New Broom, New Era
According to my Las Vegas taxi driver, an event needs to be over 50,000 people before it makes an impact on the party town. So whilst ServiceNow’s “Knowledge 18” conference might have only made a tiny ripple on the Vegas map with a mind-boggling 18,000 delegates, it is clearly a behemoth in Enterprise software and now a significant player in the ITAM market.
Companies need different leaders depending on their stage of growth. The last time I visited Knowledge in 2014, Frank Slootman was in charge, a snarling bear of a leader, who revelled on ‘feeding on the carcass’ of ServiceNow’s enterprise software market incumbents. The sort of Ballmer chest beating they needed at the time.
Four years later and ServiceNow are in a different stage of growth; John Donahoe came across in his opening keynote as positively statesman-like. A leader to take them to the next level.
A year into the role and there is a clear purpose and a new brand, further solidifying the transition from the company that wants to be your service desk of choice in the cloud to the company vying to look after the service automation plumbing for the whole company.
Digitize or die?
In 2014, learning the lessons of the user experience from consumer apps and taking them to the enterprise was key, and in many ways the message was the same for 2018. In 2014, the use case for digital transformation was little more speculative. We can save money, reduce the number of emails bounced back and forth, provide a nicer work interface and maybe attract a few millennials to work for the company along the way.
Today, the case for digital transformation is sometimes a matter of life or death for industries being disrupted. Digitize or get eaten alive by your competitors or a younger upstart. ServiceNow has a compelling story here and momentum in the market to deliver. Years ago the exhibitor hall would be full of service desk partners, now it is dominated by a who’s who of the largest integrators on the planet.
My final observation since 2014 is that of customization. Once heralded as a competitive differentiator, too many customers found themselves painted into a corner with customizations unable to upgrade. Now ServiceNow is actively discouraging customization as a means of adopting their new innovation faster. The company announced some pretty cool stuff, increasingly via acquisition, letting your stakeholders fiddle to the nth degree stops you adopting it. Best practice is “Out of the box” said Donahue.
London release – ServiceNow becomes an Enterprise SAM contender
So now onto the meat and potatoes of my interest in the Knowledge conference: what are ServiceNow doing in the ITAM space and is it a credible alternative to current SAM tool incumbents?
The short answer is a) they are investing significantly and b) Yes, it’s catching up in many ways and overtaking in other areas.
Below is a quick summary of what is included in the “London” release of ServiceNow due in Q3 2018 (as per image below).
Notable “London” ITAM enhancements:
- Management of Citrix and Adobe environments. For Citrix the ability to manage applications available to users and for Adobe; authenticating into your Adobe account, importing subscriptions and reporting on unused or low usage subscriptions.
- Data import scrutiny – validating purchase records to avoid duplication or errors. Procurement record imports are still based on a ServiceNow template, so no import of your Microsoft MLS or other vendor statement. For large multinationals with multiple contracts and vendor statements, I don’t see how wrestling all of these into a ServiceNow template is going to be workable at scale.
- As with many other SAM tools, ServiceNow is enhancing its catalogue, which is streamed to customers. ServiceNow will help to identify applications that are flagged by customers as unrecognized, and then distribute this intelligence to all customers. Nothing new here, the standard SAM tool methodology, but ServiceNow is also updating unrecognized procurement data, such as missing part numbers in procurement data. To my knowledge only BDNA (Now Flexera) was doing that.
I would argue that the points above are ServiceNow currently “catching up” with existing SAM tool providers. However what’s really interesting is where ServiceNow is already beginning to surpass the current SAM tools market in unique ways:
Proposed license impact in Change Management
ServiceNow argue that there is “Poor communication between infrastructure teams and Software Asset teams” – Quite an understatement!
The financial risk visibility within the change management process is a game changer. This provides visibility and accountability for stakeholders and is very powerful. It is strategic ITAM, providing useful, actionable information to stakeholders as decisions are being made. The consequences of hardware changes to licensing risk can be seen right within the CAB process. This can either be used proactively within the decision making process or (presumably) retrospectively to explain root causes of compliance pain.
End of life visualization within Application Portfolio Management
ServiceNow’s recognition catalogue will include what they call “Lifecycle” information such as the general availability of software (when it was first released so you can tell how old it is) and the end of life and end of support (very useful for planning application retirement or upgrades).
End of life dates within software recognition catalogues is not new. Other SAM tools already offer this. What’s innovative here is the data being offered in the context of Application Portfolio management. As with embedding ITAM data into the change management process above, this architectural view of ITAM data is a very powerful use of ITAM data with stakeholders.
Great stuff happening here from ServiceNow, great to see them catching up, and in some instances overtaking, some existing SAM tools. What is your view? Have you experiences with the ServiceNow platform for SAM and have you had success with it?
About Martin Thompson
Martin is also author of the book "Practical ITAM - The essential guide for IT Asset Managers", a book that describes how to get started and make a difference in the field of IT Asset Management.
On a voluntary basis Martin a contributor to ISO WG21 which develops the ITAM International Standard ISO/IEC 19770.
Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter or LinkedIn.