Opening keynote recap: How ServiceNow workflows the world


Award-winning journalist Veronica De La Cruz interviews ServiceNow CEO Bill McDermott at Knowledge 2021.

The Knowledge 2021 Digital Experience, our annual user conference, includes sessions from ServiceNow customers and partners about how they’re leveraging the Now Platform to grow their businesses and reshape their industries.

In the opening keynote session, CEO Bill McDermott and other presenters showed how ServiceNow helped “workflow the world” during the pandemic, using the Now Platform to help government agencies, health systems, schools, and other organizations deliver essential services when they were needed most.

“We realized this was the time for exponential thinking,” said McDermott at the start of the event, broadcast from the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. “Go big or go home. But we were already home, so we went big.”

“Our team dug deep to understand the needs of our customers and helped them use the Now Platform to navigate these new situations,” added Lara Caimi, chief customer and partner officer. “What we heard over and over was that the Now Platform enabled them to make a real difference in the world.”

"We realized this was the time for exponential thinking. Go big or go home. But we were already home, so we went big." Bill McDermott, CEO, ServiceNow


Workflow the challenge

At the top of the list was helping solve the biggest workflow challenge in modern history: distributing vaccines to hundreds of millions of people around the world in record time. In Scotland, ServiceNow built an app for the national health service to schedule vaccine appointments and to better engage with patients, many of whom were locked in at home, fearful of venturing out even for routine medical visits.

Digital workflows also helped the University of Michigan’s medical center, Michigan Medicine, pivot rapidly to support remote employees, allowing on-site medical personnel to maintain care for patients without missing a beat.

In Los Angeles, city officials worked with ServiceNow to develop a COVID-19 testing app early in the crisis. But new challenges soon emerged: Residents needed critical assistance to help feed their families, pay rent, and support other needs. Using the Now Platform, the city came up with a plan to help thousands of families during critical moments.

“But they needed technology to action that plan,” Caimi said. “And they needed it to function across a diverse, multilingual population. So, they said, ‘Let’s workflow it.’”

Officials with the National Basketball Association did the same thing for a different purpose. When the league needed to host NBA and WNBA playoff games at a single, safe venue during the height of the pandemic, ServiceNow workflows helped make it happen without a hitch. In less than a week, the NBA implemented ServiceNow workflows to bring together 2,600 players, journalists, and supporting staff (including coaches, trainers, vendors, and janitors) inside a special isolation zone, the “NBA Bubble,” at Orlando’s Disney World.

ServiceNow workflows helped people in other ways during the pandemic. State and federal agencies in the US battled more than 50,000 wildfires in 2020 that destroyed nearly twice as many acres as they did in 2019. Until ServiceNow stepped in, dispatchers at one federal agency had to manually enter the geolocation coordinates of each fire into 26 separate systems.

"That's the power of a ServiceNow workflow: It's a repeatable pattern of activities and data that link a desire to a deliverable that offers the user a great experience." Dave Wright, Chief Innovation Officer, ServiceNow


With digital workflows now powering those functions, the new system enables aircraft, equipment, crews, and supplies to be easily visible in the system, speeding response times and helping to save homes and lives.

“We have the best engineering team who built workflows in days and weeks, like our Emergency Response apps and our Safe Workplace Suite of apps,” said McDermott.

From desire to deliverable

Chief Innovation Officer Dave Wright pointed out that almost every type of human activity is a workflow—from family meal planning and yardwork to getting a home mortgage, which itself “is a mess of processes organized into a sequence,” he said. “That’s the power of a ServiceNow workflow: It’s a repeatable pattern of activities and data that link a desire to a deliverable that offers the user a great experience.”

Machine learning tools on the Now Platform are helping to create those experiences. They can produce topic recommendations for virtual agents to better assist customers, said Chief Product Officer CJ Desai. That has already helped boost customer satisfaction and validated the use of artificial intelligence in customer support.

Next up, Desai added, is a concept called intelligent workflow automation, which combines machine learning, natural language understanding (NLU), and robotic process automation (RPA) and applies them to workflow solutions to make tasks happen faster.

Looking back on the team’s accomplishments over the past year, McDermott closed the session by encouraging more workflow innovation in the years to come. “If you can dream it,” he said, “we can make it happen.”

It’s not too late to register for Knowledge 2021 if you haven’t already. See you there!

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