EXPAND Executive Insights: Grant Pulver on the Future of Workflows & Clients’ Biggest Concern in 2021

When we first launched our EXPAND series of events and content, we were acting on the premise that our ServiceNow world is expanding at an exponential pace due to global events like the COVID-19 pandemic, social and racial reckoning, and political changes. If 2020 taught us anything, it was to think differently and to come together as companies and as communities in new ways (to expand if you will).

That’s the kind of thinking that we at Acorio thrive on, and we’re not letting it end in 2020. So today, we’re sharing the latest segment of our EXPAND Executive Insight series – which we are proudly carrying on in 2021 and beyond – where we meet with today’s top digital transformation leaders to discuss where the world of business is headed next. From Client Executives, to members of Acorio’s leadership team, EXPAND brings you the business insights you need straight from the corner office.

This month I sat down with Acorio’s Director of Client Partners, Grant Pulver. To read Grant’s full bio, please see his profile at the bottom of this article.

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As someone who spends the majority of his time with client teams, Grant has his ear closest to the ground on ServiceNow client trends and how those are put into action. In our interview below, he reveals customers’ biggest concern for 2021 and shares what he sees coming next for the platform. He also covers common implementation mistakes he sees from customers and how teams can better align internally. Keep reading to see what Grant has to share about digital transformation trends he’s seeing this year with clients.

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It’s All About the End User

One of the most prominent shifts I’ve seen with clients over the past year is that IT and other organizations are starting to work much more closely together. 18 months ago, our projects were extremely siloed. We would work exclusively with HR, IT, or the customer service organization on a project. This is because conversations around ServiceNow and similar tools previously revolved around saving money and reducing workforce. Then 2020 evolved those talks into a more comprehensive approach surrounding customer service. Now, executives are looking to improve the overall work experience – and noticing that by doing so, optimization, cost savings, and customer satisfaction scores all seem to fall into place.

Ahead of this curve, ServiceNow developed a workflow from the customer’s perspective to connect cross-organizational functions and streamline historically disjointed processes.

It used to be okay to open up a ticket, realize the solution was out of a certain department’s domain and close the ticket to open another one. But this approach erases the trail and valuable context of the issue. It also causes frustration, friction, and, without proper communication, confusion for the end user. In the grand scheme of things, end users just want someone to acknowledge that they have an issue and then fix it. When individual issues float back and forth between different departments, it’s easy for requests to fall through the cracks or sit unresolved for longer than necessary.

Acknowledging these outdated, unnecessary processes, ServiceNow set out to revolutionize workflows by centering its solution around the end-user experience.

The platform boils a workflow down to its absolute essence: acknowledging the user’s input and promptly finding a satisfying resolution. This holistic perspective enables optimization as a whole throughout the workflow and across department teams. And by streamlining the process, clients can provide more visibility into the workflow process for end users, resulting in improved net promoter and customer satisfaction scores.

Flexibility: #1 Client Concern for 2021

Beyond the prioritization of the end-user experience, it’s also valuable to note where customers are most concerned in 2021: flexibility. Across the board, we’re seeing clients be more tactical to better plan their roadmaps. COVID-19’s disruption of the work landscape has prompted organizations to prioritize making bandwidth to allow space for projects to pivot as needed.

Surprise events like COVID-19 or the SolarWinds breach forced companies into an ‘all hands on deck’ approach and pushed less urgent (usually strategic) initiatives to the backburner. In order to get things back to normal, we have to pull back on our roadmaps and strategies for a bit.

Last year we saw companies have to move back their roadmaps by six months or even a year. That experience was really eye opening and explains why people are a little less aggressive in their strategy for what they want to accomplish outside of their normal run-the-business type organizational tasks this year. Moving forward, it’s important to budget in that flexibility into a 12- or 24-month roadmap to account for unexpected setbacks. You can always decide to accelerate, but better to ramp up than have to push an initiative back.

Aligning for Success

In fact, what I usually see go wrong in projects stems from disconnects between client organizations.

In other words, there has to be coordination between internal groups on the platform. This all goes back to centering the experience of the end user. When teams are aligned on ServiceNow, they can better provide a standard experience, for example coordinating standard notification templates and timelines, or a standard portal experience for customers to be able to come in with a single point of entry.

Global Services or shared services organizations are getting better at this but there’s still the challenge of getting groups to buy in and agree on simple things like where a logo should go, where notifications should appear, or where to position a drop-down to be in the portal.

My job is to broker those discussions, understanding best practices and business requirements, then working with all of the internal organizations to align on a single approach.

 Getting Middle Management on your Side

Digital Transformation’s challenges are rarely about the technology. The technology is there, it can do whatever you need. The real key is getting adoption and having a unified front internally and externally. Project challenges arise when teams can’t get enough internal buy-in from their own people. In order to earn that buy-in, you have to understand who in your organization is an influencer (positive and negative) and then bring those people in and give them a sense of ownership to get their buy-in up front. Getting these internal influencers on board is a key piece of the adoption process.

Those influencers are the bridge to the gap between the executives leading the project and the people in the trenches that are doing the work affected. Teams have to be able to understand and cross that bridge between where the executives want to go and where the current team is. One of the hardest places to get this right is in the middle management layer.

For example, maybe 90% of your incidents are resolved within four days and as management, we end up chastising our team if that average goes up to four days and one hour or promoting them if drops to three days and 23 hours, but in reality your customer doesn’t care about that. This is why it’s so important for companies to make sure their middle management understands the end-user standpoint, explain the importance of constant follow-up, and emphasize the importance of the overall experience rather than obsessing over one piece of the experience. Generally, customers are ok with slightly longer resolution times as long as you’re consistently checking in with regularly scheduled updates on their case.

More About Grant

As a Client Partner, Grant works on Acorio’s largest projects, guiding the strategy for client teams throughout their entire digital transformation journey. Focusing far beyond ServiceNow, his role centers on working with client executives to develop overarching business goals, which in turn direct the client’s subsequent ServiceNow roadmap. Grant has worked on ServiceNow since nearly the platform’s beginning. Like many Acorians, he comes from the customer side and is passionate about helping our clients define a thoughtful ServiceNow strategy. Whether it’s platform expansion, adoption, or use & value, Grant’s got our customers covered. 

Matt Buchner

Matt Buchner is the Lead Solution Architect at NTT DATA. He brings 14 years of international experience delivering technology solutions to solve complex business challenges in a rapidly evolving business and technology landscape.

Empower Teams

As we move into 2022 and beyond, security leaders must empower their teams to have the flexibility and awareness to tackle challenges in this rapidly changing environment. CISOs can never take their eye off the technologies that dominate our field, but it’s just as essential to continue to nurture the people and processes to get the most out of those new technologies.

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