The CIO’s visual guide for advancing and tracking digitization

ServiceNow’s approach to implementing workflow digitization across functions

CIOs are advancing workflow digitization across the entire business to improve experiences and unlock productivity. However, our research shows that technology organizations face challenges in cross-function collaboration and reporting results. We spoke with Patricia Grant, vice president of IT strategy, planning and business operations at ServiceNow, on how her team designed a replicable process to guide and track digitization projects.

Why was it so important to create a repeatable digitization approach? What does it look like?

We needed to create a framework or central approach that we could use across our organization to automate repetitive tasks that were taking up too much employee time. Increasingly, our customers have also been asking us for direction on how to advance digital transformation in their companies. In talking with industry analysts, we found there really was no practical guide. We decided to create a step-by-step procedural view on our own.

First, we needed to figure out where we were in our digital maturity as an organization. To do that, we created an 11-question assessment for business groups to use to evaluate each process in their organization. Our goal was to make sure that each of these questions were understandable to a non-technical audience—and we could use the same questions, no matter the function.

Then, the groups select standardized responses to each question. A score is associated with each response, indicating a process’s level of digital maturity. The scores are also color-coded. So, at the end of the questionnaire period, we have a visual heat map that shows every process inside a business function and very clear view of each group’s overall state of digitization.

The scores for each individual process are weighted and added through a ServiceNow-created formula, and then trigger a set of recommendations. As these recommendations are implemented and a group progresses, new recommendations are triggered, and the score is updated.

On a quarterly basis, IT and the business reviews progress over the past quarter and targets for the next quarter. Wins are celebrated and captured to help inspire our customers, and it’s great to see progress on the heat map quarter-over-quarter.

That’s how we created a system, but we needed to make sure each team was also excited to go on this journey and understood the value. We established shared mission statements and objectives at the outset, which aligned to our overall corporate goals and language used by our CEO. And employees got that and were excited to move forward, because it was in our language and the goals that we speak about every day. The teams also welcomed this process because it helped them learn how much time they were wasting on manual work.

How did you decide which team to begin with?

It started with our CIO, Chris Bedi, socializing the idea with peers, like Chief Talent Officer Pat Wadors. Because of their alignment, we started in HR. This non-IT group also gave us the ability to pilot the framework to ensure it would resonate with other departments.

Once you identified teams that were interested, what did you do next?

We had to set expectations with the leaders of each department that embarked on this transformation program that there was going to be an investment in time at the beginning to catalogue what they do on a day-to-day basis.

We worked with HR to identify who would drive the transformation effort. That turned out to be the VP of HR Operations, who appointed a process expert to record key business processes. We used an interview-based approach to identify processes that HR did on a regular basis. We then asked the process owners to answer the 11 assessment questions to identify their digital maturity levels. The framework automatically recommended specific actions they needed to take to move their digital maturity to the next level.

How did you work with each function to apply the recommendations?

The recommendations are crafted in a way that is easy to understand, yet actionable. For example, add a service to the catalogue to make it easier for users to request something. Any recommendation that requires a technical solution is managed with the support of an assigned business partner in the group. Service owners then package these recommendations into projects and small initiatives that ultimately become their digital transformation roadmap.

On a quarterly basis, we hold executive readouts that explain the progress we are making on the projects.

What was the impact of this digitization strategy on employees, leadership, customers, and business outcomes?

We have been using this strategy for over two years now and have seen a very clear impact on a broad array of areas. For example, employees are excited to see how their everyday work contributes to the company transformation. They have a new common language for discussing their work with their team. In addition, the framework gives our leaders an actionable way to translate their vision and strategies into concrete transformational roadmaps.

Our customers benefit in two ways. First, digital transformation drives automation adoption, enabling ServiceNow to deliver services faster and, as a result, improve the customer experience. Second, many customers have found value in applying the methodology within their own organizations to help speed up their own transformation.

As a business, we’ve seen a remarkable change within ServiceNow as we automate repetitive tasks and enable employees to do more value-added work. Digital transformation is the foundation upon which we can unlock productivity and deliver great experiences to our employees and customers. Once the momentum started, teams were competing with each other to see who could drive the most automation in their areas.

What were some key lessons you learned along the way that are shaping how you are rolling out digital workflows going forward?

We have learned several lessons in our journey over the last couple of years. First, every process does not need to be digitized. Our goal is to be able to identify the areas that make the most sense to automate and be able to track progress and impact over time.

We also learned to be adaptable and flexible. When the scores didn’t change while transforming one of our high-opportunity processes, we stopped, took a fresh look at what we were doing, and quickly evaluated.

Another lesson is that some groups have similar processes that appear to have the same potential for automation. But it’s important to remember that each group is at a different stage of the maturity curve. You can’t directly transfer the same automated process from one group to the other. We create greater efficiencies by sharing lessons learned from one group to another.

We invested significant time in developing the framework, so we were excited when it finally began producing results for individual groups. But each group is on its own transformation journey, with its own hurdles and milestones. A consistent, yet adaptable approach to digital transformation helps us mentor, coach, and guide them to success along the way.