By: Tomer Mekhty, VP of Global IT Operations
When I joined ServiceNow, IT Operations had what I’d call a “best effort” strategy—push hard, keep things running, meet your SLAs, and so on. This worked well enough, but that was hardly a formula for long-term success at scale.
We needed a new way of thinking that would move us from our traditional role as incident firefighter to that of a partner to the business. An effective strategy will balance vision with execution. It will be both aspirational and measurable. It must also be memorable enough to drive clarity.
We added it all up, and our strategy equaled… three zeros. That’s zero outages, zero physical footprint and zero incidents. When I first shared this strategy with my team a couple of years ago, they said I was crazy. They believed it was impossible to achieve. Three years later we’ve shown it’s possible, no matter how complex your IT operations might be.
Three Zeros Explained
With a shout-out to Brahmagupta, the Indian mathematician who defined the properties of zero in the year 628 (how about that on your resume!), let me expand on our three zeros:
Zero outages equals 100% availability (ok, maybe 99.99%). The first step is rationalizing the scope. Determine which services, applications and infrastructure are business critical. Separate business essentials from noise. Then establish strong operational ownership for everything that is critical. Ownership usually leads to quality and velocity. Every outage is analyzed (and overanalyzed) to identify the true root cause.
Lastly, don’t just fix related issues faster. Instead, prevent them from happening in the first place. In other words, create self-healing infrastructure services, where machine learning and automation predict and sometimes prevent outages before they occur.
For example, VPN connectivity is the oxygen in our new world of working from home. In 2019 we were able to resolve 75% of VPN incidents with no human intervention by automating data gathering, correlation, and root cause analysis. This was a tremendous boost to employee productivity.
Zero physical footprint means everything to the cloud. Increasingly, IT is not just enabling the business, it’s becoming the business. Cloud lets IT organizations switch from managing data centers and infrastructure to providing solutions, securing revenue and enabling new business models. Cloud also offers the flexibility, availability, and velocity needed to adapt and scale. For example, when COVID-19 hit, we were able to move quickly from dozens of offices worldwide to more than 13,000 home offices.
Zero incidents reported by people is impossible. Nothing can prevent employees from spilling coffee on their laptop or forgetting their password. As much as possible, though, IT Ops should be invisible to employees. That’s why our first priority is a relentless focus on delivering great employee experiences that drive productivity.
Self-service is key—giving employees the resources and information to basic issues on their own without relying on an IT support person. Mobile is also critical because it enables employees to work productively from any place, on any device. Finally, chatbots create a human-like interface that points employees to the right resources to solve many of their issues.
We may never reach zero incidents, but we should be able to get as close to the goal as possible by proactively monitoring the user experience and using machine learning to provide a predictable experience.
The Three Zeros strategy is driven by our modern ops journey. We invested in new roles such as data scientists, automation/workflow engineers, monitoring/performance engineers, and conversation experience designers. We are also relying heavily on technologies such as AI and machine learning. While measuring SLAs is still important, employee satisfaction and productivity are the new gold standard. This shift impacts our investments as well. Three years ago, half of our IT budget went to infrastructure and operations. Now that’s forecasted to be under 30%. We’ve been able to move those savings from running the business to funding innovation and growth.
COVID-19 and other disruptive events increase the urgency for IT organizations to develop clear strategies that drive transformational change. At ServiceNow, our Three Zeroes strategy has served us well in this regard. It continues to guide us as we shift our structure, mindset, and metrics to focus on the employee experience as a critical path to growth.
A final thought: A compelling strategy and clear goals are key to running IT like a business. But it’s also tremendously helpful to operate on a unified platform—in our case the Now Platform®—that brings everything together: applications, services, data, analytics, and tools. A platform strategy enables streamlined operations, better measurement and smarter decision making.
So, what’s your Three Zeros strategy?
© 2020 ServiceNow, Inc. All rights reserved. ServiceNow, the ServiceNow logo, Now, and other ServiceNow marks are trademarks and/or registered trademarks of ServiceNow, Inc. in the United States and/or other countries.