Throughout the FujiForty blog series, I’ve been sharing design, development, and architecture tips to assist and inspire ServiceNow application creators. Most of the series has been technical in nature. This final post is more business strategy focused. Based on what I’ve learned working directly with a variety of software vendors, along with my 9 years of ServiceNow experience, I put together a list of recommendations on how to make the most of your ServiceNow technology partner offering.
Know Your Customer
During my time as Technical Alliance Architect at ServiceNow, I was frequently approached by software vendors interested in forming partnerships. In some cases, when asked why they wanted the relationship, the vendor didn’t really have a solid problem they were trying to solve. They just wanted to be associated with the rapid growth of ServiceNow any way they could.
Any product manager knows that for a product to sell and stick, it needs to solve a problem. So before you think about building a ServiceNow integration or application, you should first learn about how your customers are using ServiceNow products. This includes finding out the overlap between your existing product(s), your proposed app, and the process applications currently in use on the ServiceNow platform.
You should start with the basic, and most common use-cases, but also understanding the larger potential. Incident management and basic ticketing are common concepts, and typical task-based integrations are relatively easy to accomplish. This alone may meet the basic needs the customers are asking for. The initial questions I have when I hear this scenario are:
Are there other tasks that could be associated with your product (change request, problem, event management, or even non-IT apps such as HR and facilities service management)?
Do you know what the Service Catalog is and why it is so important to anyone using ServiceNow?
Are there more robust features that can be added to the application/integration that will make your product stickier and make customers wonder how they survived without it?
These questions will help you uncover some other potential areas to expand your offering.
Know the Lingo
If your product integrates with processing that lives in ServiceNow, you’re bound to run into ServiceNow system administrators at some point during your prospect or customer meetings. Understanding the basic IT Service Management concepts and terminology are critical for vendors, since these are the key areas ServiceNow is generally used for. I have heard of a few cases where the vendor lost some credibility simply because they didn’t understand the difference between incidents, requests, problems, and changes. Take the time to have your product, sales, and development teams review basic ITIL concepts and run through some of the ServiceNow demo videos.
Know the License Impact
Ok, so you got the basics of ITSM down. Next up, is understanding the vast offerings available on the platform. There are two main objectives here. The first goes back to stickiness. The more you can integrate with the applications and processes in use across the platform, the more customers will need and depend on your product.
The second, and possibly more important reason, is to understand the impact your app may have on your customer’s ServiceNow license requirements. One great example of extending your footprint and becoming sticky is to extend your simple task-based integration to include bidirectional automation. For example, say your product fires an event which creates an incident in ServiceNow. Wouldn’t it be great if the ServiceNow user could perform an action on the incident directly to perform some work or action on the event in your application, instead of having to open another application console to perform the same work?
This is also generally easy to accomplish, but certain external automation solutions require the customer to purchase the Orchestration product which may be an addition license cost. If you and your customer aren’t aware of this, they may be in for a surprise when they find out they need to spend more money to get the solution that you just got them all excited about during the demo.
Start by reviewing the ServiceNow subscription model to understand which questions you should be asking your customer.
Managing Outsource Relationships
When deciding to engage with a partner to assist in the development of your project you also need to decide who is going to support and own the application once it’s published? Are you interested in creating a long-term relationship with a partner that will be available to help with customer support escalations, patches, and future development? Or, would you rather take ownership of support moving forward? These are key decisions to get answered early, so you don’t run into a jam when your first customer calls with a question or issue. Here is a summary of application lifecycle skills to help you identify the areas that you want to outsource or keep in-house.
Once you decide on working with a partner or external developer, make sure you understand their development experience. Many partners provide exceptional professional services development building very complex applications for a single customer. Developing a one-off solution for a single customer and developing a stable app that has a low cost of support and ownership across n-number of customer environments can be very different cases. Be sure to ask your partner if they understand the difference.
Understand Release Schedules
When planning your customer deployments it’s important to understand the actively supported releases and the schedule of release intervals. Major versions roughly follow a 6-month release schedule. ServiceNow supports the current release plus two previous versions. As of this post, Fuji is the current general availability (GA) release. Eureka and Dublin are also supported. Even though major versions are available every 6 months, it doesn’t mean that all customers are up to date with the latest release. Check out my summary of release trends which may help you plan for which releases your app should be targeting.
The Geneva release is scheduled to hit this week, which will push Dublin out of support. If you already have an application certified on Fuji, the Geneva certification update process should be an easy task.
For each release, it also important to keep up with the major application changes and new product announcements so your application keeps pace with the platform advancements. Since Fuji was the first version with certified scoped applications, Geneva and future releases will also contain key updates for application developers. So look for API changes and new development tools.
Join the Community
I’ve been a member of the online ServiceNow community forums since I knew all 20 or so members personally. It’s jam-packed with members from all over the world and includes customer admins, process users, developers, partners, and of course, employees. It’s a great venue to help you learn more about the products that customers are using, and which problems they are trying to solve. For application publisher specific content, check out the app publisher forum.
While the wide range of online members is great, there’s still nothing like actually talking to people. Regional user group and special interest group meetings can be quite valuable. Finally, the must-attend event of the year for anyone in the ServiceNow ecosystem is the annual Knowledge User Conference. Knowledge16 will have an estimated 10,000 attendees. You’ll have full access to more customers, prospects, partners, and employees than you can get access to anywhere else.
Keep Up With Customer Needs
I’m from the school of release early and often. Getting stable features out earlier allows you to get feedback earlier and possibly prevent you from spending development cycles on features that aren’t the most important things to your customers. It might also let you get a head start on your competition.
Crack Open a Forty
The FujiForty that is. It’s a collection of platform usage and development tips for anyone building applications on the ServiceNow platform, specifically vendors looking to get their applications certified and published.
Who is CAVUCode?
CAVUCode is a ServiceNow Technology Partner focused on advising independent software vendors who want to maximize their investment on the ServiceNow platform. Our philosophy is to train and empower vendors to be self-sufficient. The relationship we build with our clients is focused on:
Helping you understand your ServiceNow customers
Product training to help your sales, product, development, and marketing teams understand the ServiceNow market
Identifying the products and platform features that you are key to your customer and product use-cases
Assisting with product design
Application architecture designing and planning
Development training, so you can own and manage your applications
ServiceNow version training identifying the changes that might impact your application or use-cases