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ServiceNow takes a platform approach amid plans to emerge as the standard for enterprise workflows

TBR perspective

Defining reputation as a platform company

While many customers are poised to increasingly adopt best-of-breed solutions for diverse use cases, ServiceNow’s roots as a platform company allow the vendor to sidestep many traditional SaaS competitors and lead with a best-of-suite approach. The Now Platform — dubbed by CEO Bill McDermott as the “platform of all platforms” — is the driving force behind ServiceNow’s workflow narrative, as it is where all products are built and serves as a foundation for ServiceNow to stitch together its IT, employee, customer and creator workflows for lines of business and C-Suite clients.

The way companies operate is hybrid in nature, with multiple departments running different systems, and rather than directly competing with ERP or CRM systems, ServiceNow is helping enable these applications through an integrated, vendor-neutral approach, which TBR views as increasingly imperative in today’s technology landscape. ServiceNow’s revenue profile is also receptive to this approach, as roughly 80% of new business for the company stems from existing customers, paving the way for ServiceNow to scale to $10 billion and beyond in annual revenues.

AI moves to forefront of ServiceNow’s platform strategy

Following the intelligent automation capabilities unveiled as part of the Orlando release in 1Q20 and the subsequent appointment of Vijay Narayanan to the newly created role of chief AI officer, ServiceNow’s plans to lead with AI are not unexpected. However, as the Now Platform continues to be positioned as the core product that enables workflow delivery, ServiceNow’s AI vision is evolving to deliver greater time-to-value and ROI for AI customers. To achieve this, ServiceNow has been leading with M&A to build on the existing capabilities of the Now Platform, including incidents, agents, documents and cases, among others. For example, in January ServiceNow expanded its foray into AIOps with the acquisition of Israel-based Loom Systems, which was a strategic callout in many event presentations, due to Loom Systems’ IT Service Management (ITSM) solution that relies on AIOps to predict and monitor IT incidents.

TBR believes ServiceNow will utilize Loom Systems’ expertise in AIOps technology as an interim step in helping customers transition to DevOps and agile methods and help bridge gaps between development and operations teams across departments. Additionally, in the AIOps market, ServiceNow is working with IBM (NYSE: IBM) to help customers preemptively identify incidents and initiate a faster response. While Loom Systems’ tool is already integrated as a previous partner into ITSM and IT Operations Management (ITOM), ServiceNow announced plans to re-platform this technology into the Now Platform with the Quebec release in March 2021, underscoring ServiceNow’s strategy of bringing all major innovations back into its foundational platform and increasing customer adoption.

TBR believes the next step beyond empowering AIOps will be broad-based automation and optimization, as ServiceNow unveiled new process automation offerings in the Paris release, including Process Automation Designer, which will be generally available in the Quebec release, and various playbooks that are now available across the Now Platform. As a feature of the Now Platform, Process Automation Designer automates cross-functional processes and provides managers with a customizable user interface. Meanwhile, administrators now have the option of selecting from no-code playbooks with Playbook Experience to provide agents with insight into their workflows, powered through Process Automation Designer. Future tuck-in acquisitions in the area of process automation cannot be ruled out as ServiceNow looks to continues to strengthen its foundational play.

ServiceNow Digital Analyst Summit: In between reporting another strong earnings quarter in 3Q20 and releasing the Now Platform Paris, ServiceNow (NYSE: NOW) hosted a virtual industry analyst event, which included two days of breakout sessions, one-on-one discussions with company leadership, and product demonstrations. Key highlights included the company’s product strategy, which continues to underscore the importance of the Now Platform; how ServiceNow is redefining its go-to-market engine through partnerships and industry solutions; and the refinement of the company’s cloud strategy.

McDermott will support ServiceNow’s ambitions to fill enterprise application gaps left by vendors like SAP

On Oct. 22, 2019, ServiceNow announced Bill McDermott, who resigned from SAP less than two weeks prior, would be taking over John Donahoe’s position as CEO at the end of 2019. McDermott’s experience in the enterprise software space will inform ServiceNow’s innovations in and around business applications from SAP and its closest competitors.

McDermott’s knowledge of the enterprise applications space is key

At its core, ServiceNow has a very different software portfolio than SAP, but considering the strategic objectives ServiceNow recently laid out, McDermott is well equipped to steer the company toward continued leading financial performance. As ServiceNow aims to engage more deeply with Global Elite partners such as Deloitte and Accenture, and to develop solutions that fill enterprise software gaps as it has with mobile onboarding and financial close automation, McDermott’s enterprise applications experience is a good fit. In addition to his global partner and enterprise customer relationships McDermott brings a deep and unique understanding of the “gaps,” or workflow disconnects, around enterprise applications that ServiceNow has identified as its key growth areas.

That said, it is a toss-up whether McDermott’s guidance will help ServiceNow avoid innovating into competitive overlap or steer the company directly into applications competition. With his knowledge of the functionality and gaps in broad enterprise applications suites like SAP Business Suite for HANA (S/4HANA), McDermott can direct ServiceNow’s innovation to either fill gaps or directly compete on specific functions. With that uncertainty, this appointment should put SAP, Oracle and Workday on high alert through 2020, as McDermott’s influence becomes more clear.

Notably, ServiceNow has been undergoing other executive changes, with former CFO Mike Scarpelli leaving to follow Frank Slootman (ServiceNow’s CEO before Donahoe) to Snowflake. McDermott has indicated that ServiceNow and Donahoe have already given McDermott the leeway to influence the CFO replacement process, and there is opportunity for McDermott to further shape ServiceNow through other executive appointments.

Core to ServiceNow’s capabilities, the Now Platform has long been overshadowed by the applications built on top of it. ServiceNow’s dilemma with the Now Platform is not how to enhance the capabilities, but how to brand the portfolio in such a way that the platform becomes as ubiquitous with the ServiceNow brand as the early IT workflow products have, while still capitalizing on the company’s ability to innovate into ― and capitalize on ― niche solution areas.

SAP’s McDermott joins ServiceNow to push enterprise growth

“In an unexpected move, ServiceNow announced that John Donahoe will step down as CEO of the company to accept the top job at Nike Inc. Bill McDermott, who recently resigned as CEO of SAP, will take over as ServiceNow CEO in January. While the move took many analysts by surprise, some thought it made sense to bring in McDermott, with his experience growing SAP’s business, given ServiceNow’s concerted move toward the enterprise applications market. ‘But ServiceNow has been very clear they don’t want to compete directly against an Oracle, SAP, Workday or Salesforce,’ said Meagan McGrath, an analyst at Technology Business Research in Hampton, N.H.” — TechTarget

SaaS sweetens the cloud pot but requires vendors to up their ante to participate

‘Best of breed’ spawns diversity in the SaaS provider landscape

The vendor landscape may be consolidating on the IaaS side of the cloud market, but that is not the case for SaaS. Customers are most likely to increase the number of SaaS vendors utilized over the next two years, supported by a number of market trends, including new workload and feature adoption, platform ecosystems, and integrated multicloud deployments.

For workload adoption, there is a leveling of the playing field for which services customers are considering cloud as a deployment method. ERP, for example, used to lag in public cloud adoption but is now much closer to par with often adopted services like CRM and HR. Much of this increased consideration comes from enhanced comfort on behalf of customers for delivering sensitive workloads from cloud providers versus their on-premises data centers.

The other factor is the proliferation of complementary services available via PaaS ecosystems. The most tenured and largest example of this comes from the Salesforce Platform, which supports thousands of ISVs developing and selling solutions that complement and extend core CRM. Salesforce may have been the first, but other SaaS vendors, including SAP, Workday, Microsoft and ServiceNow, are taking the same approach, exponentially growing available SaaS services. The last driver is the continued rise of best-of-breed customer purchasing. For contracting and performance reasons, customers have long yearned for multivendor application environments, and now vendors are actually moving to accommodate that desire. Salesforce’s acquisition of MuleSoft and SAP’s introduction of the Intelligent Enterprise vision are the latest examples of how vendors are supporting customers in choosing and integrating solutions from numerous providers.

 

This special report is part of a series driven by TBR’s Cloud Customer Research reports, for which TBR conducted more than 50 interviews and 200 surveys. These special reports will highlight key trends and topics impacting the cloud industry.

SaaS sweetens the cloud pot but requires vendors to up their ante to participate

Despite the simple graph in Figure 1 depicting SaaS market size, the space remains difficult to sum up. In the eyes of customers, SaaS options are proliferating and spanning a wide swath of business functions and stakeholders. Yes, SaaS is the largest segment of the “as a Service” cloud market—and yes, it will continue to expand. Beyond that, however, SaaS will remain a collection of separate markets, with most vendors specializing in one or two core and adjacent areas, instead of one unified opportunity. Some examples of this fragmented and overlapping landscape include Microsoft leveraging collaboration dominance to reinvigorate its CRM strategy with cloud delivers, SAP returning its focus to SaaS CRM after ceding the market to Salesforce, and Workday investing to build out a financials-focused SaaS business from its HR roots.

The market behaves in contrast to the IaaS market, which is highly consolidated around a standard set of often interconnected services and a small collection of vendors. In the SaaS market, growth will be achieved by new vendors addressing new workloads and features. From a vendor standpoint, there will be greater presence from legacy application providers such as SAP, Oracle and Microsoft, but also plenty of room for more niche providers as functional and regional niches develop.

While SaaS will grow the overall cloud opportunity, the challenge for vendors is that the SaaS opportunity will be more difficult to capture. That is not to say the historical model for SaaS adoption will cease to exist; there will still be SaaS purchases that are driven by lines of business (LOBs), transacted with a credit card in some cases, and deployed separately from legacy systems. At least some of the growth will continue to occur in that shadow IT model. However, much of the growth will be from SaaS solutions that deliver more critical services, are procured by joint IT and LOB teams, and are tightly integrated with legacy systems. These scenarios will require vendors both large and small to up their ante, bringing more sales, integration and support services to the table to win these more complex deals.

Figure 1

Graph depicting SaaS market size by delivery method from 2017 to 2022

‘Best of breed’ spawns diversity in the SaaS provider landscape

The vendor landscape may be consolidating on the IaaS side of the cloud market, but that is not the case for SaaS. As seen in Figure 2, customers are most likely to increase the number of SaaS vendors utilized over the next two years, supported by a number of market trends, including new workload and feature adoption, platform ecosystems, and integrated multicloud deployments.

For workload adoption, there is a leveling of the playing field for which services customers are considering cloud as a deployment method. ERP, for example, used to lag in public cloud adoption but is now much closer to par with often adopted services like CRM and HR. Much of this increased consideration comes from enhanced comfort on behalf of customers for delivering sensitive workloads from cloud providers versus their on-premises data centers.

The other factor is the proliferation of complementary services available via PaaS ecosystems. The most tenured and largest example of this comes from the Salesforce Platform, which supports thousands of ISVs developing and selling solutions that complement and extend core CRM. Salesforce may have been the first, but other SaaS vendors, including SAP, Workday, Microsoft and ServiceNow, are taking the same approach, exponentially growing available SaaS services. The last driver is the continued rise of best-of-breed customer purchasing. For contracting and performance reasons, customers have long yearned for multivendor application environments, and now vendors are actually moving to accommodate that desire. Salesforce’s acquisition of MuleSoft and SAP’s introduction of the Intelligent Enterprise vision are the latest examples of how vendors are supporting customers in choosing and integrating solutions from numerous providers.

Figure 2

Graph depicting the change in the number of cloud vendors utilized in the next two years

Expectation inflation raises the bar for SaaS providers

There may be a growing pool of revenue and room for more providers, but meeting customer expectations for SaaS solutions is anything but easy. Expectations have been on the rise, stoked by the greater control buyers have with cloud solutions versus on-premises software. The days of long-term software contract risk falling entirely on the customer are quickly coming to an end. Not only has the power dynamic shifted, but, as shown in the graph below, customers are successfully using more of their IT dollars to fund innovation over maintenance of existing systems. As a result, different evaluation criteria are being used for IT investments. Up front, there is a much more collaborative process between IT and LOB teams as they decide which offerings meet their underlying business need, not just what fits into their existing footprint. Calculating the benefits and return from SaaS investments is also a challenging task, as deployments use business outcomes as the ultimate goal. Although hard calculations seem challenging for most customers, it’s clear that enhanced levels of support and “customer success” roles are increasingly valued. Having these post-sale resources available and putting a greater focus on outcomes and other intangible benefits than on technology benefits seems to be the best way for SaaS vendors to meet inflated customer expectations for what the solutions can and should do for their business.

Figure 3

Graph depicting IT investment strategy of SaaS adopters three years ago versus now versus three years from now

ServiceNow positions Now Platform as workflow engine

This is something they should have done six to 12 months ago when there was this huge buzz around DevOps. As a budding platform, I thought they would have emphasized it sooner. — Meaghan McGrath, Senior Analyst

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ServiceNow Virtual Agent looks to bolster AI strategy

I see [ServiceNow] pivoting out of the IT department a bit, which has been an ongoing theme for them. They are moving towards business users, trying to tie them in closer to the broader base of enterprise users. Even [for] the requests that make it through to IT, the system points users back to the self-services resources. — Meaghan McGrath, Senior Analyst

Full Article

Defining a new hybrid landscape

TBR brings together analysis of hybrid-influenced and hybrid-enabling vendors and technologies, examining and defining the hybrid landscape

Many hybrid players legitimize their presence in hybrid engagements through partnerships with vendors in adjacent markets. Vendors with entrenched legacy assets are well-positioned to cross-sell integrated solutions that fuel hybrid-influenced revenue opportunity. — TBR’s 4Q17 Hybrid Benchmark