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
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
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
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
“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
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
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.”