ServiceNow continues workflow platform expansion with Utah release

ServiceNow continues workflow platform expansion with Utah release

With its Utah release, ServiceNow is expanding the reach of its Now Platform for workflow automation into new areas, and enhancing its performance in others.

Since ServiceNow introduced role-based workspaces as part of its new user interface, Next Experience, in March 2022, coverage has grown with each passing release. Utah’s additions include dedicated workspaces for security incident response and operational resilience to help workers concentrate on what needs to be done in moments of crisis. The former is an expansion of ServiceNow’s moves into supporting cybersecurity teams over the past year, and the latter, a broader tool for scripting responses to outages of all kinds.

There’s also a new enterprise architect workspace where ServiceNow stakes its claim in the crowded market for managing SaaS spend. This workspace is intended to help enterprises manage app portfolios to reduce redundancy and cost. Other additions are intended to help enterprises manage their physical workspaces too, offering facilities managers somewhere to track building leases, or to reorganize office spaces.

Some of the enhancements to Utah are cosmetic, like the Theme Builder, which enables enterprises to quickly customize the appearance of workflows built on the Now Platform without resorting to editing HTML Custom Style Sheets. Others changes go deeper, such as improving the platform’s built-in search engine so the most relevant result is presented first or second, rather than seventh or eighth, said Jon Sigler, ServiceNow’s SVP for Now Platform.

Other enhancements include new workflows for HR and team leaders to optimize workforce output, and manage health and safety incidents, the company said.

For CIOs, the challenge with this release will be getting past preconceptions that ServiceNow is an IT services management (ITSM) platform, said IDC’s group VP for cloud operations and devops, Stephen Elliot.

“CIOs, and particularly VPs of IT infrastructure operations, have a particular perspective about what ServiceNow does, and how they do it,” he said. “But if you look back over the past couple years, they obviously have these other capabilities that serve chief HR officers, customer experience owners, employee experience, and things like that.”

Brace for Impact

Indeed, the Now Platform has become so sprawling that ServiceNow is concerned customers may not be getting as much value from it as what they are paying for. A year ago, the company introduced a new app, ServiceNow Impact, to act as an always-on customer success manager not just for CIOs but for other leaders within the enterprise responsible for workflows running on Now Platform. With the Utah release, it’s leaning in, enhancing Impact’s tools for helping executives monitor their ServiceNow instance, and adding a product adoption roadmap that recommends which applications to adopt next.

It’s also expanding the catalog of accelerators—automated how-to guides to adoption—with new recommendations on creating personalized dashboards of ServiceNow adoption for different members of the executive team, and on conducting ITSM maturity assessments.

The Impact app and its accelerators have access to data from an enterprise’s ServiceNow instance, so users can track progress toward deploying a particular service, said ServiceNow’s SVP and global head of product experience, Amy Lokey.

“You can see a real time report on your next steps in terms of getting the maximum value out of your instance, out of the software that you’ve licensed,” she said.

For IDC’s Elliot, Impact’s ability to personalize metrics depending on a user’s interests, whether in HR, ITSM, or field service management, is key. “It’s a pretty clever way of helping customers understand the value they’re receiving,” he said.

No GPT

One feature notable by its absence from ServiceNow’s Utah release is generative AI.

Other enterprise software vendors are talking up a storm about their plans to incorporate OpenAI’s generative AI bot, ChatGPT, or some variation of it, but in most cases they’re still just plans. Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff wants you to, “Get ready to be wowed by Salesforce Einstein GPT!”—but Salesforce isn’t ready to wow you yet. And Microsoft, a big investor in Open AI and provider of the cloud infrastructure underlying its services, has invited a few companies to test Microsoft 365 Copilot, a version of GPT for Word, Excel and Teams, but won’t even say when it will discuss a broader release.

ServiceNow isn’t ignoring the phenomenon, however, according to Sigler. “We understand it’s a tidal wave and that it’s a game-changer and it’s disruptive, and so we’re on it,” he said.

Vendors that rushed to incorporate generative AI functionality too soon, though, are unlikely to match customers’ expectations, which have been set by the free version of ChatGPT based on the GPT-3.5 model, and raised by recent demonstrations of the capabilities of GPT-4. OpenAI only opened up APIs for ChatGPT to enterprise developers at the start of March 2023—and the training data for that model cut off in September 2021.

“We look at it very closely, but this is an area that’s changing every day,” he said. “If you talk to companies that have introduced a generative AI feature, it’s three versions ago.”

Developers can now apply to Microsoft for limited access to its GPT-4 APIs beginning April 1. Sigler said ServiceNow customers will have to wait for functionality based on it, though.

“Microsoft plans on making that sort of thing available in November and we’re working closely with them, which would allow us to use the latest and greatest,” he said, adding that he may be able to say more in the coming months.

AI in action

GPT is no silver bullet however, said IDC’s Elliot, and different analytic models are required for different tasks. ServiceNow is well aware of that and has made a series of targeted acquisitions of AI technologies over the last three years, he said, adding: “They were very pragmatic about what they were buying those companies for.”

Those technologies are showing up in a number of areas in the Utah release. For example, there are improvements to ServiceNow’s natural language search function, intended to help users surface relevant documentation more quickly. AI also shows up in Document Intelligence, a more streamlined process for extracting information from documents.

It’s also being used to help optimize processes more widely across the enterprise. ServiceNow first applied its AI-based process optimization function to ITSM workflows but is now expanding it to encompass field service management and other areas. Although in October 2021, ServiceNow partnered with process mining specialist Celonis, which also relies heavily on AI, to optimize processes across the wider enterprise, and is determined to build its own capabilities, too.

“We are 100% committed to process optimization being native to our platform, and this is the first release where I can really say, when it comes to our processes and how we handle them, no one will be better than us,” Sigler said.

Artificial Intelligence, Build Automation, CIO, Enterprise Architecture, IT Leadership