In the flow: meet the tech firm that has been putting workflows at the heart of businesses | The new rules of work

Digital workflows are not just for the world of IT systems, they sit behind the ability to create great employee and customer experiences.
Photograph: JGI/Tom Grill/Getty Images/Tetra images RF

It’s easy to mock business and IT jargon. So much of it sits somewhere on the spectrum between meaningless and pointless. However, some words deserve their place in our everyday language because they are genuinely useful. They help us better understand the world of work.

Workflow is one such word. As well as being a useful shorthand, it’s crucial to the functioning of any business. Office workers use it as a noun and sometimes as a verb. The Cambridge Dictionary defines it as “the way that a particular type of work is organised, or the order of the stages in a particular work process”. These stages are repeatable and they result in goods, services or the processing of information.

It is through this function – the processing of information – that many office workers will be familiar with the word. After all, workflow platforms have become increasingly crucial in the digital age, where more information about a business’s operations and performance can be gathered, measured, and harnessed for smarter, faster decision-making. Digital workflows are not just for the world of IT systems, they sit behind the ability to create great employee and customer experiences.

Automating tasks
“When it comes to workflows, what we do is make work a lot easier for non-technical people by bringing a consumer experience to the enterprise, with the aim of eliminating much of the menial work that distracts from meaningful work,” says Jordi Ferrer, vice-president and general manager UK&I of ServiceNow, the leading digital workflow company.

ServiceNow cut its teeth in IT service management, a function that underpins any business that manages critical information and numerous assets within multiple IT systems, while providing a single view of the entire IT operation.

“The way to look at the ServiceNow platform is, the more systems of record or sources of information you connect to it, the more value you get as there’s a multiplier effect,” says Ferrer. “For example, if you were running IT service management, and you add a compliance and risk-management capability, the combination allows you to connect the IT risk of an application not working to the business risk of that application not being available.

“So if you had an outage or a cyber-attack (or even you wanted to make a change), you would have a much better view of what has been affected to make the right business decisions very quickly. Many companies still undertake this process manually as they do not workflow those business processes together.”

That’s why ServiceNow’s offering has extended into other areas such as employee experience and customer service, as these have a number of tasks that are easily workflowed and automated, unlocking productivity and improving the experience of employees and customers.

Take onboarding a new employee as an example. This workflow spans arranging payroll, allocating devices and workspace, systems access and security approval and countless additional actions – all of which involve coordination between several departments. This can lead to delays and a poor employee experience at a critical moment in the employee/employer relationship. ServiceNow connects and automates the process so the hiring manager can simply submit a set of menu driven requests, enabling the new employee to onboard themselves through a simple mobile experience.

“What we do is simplify the whole process, take away all the noise for the manager, HR and employees by making everything accessible and compliant,” says Ferrer.

A rapid response to the pandemic
During the disruptions caused by this year’s pandemic, many companies have tried to use digital tools and systems to empower and enable their employees – especially those staff who are heeding government safety advice to work from home if possible.

Ferrer recounts the experience of one of ServiceNow’s customers: “We had one large enterprise, with more than 100,000 employees, that was able to deploy our technology in the middle of the Covid pandemic, worldwide, in three months. And what’s happened is that the employee engagement for the enterprise has actually increased because they’re seeing that the organisation is responding to their needs.”

Other ServiceNow customers were able to respond rapidly with solutions specifically tailored for issues raised by the pandemic. For instance, Coca-Cola European Partners was able to build a Covid-19 resource portal very quickly, using the ServiceNow Health Alert Employee Experience pack, ensuring employees were supported and managers had oversight of their teams.

Meanwhile, CDL made use of the ServiceNow Emergency Self Report pack to assist people managers in assessing employee availability – helping staff notify the company if they were self-isolating, if they’re at risk, and when they will return to work.

Customer experience
In an era where competition is fierce, customer experience is crucial. The ServiceNow platform helps companies modernise their customer service management capabilities. It can analyse, categorise and prioritise all contacts from customers, separating the ones that need a human response from those that can be handled by an AI-enabled chatbot.

“Why wouldn’t every enterprise aspire to give the customer a satisfying experience every time they have an interaction?” asks Ferrer. “If you call the contact centre wouldn’t it be great if they actually knew what they need to know about you, your purchase or the service you are getting? So many times you call companies and you are passed from person to person, often being asked to explain the problem again. It can feel like you are dealing with a different company every time. Not only is it a poor experience but it costs the organisation more money to be inefficient. With an integrated customer workflow it would be so easy to provide a connected customer experience that drove loyalty, better service and more profits. Now think about your experience interacting with your bank, your broadband provider, a utility, or even a government agency. How great is it? Do you always get a fantastic level of service on the phone, web or app?”

‘The platform of platforms for digital transformation’
With more than 6,000 customers, including Capita, Siemens, Vodafone and RBS, ServiceNow serves 80% of the Fortune 500 and in 2020 was named one of Fortune’s World’s Most Admired Companies.

Ferrer identifies several reasons for ServiceNow’s success, but singles out the platform’s ability to integrate easily with hundreds of third-party systems, to quickly provide real value across a complex enterprise. This explains why its CEO Bill McDermott refers to it as “the platform of platforms for digital transformation”.

The primary IT, employee, and customer workflows supported by the ServiceNow platform actually encompass more than 30 different specialised applications spanning the entire spectrum of business operations. And it is constantly adding to and updating its offering. In September, for instance, six new products solving specific workflow challenges such as automated business impact analysis, tools for continuity planning and legal service delivery were introduced.

“Every large enterprise has to deal with legal, so we created a workflow solution for legal based on the standard way legal departments operate. This is so much more effective than a legal department trying to build something very specific to them that ultimately adds no value and costs more to support,” says Ferrer. “If you’re a manufacturing company or a consumer goods company, that’s not where you differentiate, you differentiate in the customer experience or your product or your price but not in a back-office function.”

And by automating back-office functions, businesses can focus their attention on solving more complex problems, upskilling the workforce and making the experience more fulfilling for employees and customers alike. This makes the world of work, work better for people.

ServiceNow IT, employee and customer workflows give you the power to make work, work better – no matter the circumstances. Find out more at

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