ServiceNow’s Now Platform Utah Release Pushes AI, Optimization Envelope

‘The Utah release is all about helping our customers get to business outcomes faster through digitization and through what we’re calling purposeful automation. We believe automation is one of the most powerful trends over the next decade, and we’ve included a lot of enhanced features to make automation even more impactful,’ says Erica Volini, ServiceNow’s senior vice president for alliances and the channel ecosystem.


Digital workflow technology developer ServiceNow rolled out the Now Platform Utah release Wednesday with an aim of making it easier for the company’s channel partners to automate more of their customers’ processes.

ServiceNow is all about being a platform on which companies can build digital businesses, said Erica Volini, senior vice president for alliances and the channel ecosystem for the Santa Clara, Calif.-based company.

“The Utah release is all about helping our customers get to business outcomes faster through digitization and through what we’re calling purposeful automation,” Volini told CRN. “We believe automation is one of the most powerful trends over the next decade, and we’ve included a lot of enhanced features to make automation even more impactful.”

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ServiceNow typically introduces two major releases in a year, each named after a geographical area in alphabetical order. Prior to Utah, the company last year released the Tokyo platform.

Volini, who in January became ServiceNow’s new channel chief, said there are two specific areas that will be most important as it relates to automation going forward: process optimization and workforce optimization.

“We have some process optimization capabilities already inherent in ServiceNow,” she said. “But they’ve mainly been focused on areas like IT and ITSM [IT service management]. What we’ve done with the Utah release is use AI to expand process optimization pretty much across our platform. And that allows our partners to quickly figure out where are there process inefficiencies and what are the recommendations to fix them.”

For that reason, solution providers can help their customers know what they need to get to the time to value quickly because they can focus on moving the needle on digital transformation, Volini said.

“Partners can now use process optimization across our platform and understand where the inefficiencies exist, how can they fix them, and then we can use our platform to fix those processes,” she said.

As an example, Volini cited ServiceNow itself, which discovered over 70 inefficiencies across the company’s 900 business processes, including the fact that 74 percent of its submitted human resources cases were recategorized incorrectly, which delayed the department’s responses to employees.

“When we figured that out, when we ran this process optimization AI capability, we identified that inefficiency, we were able to speed up time to resolution by 40 percent,” she said. “We got a 30 percent productivity gain for the folks who were resolving those cases. And we’re driving higher employee NPS [Net Promoter Score].”

That AI capability stems from ServiceNow’s use of machine learning to continually look at the Now platform’s processes to understand where the inefficiencies are, Volini said. “And with our smart process automation, we’re even smarter and quicker at identifying where those gaps are,” she said.

With the new Now Platform Utah release, ServiceNow is also focused on bringing workforce optimization across shared services environments so businesses can improve things like optimizing their workforces, rebalancing workflows and maximizing the quality of work being performed by employees, Volini said.

Businesses are already implementing some aspects of workforce optimization in things like field service management where it can be used to redirect employees’ time in the field to make sure they are solving the most urgent issues, she said.

“Now we’re applying that broadly across shared services inside an organization so that we can quickly figure out how do we redeploy the workforce and improve that productivity,” she said.

This will be a huge benefit for ServiceNow’s partners, Volini said.

“Our partners are going into our customers, who are saying, ‘We want to drive digital transformation,’” she said. “Our partners need to figure out where the opportunities are, create the case for change and go and execute. With process optimization and workforce optimization, we’re essentially handing our partners a tool they can use to get the identification of those issues done really quickly so they can build the business case.”

The Now Platform Utah release also offers a simplified experience with a new user interface for agent and admin personas, Volini said. Agent personas are those who answer calls on behalf of the customers, which will now be able to use a variety of brand identities, colors and images to personalize the user experience for their own business and make ServiceNow feel an integral part of how their companies operate, she said.

There are also new capabilities aimed at organizational agility, such as a new health and safety incident management offering, Volini said. That will enable businesses to more quickly respond and resolve incidents such as accidents on the factory floor, she said.

“This obviously matters to the employee experience, and it’s critical from a compliance standpoint. … We’re going to allow customers to be able to examine these incidents in a centralized workspace so that they really understand what’s going on,” she said. “Is there something we need to change with regard to our workplaces to make it safer for our employees? How do we get in front of those risks and vulnerabilities that might exist in our workspace and deal with that?”

The new health and safety incident management offering gives partners a way to work with existing customers on expanding the services they provide, Volini said.

“Our partners can have now have a conversation with the head of health and safety at their customer and say, ‘Hey, I know you’re using ServiceNow for ITSM and HR, but have you considered it for health and safety incident management?” she said. “And what we want our partners to understand is that with every one of these releases, Utah included, we’re giving them more capabilities that they can bring to their customers to expand the value of the Now platform and, in turn, expand the relationship that our partners can build with customers because they can work with more stakeholders across the enterprise.”

ServiceNow’s expansion of both the automation and the user experience were on the top of the wish list for Mitch Kenfield, principal, technology consulting for London-based global professional services company Ernst & Young, who has worked with ServiceNow for years both at EY and previously at KPMG.

“They’re what our clients are looking for now,” Kenfield told CRN. “Our clients are looking to say, ‘We need to execute these corporate processes and these organizational functions more efficiently and more effectively. Obviously, there’s a large play right now on cost takeout and being more optimized overall. But optimization when it doesn’t have a good experience is not a positive thing. Clients want a process that’s effective and optimized, and, with a capital AND, feels great to our employees.”

EY is seeing a significant increase in its clients looking at the Now platform, particularly at how it interact with corporate functions like human resources, procurement, legal, and so on, Kenfield said. And, he said, those organizations have traditionally been very siloed.

The next wave of global business services EY is offering includes using AI to not only support clients’ employees in their daily lives, but to also drive better experience at interaction for them, Kenfield said.

“The last few years, as we’ve all known, there’s been this huge uptick in digital experience,” he said. “They need better employee experiences. They need consumer grade experiences, which is really positive. But we also still live in a world of you have to execute processes, and they need to be optimized and efficient. ServiceNow is focused on automation. They use a term in the Utah release, ‘purposeful automation,’ which I really like. We can automate things. But why are we automating? And specifically, we’re super excited about the process mining capability.”

By process mining, Kenfield refers to ServiceNow’s ability to look at data generated during workflows to better understand the processes.

“As ServiceNow is advancing their capabilities, that lets us say, ‘We’re going to look at an end-to-end process, not just because we think it works this way, but because we have a technology now that can mine the interactions of that process,” he said. “What did the employee do? How long did it take? Were they using a virtual agent? What did it mean? That capability to really mine into the way the processes work helps make sure we’re optimizing and digitizing the right things.”