How ServiceNow IT Operations enabled remote work during COVID-19


IT Business Management makes product portfolio management more efficient

In this new series of Now on Now blogs, we share how we use ServiceNow products internally to transform our operations and create great experiences. We hope our stories story will inspire you--our customers and partners--to achieve even greater business value and resiliency from the Now Platform®. For more on Now on Now, visit the Now on Now Book of Knowledge.

There is no doubt that the pandemic has heightened the importance of business continuity planning. When COVID-19 hit, ServiceNow was able to quickly adapt its business continuity plan and strategies, including IT support, onboarding, workforce management, and scenario planning-all in order to support ServiceNow’s fully remote employee base without interruption. It was no easy achievement.

ServiceNow has over 30 offices around the globe, more than 12,000 employees, and supports over 6,000 physical and virtual devices located in four on-premises and three cloud data centers for our internal operations. When the workforce is not working remotely, the company has more than 10 tech lounges to serve employees face to face. There are over 700 conference rooms and 260,000 video meetings a month.

Mirza Baig, senior director, IT service management at ServiceNow, observed that while ServiceNow had prepared for disasters in the past, like many companies, ServiceNow wasn’t anticipating dealing with a global pandemic and all of the variables that would bring. Very quickly, the company had to enable all employees to work remotely. He said, “Working from home has to be as productive as when I’m in the office. Period. IT really needs to make that happen.”

IT faced three major challenges in its business continuity strategy:

  • No business continuity scenario that included the fallout from a pandemic

  • Short notice mandate to work from home due to shelter in place order

  • Significant increase in remote communication and collaboration

What IT needed to focus on

To enable work from home at an enterprise level, Mirza and his team looked at four areas for employees:

  • IT Support and IT Service Desk readiness

  • New hire onboarding support

  • Detailed communications plan and FAQs

  • Target solutions/comms: customer support, low bandwidth regions, white glove service

To quickly focus on how to enable work from home at an enterprise level, ServiceNow IT support professionals—both those who normally worked onsite and the remote service desk—banded together and used the same tools, including ServiceNow® Agent Workspace, to immediately handle the added volume of IT service requests as employees set up their remote workspaces.

ServiceNow is growing and regularly holds onboarding sessions when a new employee joins. Without missing a beat, new hire orientations were moved completely online. A work from home article was proactively published in the Knowledge Base with tips and best practices to address common issues, such as how to connect to the VPN. The Knowledge Base article helped drive down the volume of incidents and service requests.

On the back end, Joe Corpion, director, Now on Now, Asset and Configuration Management at ServiceNow, reported that his team looked at two areas to enable a work from home strategy: technology and team readiness.

Key questions asked:

  • Was the technology in place to support all our employees working from home?

  • What would the user experience be like?

  • What could be done to ensure employees remained connected and productive?

“Fortunately, we did not need to make any significant changes in our technology to be ready to work from home from an operations team perspective,” said Joe.

The IT operations team continued to use the same apps they did before to monitor the health of the business and measure how they were managing the increasing volume of IT service tickets.

Depending on strategic partners for productivity

Our transition to working from home was also enabled by tight integrations with our partners and service providers. To keep our operations humming, we extended workflows to include partners who could handle key activities with much less effort on our part.

For example, our supply chain was heavily impacted at the onset of the pandemic. ServiceNow took advantage of relationships with key vendors, such as Apple and Lenovo, to pre-purchase laptops in bulk, leveraging warehousing options.

We also began working with leading VARs on zero touch configuration, in which they drop ship laptops directly to employees. We use ServiceNow IT Service Management to capture and validate the request, then track it through fulfillment. Thanks to a workflow, once a request has been validated, it goes straight to the VAR with no IT staff needed.

Asset management plays an important role in this workflow. Throughout the pandemic, our hiring has continued at a rapid pace. We rely on ServiceNow IT Asset Management to track our supply chain and ensure we have enough IT inventory on hand, so our new hires have everything they need to be productive on day one. This is not only more efficient, but also provides a great experience for employees as they begin their careers at ServiceNow. Based on the success of our zero-touch program, we are expanding it to include all employee consumables, such as monitors, peripherals, and mobile devices.

We took other actions to ensure partner performance with popular collaboration tools such as Zoom. IT operations has APIs that integrate Zoom with ServiceNow Virtual Agent. If a user has a negative Zoom experience, they are automatically sent a Knowledge Base article. If it happens a second time, the user is automatically asked if they want to open an incident report. And, to help remove some of the friction of Zoom, the number of Zoom meeting attendees was raised to 1,000 to accommodate the increasing number of all-hands sessions.

Service Providers Can Be Key

Extending workflows to our partners and service providers includes other benefits. We are using ServiceNow Performance Analytics to develop robust dashboards with telemetry that lets us monitor the performance of other services, such as Zoom. With this information, we can take a proactive approach. Rather than waiting for employees to report issues, we detect and fix issues before they become a bigger problem. This helps employees remain productive even working from home.

Automated workflows also helped smooth the transition to working from home. Using natural language understanding (NLU), our Virtual Agent chatbot provided an engaging, conversational experience for employees to get their questions answered or issues resolved. The IT service team also created a self-service request form in the employee portal to reduce the turnaround time to replace employee hardware.

Lessons learned

Like almost all businesses, we’ve learned a lot in the past few months that we’d like to share:

  • Ensure you have a business continuity plan for a pandemic that includes a work from home scenario, in case there are additional waves of the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Don’t stop onboarding and training activities. There are creative ways including virtual desktops to ensure new hires remain productive despite supply chain issues.

  • Adjust operations and collaboration to meet the new normal with work from home, including what types of modified resource scheduling you need to do. And certainly, have flexibility with teams as they learn how to balance home 

  • Create a cadence of daily reporting at various levels utilizing dashboards such as those provided in Predictive Analytics. This ensures teams are properly managing their respective areas.

  • Leverage partners to step up to meet demands. All companies have vendors. Only a select few are considered partners based on their value to an organization. 

Both Joe and Mirza credit digital transformation for helping ServiceNow successfully transition employees to productively work from home. Mirza said, “We relied heavily on our core ServiceNow apps just to manage the remote workforce. We all need to be prepared but investing in digital workflows is key for the enterprise to be really resilient, because anything can happen down the road.”

To learn more about ITSM, check out these resources:

 

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