The Top 10 Things to Get Right When Implementing an Enterprise Work Management Platform

Version 1

    By Martin Wood, ServiceNow Platform Services Portfolio Manager and Dave Armes ServiceNow Executive Architect – Inspire



    Digital Transformation is driving change across every enterprise. The demands for extracting more value, delivering better user-experiences and being more efficient are present in every industry.  

    More and more ServiceNow customers are using the platform as a catalyst to enable and facilitate their digital journey. Experience and data demonstrate that while having an enabling technology is a crucial piece of the puzzle, there are many reasons which technology change alone cannot guarantee success.


    "Technology will definitely solve all our problems, but in the process, it will create brand new ones. But that's O.K. Because the most you can expect from life is to get to solve better and better problems."  - Scott Adams


    Software has had a dramatic and overwhelming impact on every part of the modern enterprise, however, to achieve true transformation requires an equal amount of focus in other areas, each is as influential as the other:

    • Service Vision & Strategy
    • Governance
    • Process & Automation
    • Service Experience
    • Technology & data management

    Analysis of the most transformative ServiceNow customers shows that addressing each of these areas leads to the best outcomes.

    This paper discusses the top 10 areas ways to deliver success and transformative outcomes.  We review their impact on not only the technical implementation but also the real objectives, the outcomes that the technology enables; value, transformation, and productivity.


    Platform Governance:  Get control early, establish good governance and focus on speed of decision making and the realisation of value


    There are many decisions to be made during a digital transformation. There may be a significant impact on stakeholders across the organisation, with processes, people and culture affected. Ensure this does not lead to a decision-making paralysis.

    It is critically important to build the right governance structure early, then use that empowered team to make quick, effective decisions.  Occasionally pivots are required as success is better defined, but ServiceNow has found this preferable to making no or slow decisions.

    A typical model would be to have a three-tier decision-making hierarchy;

    • Project/Programme level governance – focused on achieving the milestones of the project and the deliverables of the project while evaluating them against the overall transformation objectives.
    • Transformation level governance – an over-arching stream focused on aligning the different streams of activity in the transformation (see the graphic above) and that the whole does in-fact equal the sum of the parts
    • Organisational level governance – continually evaluating the results of the transformation and the changing business needs to ensure that the two do not diverge.  Many organisations on a transformation journey have had to re-evaluate their investments and outcomes due to a change in business context.

    Each decision-making body in the hierarchy will need to have both clear terms of reference and boundaries for delegated decision making and provide oversight to one another to ensure that the desired outcomes are achieved and not just the implementation milestones.


    Process & Automation: Grasp the opportunity to transform and don’t allow old-thinking to persist.  New value requires new thinking.

    Change is hard.  An application, ideology or process may be pervasive throughout an organisation; it may feel like it has always been there. And altering that way of working may cause upheaval, impacting your customers, suppliers, and team.

    And the desire is there. Customers often want to take advantage of new thinking, new approaches, and best practice innovation. We've frequently seen those efforts get diluted. Why?

    Obviously, bringing in ServiceNow is an opportunity to revaluate why things are done. But the organisation, the data, the history all conspire to repeat what has happened before. Sometimes the decision is conscious: altering ServiceNow is frequently easier than altering the organisation. Sometimes, it happens unconsciously: unless the molding constraints are removed, the results will be the same. Either way, ServiceNow frequently ends up being an incremental improvement on the past rather than the transformation that is desired.

    Where there are regulatory requirements which need to be considered; go back to the source of the requirements, share the new way of working with them and understand the real need for additional checks or steps.  Second-hand requirements often represent the way the old system worked and can complicate things more than necessary.



    Technology & Data Management: Establish a clear architectural vision based on the needs of real customer, consumers, and stakeholders

    Understand your desired outcomes before you start your detailed design.

    The flexibility of ServiceNow is alluring. The use of a simple interface and industry standard technologies provides administrators and developers with exceptional freedom. And the capability to innovate should be encouraged. But we've found that without a clear architectural vision established early in the project, projects tend to lose sight of the business needs that need solving and end up building irrelevant features or apply inappropriate constraints.

    A good design does not need to be complex. In fact, a focus on simplicity drives away unnecessary complexity and encourages using baseline functionality. A good design looks at the system holistically, understanding the needs of the core stakeholders. Consistency is important, but are meeting the needs of each team.

    Most designs are living documents. As the needs of the business alter, so does the approach. Design principles can help steer decisions but use an architectural governance board with clear authority and capability to respond to each situation appropriately.


    Service Vision & Strategy: Establish clear outcomes for each stream, and the programme overall, and then design to meet them

    Running an agile project does not mean that planning is not necessary.  Jumping straight into development means stakeholders are often misaligned. Does everyone know what success looks like?

    Using baseline functionality, while encouraging new organisational thinking is part of a ServiceNow project, but the work should always be driving towards a specific goal. Establishing the business objectives will focus benefits and improvements in the right direction, but ensure there is a connected architectural framework to prevent silos and competing ambitions.  A further recognition of the relative importance of each work-stream to the realisation of value should also be used as an input to resourcing to ensure that the investment is prioritised by outcome.

    To fully accelerate business value, ServiceNow recommends that multiple independent but connected streams are established.  Each driving relentlessly towards the outcome in a particular area, while ensuring a holistic outcome is achieved. As an example, the following streams may be established:

    • Shift left. Drive 10% fewer tickets to each support group through improved knowledge capabilities. Make information easier to record and use.
    • Self Service. Make a beautiful, engaging, useful self-service portal. Collect useful information that minimises the need for further contact
    • Improve data. By automatically knowing what machines are where manual updates of data are reduced 50%. Establish a golden source that is trusted by the IT team



    Program Governance: Deliver value early; design the programme structure to include value realization early and iterate.

    Due to the complexity of their interlinked and dependent applications processes, the reaction of most customers is to build a "big bang" timeline, to minimise the number of changes in their organisation.

    But ServiceNow has found that a different type of software requires a different implementation approach. The ServiceNow platform is designed to be deployed iteratively. We have found that a phased rollout plan provides the most value, with most customers being able to benefit from the platform in weeks, rather than years.

    “If you haven’t delivered value in 6 months - then something is wrong.”

    By leveraging the baseline functionality of the ServiceNow platform, and minimising modifications to the applications, customers can facilitate their digital transformation by working in manageable chunks. Frequently this involves configuring the platform first, then enabling the appropriate applications in incremental waves.


    Service Experience: Articulate the value of change and engage with stakeholders and target users, bring them along on the journey

    Changing people’s minds is hard, changing their hearts even harder, and yet surveys have demonstrated that people are key to transformation (see: Closing the Strategy-Execution Gap Means Focusing on What Employees Think, Not What They Do.  Reynolds and Lewis). The benefits and results of any technical solution will come from the behavioral change that it brings about and will be measured in the months and years post-implementation rather than the day the project completes.

    This means that during the project, people need to understand the desired outcomes and time and effort must be spent in bringing them on the journey to success.   Key stakeholders need to understand not only how the change will benefit them, but also how the change will benefit the organisation and the future opportunities the change creates. These key messages need to be considered in the context of the individuals themselves; their personal goals and ambitions, and regarding their span of control to ensure that the results can be measurable and achievable.

    An implementation of ServiceNow is driven by a desire to change the way people work within the organisation, but without clarity of this vision and effective communication, the mantra often gets morphed from “adopt best practice” to “adapt best practice,” and seemingly minor requirements to modify can have significant implications on the overall performance of a process.

    Defining the vision, understanding the level of change and beginning the communication are all things that begin before the technical implementation begins and the best leaders are communicating these messages early and at every opportunity.


    Service Experience: Focus on usability; people need to be able to use the platform to achieve value

    Within any enterprise function, and particularly within IT, it has historically been best practice to understand the functional requirements, develop a process that can fulfill those requirements and then work out how to make the technology fit.  The result is often an overly complex, cumbersome to use set of processes.  These taken in isolation are painful to the users within the organisation, but multiply it up, and it is a disaster which results in reduced productivity and decreased end-user satisfaction for employees.  This is a challenge, but given Richard Branson’s view about the relationship between employees and customers, the potential impact is clear.

    “If You Look After Your Staff, They'll Look After Your Customers. It's That Simple.”

    In programmes that focus on the usability of the solution, the mantra of “natural compliance” can be used to drive prioritisation and evaluation of requirements.  The principle of natural compliance is that “I do it the compliant way because that is the easiest way to get things done.”.  Any requirement which adds complexity or impeded the experience, need to be evaluated regarding cost vs benefit.

    As an example, in one case there was an approval for a request which was executed 1,000 times a year, and the approval took, on average, five working days to complete.  If we also understand the value of the approval was for $100, and the frequency of rejection was 1%, we can quickly understand the process drove a massive misuse of time. The business invested $200,000 into the approval process to save $1,000.


    Process & Automation: Necessary and sufficient documentation, not war and peace

    Do you have documentation there because you find it useful? Is it referred to, helpful, guiding? Or does it sit on a shelf, out of date and irrelevant? Many enterprise and regulated customers produce documentation “just in case.” Frequently, this demands disproportionately on the leaders of the project, requiring the architects and decision makers to spend more time documenting than moving the project forward. Should the need for sign off of a Word document delay a project by many weeks?

    Consider if your best practices and documentation can be delivered through software. By leveraging great design and clear objectives, ServiceNow customers have found that there is little need for documents full of outdated screenshots.  Instead, focus on building the right framework for continual success.  Invest in architects who understand the process and technology, and allow them to drive improvements through actions, not words.


    Service Vision & Strategy: Invest in the right resources to enable long-term success

    Having the right people is key to success. One driver is worth a dozen passengers. By building the right internal capability, ServiceNow customers have found that they drove down external spend while building alignment between technology and processes.

    In particular, keeping ownership over the resulting services is important. You may consider these two roles as the lynchpin for continued success.

    • The Platform Owner has overall accountability of the ServiceNow platform. This individual provides leadership and oversight, ensures team alignment to business strategy and the ServiceNow roadmap, and is actively involved in the overarching governance of the platform. This person has the authority to make decisions and does so in alignment with your business strategy and governance.
    • The Platform Architect provides the technical vision of the ServiceNow platform.  This person works alongside the Platform Owner to drive alignment to the business strategy, and make governance decisions. The Architect analyses the impacts of new requirements and provides controls to ensure the correct technical solutions are leveraged in the delivery of business solutions.


    Skills and Expertise: Ensure that you have the skills and experiences you need to be successful

    Software projects need more than implementation specialists. If you only have technical teams that pride themselves on fulfilling even the most complex request, and project managers that focus on time and cost, you will rarely experience the long-term benefits envisaged at the project's inception.  Even with the most explicit guidance, an external organisation cannot make the decisions about the compromises that will be needed to face-down an internal stakeholder.

    Likewise, a technical implementer is also unlikely to be able to advise on corporate strategy or help balance the cost vs risk equation that every IT organisation needs.  This requires a combination of internal SMEs and external strategy and consultancy organisations.

    The most voices, however, are those of the stakeholders and consumers – those will define the desired outcomes and mandatory constraints that must be applied to achieving them.  These roles can rarely be sourced.




    The five key Success Domains define the full scope of management activities that an organisation needs to develop to maximise value realisation from its ServiceNow implementation. Our top ten recommendations go some way towards addressing common challenges that we’ve seen customers struggle with.

    The adage – “begin with the end in mind” has never been truer than when implementing a powerful, work-management platform that can change the way your organisation works.  Practical techniques such as visualisation, empathy mapping, and design thinking can help breathe life into that vision.  Helping consumers and stakeholders articulate the things that make a difference to them, enables the programme set clear outcome-based goals that are meaningful to the people that matter. These outcomes can then be a set of guiding principles for the design decisions that need to be made and provide a language of benefits realisation to demonstrate project success.

    Being able to demonstrate early value and continual progress towards these goals will help with the competition for hearts and minds that will drive success post-implementation and give the transformation results required.  “Success breeds success” so be ready with the right partners and the right governance to manage the influx of demand and then sit back and let she success dashboards tell the story of your success.


    Note: This article has already generated a great deal of discussion and debate. The intention is to keep this updated once per quarter to capture other people's experiences as well. If you have specific feedback that you think we should include, we would love to hear your views and thoughts.