Managed services News
ServiceNow Expands Automation, AI Capabilities With New Vancouver Release
Joseph F. Kovar
‘We’ve heard loud and clear that our customers are excited about the potential of AI and automation to help them increase productivity and efficiency. But that potential isn’t enough. And as businesses face that increased pressure, they’re turning to trusted partners like ServiceNow to help them drive growth, reduce costs and mitigate risk,’ says Amy Lokey, ServiceNow’s senior vice president of product experience.
Digital workflow technology developer ServiceNow Wednesday introduced its new Now Platform Vancouver release with a heavy emphasis on automation of workflows and a wide range of new AI capabilities built into the platform.
The new automation and AI capabilities in the Vancouver release aim to help customers prepare to face intensifying internal and external pressures that are forcing difficult decisions related to technology disruptions caused by heightened security concerns, risks of changing regulatory environments and more, said Amy Lokey, senior vice president of product experience for the Santa Clara, Calif.-based company.
“We’ve heard loud and clear that our customers are excited about the potential of AI and automation to help them increase productivity and efficiency,” Lokey said. “But that potential isn’t enough. And as businesses face that increased pressure, they’re turning to trusted partners like ServiceNow to help them drive growth, reduce costs and mitigate risk.”
The Vancouver release is the second semiannual release of the ServiceNow Now platform in 2023 following the March release of the company’s Utah version. ServiceNow now names each release after a geographical area, with the first letter of the name of the release following that of the previous release.
With the Now Platform Vancouver release, ServiceNow is integrating generative AI across ServiceNow workflows and releasing comprehensive automation tools on the Now platform, Lokey told a group of reporters during a pre-launch press conference.
“The result is that our customers can take the power of AI, together with automation, and use it to drive real tangible results across every aspect of their business,” she said.
Given that security is at the core of the Now platform, ServiceNow is adding three new innovations in the Vancouver release to improve customers’ data and cybersecurity infrastructure and mitigate risk, Lokey said.
The first is the addition of ServiceNow Zero Trust Access to ServiceNow Vault to help customers build a zero trust framework adhering to the highest levels of compliance required by the federal government and providing them a proactive and resilient security approach to safeguard critical assets, she said.
The second is an expansion of third-party risk management to help customers prepare for modern threats, Lokey said. “Stronger, more transparent third-party security needs to be a priority for every organization,” she said.
ServiceNow has also expanded its Software Bill of Materials Management (SBOM), to extend rapid centralized visibility to all third-party components used for an application, including open-source software, Lokey said.
GenAI To The Forefront
AI, while not new to the ServiceNow platform, is increasingly a key component to the technology, said John Sigler, the company’s senior vice president of platform, during the press conference.
ServiceNow has been working on AI and generative AI since 2017 and accelerated its move with a number of acquisitions since then, including its 2021 acquisition of Element AI, which included strong Large Language Model (LLM) and AI research capabilities, he said.
ServiceNow’s Generative AI Controller, for instance, allows customers to plug in LLMs from OpenAI and Microsoft, as well as other general-purpose and domain-specific LLMs, Sigler said.
Domain-specific LLMs provide faster, less expensive and safer results with AI, Sigler said. “We use general-purpose,” he said. “But when it comes to domain-specific knowledge that we need for ServiceNow, we build out our own LLMs.”
The explosion in the use of ChatGPT pushed ServiceNow to quickly leverage generative AI as part of its AI platform and expose it across its products, Sigler said.
The result, he said, was the introduction of GenAI to four ServiceNow SKUs: Now Assist for Customer Service Management (CSM), Now Assist for IT Service Management (ITSM), Now Assist for HR Service Delivery (HRSD) and Now Assist for Creator.
For CSM, GenAI improves agent productivity by summarizing all the interaction between a user and an agent into two or three paragraphs instead of just presenting the raw interaction, Sigler said. “So something that might have taken five or 10 minutes now can be done in 30 seconds,” he said.
For ITSM, GenAI summarizes the chat between a bot and an end user so that if a request for help is escalated, a human agent is immediately up to date on the case without asking all the same questions, Sigler said.
“There’s nothing more frustrating than interacting with the bot, and then the bot saying, ‘Oops, I can’t help you. Let me turn you over to a human,’ and then that human starts from the very beginning and asks me my name and all my information,” he said.
For HRSD, GenAI offers similar capabilities, leading businesses to offer self-service capabilities for all human resources functions, Sigler said.
“We increase productivity, and we lower costs,” he said. “And GenAI is going to be critical for that as we move forward. And it’s a holistic approach. It’s not just about a summarization for an agent. It’s about summarization for an agent or deflection for an end user or search result that just leads to a better day for an employee. I think this is just the beginning. But we’re super excited about where we are.”
For the CSM, ITSM and HRSD SKUs, customers will need to first upgrade to the Pro versions if they have not yet done so. They can then upgrade to the Pro Plus versions, which provide the GenAI capabilities, he said. Creator Plus does not require a Pro upgrade as ServiceNow does not offer one.
The ServiceNow Vancouver release is really a huge step forward, with incremental capabilities that help customers and partners, said Jason Wojahn, CEO of Thirdera, a Broomfield, Colo.-based solution provider and longtime ServiceNow channel partner.
This is especially true when it comes to AI, Wojahn told CRN.
“Almost every customer is starting to talk AI and look for practical help,” he said. “Customers are trying to rationalize AI. We are now coming with AI deployed in the ServiceNow platform. Customers don’t need data scientists to unlock the capabilities of the platform.”
ServiceNow is bringing AI across the Now platform, Wojahn said.
“These are foundational areas for AI,” he said. “These are solid places for customers to start if they are just trying to embark on their AI journey.”
Wojahn cited the ability of ServiceNow’s CSM and ITSM to use generative AI to summarize service ticket interactions as a prime example.
“The ability to summarize what’s happening in a ticket and summarize the response is a real boost in efficiency,” he said. “It’s very action-oriented. Sometimes these customer calls can be pretty complex. ServiceNow is showing how to turn information into knowledge.”
There is no place in ServiceNow for customers or partners where AI does not play a role, Wojahn said.
“This will be a way to improve how customers work with ServiceNow,” he said. “And it doesn’t require customers to change how they work. It’s accretive. Customers get more control and more ways to resolve issues.”
GenAI Programs, Incentives For The Channel
ServiceNow is rolling out programs to help channel partners be ready to bring generative AI to customers, said Erica Volini, the company’s senior vice president of global partnerships.
This includes helping partners understand generative AI and what it will take to help customers understand the benefits, helping them move customers to the Pro versions of the different modules to prepare for AI, and helping them provide demonstrations and training to customers, Volini told CRN.
“This is based on our Path to Pro program,” she said. “We want partners to understand that to use GenAI, customers need to be on the Pro platforms. The HRSD, ITSM and CSM SKUs have a Pro version. We need customers to get on Pro.”
While the Pro versions have been available for some time, customers looking to take advantage of generative AI now absolutely need Pro, and so ServiceNow is looking to incentivize partners to help move them in that direction by offering them a $15,000 bonus for each Pro deal they sign by year-end, Volini said. Partners can get the bonus up to 15 times, she said.
ServiceNow is also offering partners certifications specific to generative AI, Volini said. Such certifications are expected to be available in the first half of 2024, she said.
More Ways To Automate
Lokey said businesses have trouble managing mission-critical processes manually or in silos, but the Now Platform Vancouver release has innovations to help them connect and automate their most important yet time-consuming work.
She cited health care as an example by noting that maintenance and biomedical teams are often overwhelmed with compliance and security mandates.
“With our new Clinical Device Management, we revolutionized the costly and the complex process of managing all of the clinical devices that often divert clinicians’ energy away from patient care into doing paperwork,” she said. “This solution provides a centralized process with ready-made workflows all around the installation, the servicing and the maintenance of an organization’s clinical devices, such as MRI or X-ray machines. And the result is that health-care providers can bolster security and resilience.”
ServiceNow is also helping automate mission-critical processes with the release of its new Accounts Payable Operations (APO), which Lokey said was originally introduced in May. It automates all accounts and payable processes end to end, she said.
“Without APO, organizations typically spend about $16 per invoice to manually process them,” she said. “We’re dramatically decreasing this to less than $3 per invoice with automation.”
ServiceNow also wants to accelerate talent transformation and skills-based development with its new AI-enabled Employee Growth and Development, or EGD.
“EGD helps leaders better meet the needs of their workforce while optimizing for the future of work,” she said. “EGD brings learning development and an AI-powered skills intelligence into a single platform to help companies identify and address development needs and drive their business growth. It uses AI to collect, validate and continually update employee skills data. And this gives leaders like myself greater visibility and insight into workforce capabilities.”