and ServiceNow as a business.  Working on that ;-]

From a selfish perspective, the ValueFlow IT team gets to do what we’ve been trying to do for our clients in various forms for many years; deliver change that is valued by both business and IT.  We get to see the fruits of our collaboration with our clients and can help them raise the bar on performance rather than the dreaded process maturity scales.  We’re also now developing non-IT apps.  The clients asked us to and we’re finding it a lot of fun!  Business processes are no more complex than IT in most cases.

There’s still a lot of work to do in the 9 dimensions of the IT Operating Model (as shown below) if you want to create a full system of IT capability. With ServiceNow as the enabling platform, the automation becomes eminently possible rather than a roadblock. You can then focus your precious discretionary efforts on Capability and spend a lot less time on documents.

Op Model

If I’m sounding like a fan, there’s a good reason for it. Now if only we could get a few more clients that aspire to do more than Incident – Problem – Change… C’mon, go for the IT Operating Model!

That’s better.  Confession made, let’s turn IT on ;-]




Drowning in Support? Go Social & Multichannel

I’ve recently completed a series of Social and MultiChannel IT workshops for the Help Desk Association of Australia (HDAA).   Aside from having a great time with the HDAA fraternity, we validated the use of Social in IT support and shared some stories about what’s happening out there already! I was pleased to hear that chat and live social feeds are already in use in some IT support organisations.  Presentation is available at:

It is, however, apparent that it’s early days and there is not much guidance around.  I thought I’d pen a few thoughts based on the workshops and see what you all think. Mature services businesses have been using multiple channels for many years.  For example, the banks provide several channels to trade equities and move money around.  Similarly, retailers have online, physical and mobile channels.  So how might IT take advantage of these ideas?

Firstly I must admit that when I first considered the application of this to IT, I had a “moment”.  Wouldn’t social and mobile channels for IT simply add to a the deluge of support requirements – more “stuff to manage”?  Maybe this thought stalls a lot of us who put the now conventional “Single Point of Contact” service desks in place through the 1990s to early 2000s.

My emerging view, based on the successful models in business and Service Design thinking, is that we need to deliberately design a multi-channel model for IT.  We’ve already commenced this journey through the introduction of Self Service portals and email channels.  What we need to do now is introduce the concept of Service Experience Design to support the profiles and preference of our business users.  We need to apply some management discipline to ensuring that we have the right mix of resources and skills that match the desired in fact required services our business users need. To deliver the right Service/Value proposition we need to design with the following in mind:

  1. Users work context, channel preferences and skill levels
  2. Business model & business operational attributes
  3. Service Vs cost tensions in the organisation and the overall “service posture” of the business
  4. Service Portfolio attributes and levels of skill required for each service
  5. Sourcing Model and the attributes of each provider including those in the “build”
  6. Device profiles that the users use to consume IT whether or not there is a BYOD policy

The multi-channel model below is a high level view of the interactions between business users and IT and how the various interactions might best be channelled. With the right design effort we can provide a new approach that benefits IT by “left shifting” the simple stuff towards automated knowledge management solutions.  And we can ensure that IT fully engages the business users with the right skills in those interactions that require the human touch.

MultiChannel Support Model

To make all of the above work I suggest that organisations should draw upon:

Very interested in your thoughts as always.  Please comment below or email us on

Who Needs an IT Operating Model?

Are you restless unless you’re changing things for the better?  I know I am. Work is a lot more fun when we know we’re getting somewhere and making a difference.

That’s why I get frustrated when improvement efforts in IT fail or deliver low value because of an inability to see and address all the moving parts of the “system”.  The IT function is very complex and we won’t get it right by over focussing on one area.  In particular, we need to understand the business and the demand it generates for the current IT services and the new technology services that will make it competitive, efficient and sustainable.  And we need to appreciate that there is no silver-bullet automation suite that will fix it.  Although one in particular comes pretty close in the right hands ;-]

So to address this, I’ve been working with the IT Operating Model idea for about 8 years now.  Some of the thinking goes way back further.  I guess it’s been a journey of theory and practice hand in hand.   Continue reading

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