Five years ago, Maureen Robson, Anna Bisset, and Lisa Jones were thrown together on an important project at a UK-based bank. Their goal: to implement ServiceNow ITSM platform as quickly as possible. The trio worked together so successfully (completing what would normally be a two-year-project in just 10 months) that they continued their journey together at a further two companies working with ServiceNow, and have now decided to start their own company.
Today, through their startup, Why Aye, they’ve built new careers as full-time ServiceNow contractors. The name comes from a slang term used in Newcastle (where Robson is from) meaning Why Yes!—as in, why, yes we can.
Each of the words has its own meaning as well. “The why is really about us asking clients ‘Why are you doing it? Why are you making this change?’” says Robson, the group’s leader when it comes to c-suite engagement. (She asks the question so much the others jokingly call her “the Why One.”) “And the Aye is just a very Scottish term for Yes. So it’s really us saying, ‘Why are you doing this? And yes, we can help you’.”
Platform integrations at multinational banks are a big growth area for ServiceNow—and also for Why Aye. Not that long ago, a large-scale project could take two to three years. With ServiceNow, the trio can complete an IT service management (ITSM) integration in 7 to 12 months.
That’s impressive, given the number of integration challenges, including working with new teams, plugging into legacy environments, and educating thousands of users. The payoffs can be huge: At one bank, the new digital workflows are saving 46,000 work hours a month.
Trio of talents
So how does a three-person team pull this off with multinational clients in banking, energy, and international shipping?
For starters, it takes a lot of road hours and camaraderie. The three have formed a sisterly bond, attending each others’ weddings, vacationing in Ibiza and Dubai (for one of their birthdays), and making the most of their time away from home by staying in nice hotels and dining at Michelin-star restaurants.
Each partner also has her own skill and each plays a distinct role in the implementation process.
Often, one of the biggest challenges in ServiceNow implementations is translating how new digital workflows will ensure tangible business outcomes. Robson, who leads the trio’s implementation team, says this is crucial.
“You have to translate for a business user who doesn't know a lot about the product what it can do for them,” says Robson. “You can’t make it overly complicated. I do a lot of translation from technology to business speak.”
Since February 2018, Why Aye has worked with one of the UK’s largest global banks. There, Robson has overseen the rollout of ServiceNow’s application portfolio management, virtual agent, and recently IT risk and controls for some 100,000 business users and 15,000 service colleagues.
The group recently began supporting payment processes, Robson says. “We're helping payments admin teams, organizing their day-to-day work.” The primary payoff will be faster customer service operations for primary payment channels, including consumer mortgage, credit card, auto loans, and B2B transactions. “We've built a level of confidence where the business is coming to us and asking for help with their solutions on the front end,” she says.
Anna Bisset, who supervises end-to-end technical delivery, calls herself “the Engine Room.” “I've got to build and test it all and make sure that it stays on track within strategy, because when you get into delivery, it's easy for things to go off the rails,” she says.
Part of Bisset’s job is to protect the “authenticity” of the platform—beefing up out-of-the box capabilities instead of adding customizations. While clients often request custom features, they can make the platform harder to upgrade long-term.
Even when they convince in-house teams not to change the software, they face other challenges with legacy infrastructure. “They've got bits of technology that have been around for years,” says Bisset. “But then we come along and we want to do things quickly. It's a constant battle trying to get those older parts to maintain the pace.”
That’s just the machine side of things. Bisset also navigates cultural challenges. “My role is about working really well with people,” she says. “I'm imposing a challenge on their time and skills, and you really have to bring these people on the journey with you,” she says. “You have to make sure you're motivating the team.”
Perhaps it’s a testament to Bisset’s technical and people skills that she was recently able to integrate the ServiceNow ITSM module in just eight months at the UK-based bank. She also moved rapidly implementing the Application Portfolio Management (APM), and Virtual Agent (VA), in six months.
The change manager
When you’re working with a financial services company with 12,000 IT pros and 100,000 employees, you will run up against “challenging stakeholders,” says Jones, who leads the team’s efforts on organizational change, engagement, and training.
Some of the toughest cases, she says, are department heads and workers who aren’t up for an aggressive timetable, protective of the legacy systems, or resistant to process change. Yet “those are the ones we love,” says Jones, because challenging stakeholders will “tell us when we're doing things wrong and will give us their honest opinions.”
To engage and educate, Jones uses tools like ServiceNow’s guided learning tour to speed up the adoption process. She also gathers what she calls her “champions community”— in-house experts from IT, HR, and other departments— for an hour each week.
“We'll show them early demos and get feedback,” says Jones. “It's the way to get them on board and keep them motivated. It’s also our opportunity to be very transparent.”
That includes being honest about mistakes, too. At many large companies, says Robson, failure is often not a culturally acceptable option. “It’s refreshing when you get on a call with 300 people and say, ‘You know what? We absolutely stuffed that up and we really need your help to fix it,” she says. “So this is how we’re fixing it.”
That kind of transparency, she adds, can help turn a potential “us-and-them” conflict into a “we” effort. “We're not just chucking the technology over the fence. They can see we’re helping them implement their product so they can work a better way.”
The payoff of teamwork
The WhyAye team has been so successful that plan to bring on nine more people by January. They also just started working with a $56 billion consumer goods giant, with more contracts on the horizon.
Whoever they add to the team, the newcomers will have to learn to acquire certain tastes. “We all like food, we all drink, we all like to travel,” says Jones. Their next stop is either a ski trip or a yoga retreat. In 2020, the trio’s success will likely limit it to just one. Says Robson: “We won’t have a lot of free time.”