Tale Of 2 ServiceNow Users: Problem Solvers

ServiceNow users share their experience with the SaaS offering. One uses IT service management for compliance and IT automation; the other has moved beyond IT into business services.

Charles Babcock, Editor at Large, Cloud

May 16, 2013

6 Min Read

ServiceNow supplies IT service management in the form of software-as-a-service (SaaS). It ranks number three in a market that is led by BMC's Remedy product, with HP's Service Manager number two. At ServiceNow's Knowledge 13 user group meeting in Las Vegas this week, its customers in keynotes, sessions and private interviews talked about how they use the product suite.

This, then, is a tale of two customers. One is Lennox, a heating, ventilating and air conditioning supplier which implemented ServiceNow for deep, Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) compliant IT service management, replacing BMC's Remedy.

Service Stream, a combined utility and networking supplier based in Melbourne, Australia, also implemented ServiceNow for IT management, but CIO Craig Wishart said it's useful for far more than that in Service Stream's businesses. At ServiceNow's user group conference Wednesday, he gave a talk on "End-to-End Business Automation on the ServiceNow Platform."

Wishart is an Australian who might be mistaken as boyish until he starts to speak about his organizational goals. Then he becomes a mature, straight-ahead, disruptive force. He has upended an 80-person IT staff, replacing 75% of it with leaner, communications and business-oriented personnel; the types of IT staffers who will flourish in a more automated and service-oriented IT organization.

"I needed people who could talk to business leaders, and I had to go out and recruit them," he recalled.

In the past 14 months, he's supervised the shifting of about 40% of Service Stream's compute power onto Amazon Web Services EC2, which now operates a data center in Sydney. He's replaced on-premises Microsoft Exchange with Office 365 in the Azure cloud and he's adopted the ServiceNow SaaS suite.

[ Considering a move to Microsoft Office 365? See Google Apps To Microsoft Office 365: 10 Lessons. ]

"I looked at ServiceNow and concluded it wasn't just an IT services management tool. It was a business platform that I could leverage for IT services management capabilities," he said. That might not work at every company, but Service Stream is a heavily services-oriented company, installing fiber optic cable and connecting it to customers' homes, and doing 40 million meter reads a year in its electricity and water distribution businesses.

Service Stream manages and supports a field force of 4,000 installers and technicians. Getting the right person to the right job with the right tools and supplies is a gargantuan task with many potential glitches, Wishart said. ServiceNow's Service Desk, Asset Management and other services can be adapted to get the right resources to the right task for the business as a whole, not just IT, he said.

Wishart is using Microsoft's online application Dynamic Nav (the former Navision) for supply-chain management, ordering, tracking and controls. He plans to use it to get the right parts to the right field force technicians, he said.

Service Stream will soon equip its field personnel with Apple iPads so they can frequently update information and also access online company resources that will help them troubleshoot isolated problems about customer configurations.

Wishart said the SaaS will also give his firm a way to expand into new businesses. For example, Service Stream installs $71 million a year in solar panels for customers. After a year's use, the company knows their effectiveness declines 15% due to accumulated grit and dust. An automated Service Desk can trigger an email message to each customer to point out the expected decline and suggest a service call to clean the panels and restore their efficiency.

"Today that happens usually when a customer calls the company. Many don't call, or worse, they call a competitor" to do the cleaning, said Wishart. He wants to automate the opportunity to capture that follow-up business.

He's so committed to automating business services that he's convinced line-of-business heads and other executives to support him in a bid for an increased IT budget to help automate their services. Wishart said he's already won the first phase of that battle, and he's looking forward to ServiceNow SaaS and his IT staff taking more and more responsibility for generating Service Stream's $560 million in annual revenue.

Service Stream is currently using the SaaS for design, construction and support of cellphone towers, installing fiber optic cable for new homes and neighborhoods, and scheduling meter readings for its retail water and energy businesses. A more typical ServiceNow customer is Carolyn Hollingsworth, senior manager of IT service delivery, and her team at Lennox, a heating, ventilating and air-conditioning company based in Richardson, Texas.

Lennox was a user of on-premises BMC Remedy for IT service management, but it needed to customize Remedy to suit its organization. Each successive Remedy upgrade became more painful for Lennox, as the customizations had to be incorporated into the newest BMC version.

J.D. Tucker, former Remedy administrator at Lennox, now a ServiceNow manager, said IT staffers could tell Remedy support was coming out of India, with the help-desk technician proceeding through a basic script. Frequently, they wished to advise the help desk tech to start on line 19 of the script, for example. In addition, seeking technical support on their customizations during upgrades frequently lead to a scolding that they had done the customization in the first place, said Tucker.

The prospect of another upgrade prompted Lennox to look at ServiceNow, which it adopted in 2009. ServiceNow IT automation processes are controlled by a change management database and meet ITIL v3 standards, another important consideration at Lennox, which wished to become ITIL-compliant.

It implemented ServiceNow's Incident service, which captures the details of a user interaction and issues a trouble ticket to a group of problem solvers rather than an individual technician. The incident is either resolved or escalated into the Problem Management service, where it is identified and researched as a repeated, ongoing problem that must be resolved on a more fundamental basis.

Lennox implemented the Change Management service as well, which captures all system configurations and establishes an approval process before system configurations can be changed. If a patch results in a system outage, Change Management can roll back the change to a version of the system that works.

Tucker said ServiceNow doesn't allow modifications of its core application, but customers may write JavaScript additions to work with the services. SaaS is based on annual subscription fees, and Tucker estimated that Lennox IT service management costs have declined by two-thirds with the changeover. Some of that savings, of course, stems from preventing problems due to customizations that wouldn't be compatible with future ServiceNow upgrades. "When we have a problem with ServiceNow, we talk to someone high up in the engineering chain," not a distant, middle-of-the-night support person, he said. "If we have to, we can go all the way up to the guy who developed the code."

About the Author(s)

Charles Babcock

Editor at Large, Cloud

Charles Babcock is an editor-at-large for InformationWeek and author of Management Strategies for the Cloud Revolution, a McGraw-Hill book. He is the former editor-in-chief of Digital News, former software editor of Computerworld and former technology editor of Interactive Week. He is a graduate of Syracuse University where he obtained a bachelor's degree in journalism. He joined the publication in 2003.

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