ServiceNow: Building an IT Dynasty - Part 2

Written by Aaron Bradley, VP of Marketing, Fully Managed. 

At the conclusion of ‘The Last Dance’ documentary series - a series that has reignited the world’s fascination with Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls dynasty in the 1990s - there is a clip of Michael when he was just starting out, expressing his desire to see Chicago build a culture of winning like that of the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers. He says: “Hopefully this team, and this organization, can build a program like that.” Sounded prophetic right?

People have likely forgot that Jordan ended up playing 8 seasons before he finally held the Naismith trophy and sparked that desired dynasty. For years, the Bulls were getting smacked around by Detroit’s ‘Bad Boys’ until finally, after 3 straight playoff exits to the Pistons, Chicago had had enough. Detroit had stymied MJ by limiting his offensive effectiveness in what the Piston’s star Isiah Thomas coined ‘The Jordan Rules’ – a methodology that targeted Michael specifically to physically knock him off his game. Chicago realized they needed a playbook of their own to overcome their nemesis and move forward: Enter the ‘Triangle Offense’… Their blueprint to organizational transformation.

In Part 1 of this article I compared the ‘three-peat repeat’ success of the Bulls in the '90s to the success that IT Service Management (ITSM) mammoth ServiceNow has achieved with 6 straight years atop Gartner’s ITSM Magic Quadrant. The analogy goes deeper, however. ServiceNow has grown to become the de facto standard for organizations looking to achieve ‘digital transformation’. Digital transformation (DX) can mean different things to different people. At its heart however, DX is a reimagining of business in modern times. It has been defined as the process of using digital technologies to create new — or modify existing — business processes, culture, and customer experiences to meet changing business and market requirements.

So how and why has ServiceNow been so effective at helping organizations achieve DX success? To answer that, let’s flash back again to the Bulls third straight playoff defeat by the Pistons in 1990: The Bulls realized they needed a strategy to turn the tide. They had the people in place to do it – beginning with their legendary Head Coach Phil Jackson. A hall-of-famer, with two NBA championships as a player and now 11 more as a coach, Jackson, along with Assistant Coach Tex Winter, brought in an old playbook called the ‘Triangle Offense’. I won’t go in to the intricacies of the system, but it has been described by Chuck Klosterman as “pretty much irrefutably, the single most dominant offensive attack (in any major sport) of the past 20 years.” Jordan learned he couldn’t carry the team to greatness as the ball-holder on every touch. Their new Triangle system meant that when teams like the Pistons doubled-down on him, there was always an open man (or outlet) free that he could dish to.  And the rest, as we know, is history. After 1990, Chicago had the people, the experience and finally the process in place to be successful.

In the business world, you often hear that the combination of the right peopleprocesses & technologies are what puts an organization on its road to greatness.  You could say that ServiceNow took a similar approach to digital transformation. Devoting themselves to improving the customer service experience through the use of innovative workflow technologies, ServiceNow can be looked at as the supplier of the both the technologies and the processes behind successful digital transformation. The third element of their success, or third point on their version of ‘Triangle Offense’, lies with people

For ServiceNow, ‘people’ is right there in their mantra. “We make the world of work, work better for people.™” They clearly articulate that their focus is on people – meaning that their version of digital transformation (DX) may concern itself with modernizing business processes but it puts the customer experience (CX) first. Put more simply, every bit of automation the ServiceNow platform creates is done with the customer’s journey in mind.

‘The Last Dance’ ends with Jordan reflecting back on his coach: “Phil had this knack, no matter how big you are, no matter how big you think you are, to always draw you in to be a part of the process. To become the best at what they do, much like Phil Jackson did with the ‘91 Bulls, ServiceNow has found their success by driving customer engagement – getting people to believe in the vision of what is possible.  

P.S. for anyone looking for a deeper understanding of digital transformation, including the 4 types of DX, I would recommend this excellent article by Andrew Annacone: