From the day Bill McDermott made his first public comments as ServiceNow’s CEO 3-1/2 years ago, he’s made it very clear that a modern and customer-centric partners ecosystem is an absolute top priority for the high-flying intelligent-platform company.
That’s a fairly consistent approach across the Cloud Wars Top 10 as each of the world’s largest and most influential cloud providers are placing enormous significance on their force-multiplier ecosystems to drive additional value and innovation for customers.
As an indication of how seriously ServiceNow views this opportunity, McDermott has said that while he’s seen many of the world’s leading global systems integrators build or plan for billion-dollar businesses with ServiceNow, he thinks those ambitions might not be ambitious enough.
And for ServiceNow, the opportunity goes far beyond the small number of huge-scale global SIs: it also encompasses big hardware vendors, small developers, industry-specific boutiques, and much more. (For more on that, please see Who’s #1 for Partners: Google, SAP, Oracle, IBM, ServiceNow, Workday, Snowflake?)
In this first installment of our Partners Ecosystem Innovation series, we dig into how that’s taking shape at ServiceNow via my conversation with senior vice-president of global partnerships Erica Volini. I’ve pulled out below some essential perspectives from Volini, and you can watch/listen to my full interview with Volini here.
Company Overview: Describing itself as the intelligent platform for digital business, ServiceNow is building out a set of end-to-end automation and AI technologies aimed at helping customers accelerate operations and deliver better experiences to their customers without having to undergo expensive and risky rip-and-replace projects. Approaching an $8-billion run rate, ServiceNow says it will reach $16 billion by 2026 as part of CEO Bill McDermott’s vision to become “the defining enterprise software company of the 21st century.” Today, ServiceNow is #10 on the Cloud Wars Top 10.
Ecosystem Leader: Senior Vice-President of Global Partnerships Erica Volini. You can watch/listen to my full interview with Volini here.
Ecosystem Position: “Our partners need to be involved from ideation to creation of the market, all the way through to delivering that transformational value, and then helping to make sure that that transformational value is ongoing,” Volini said. “Our customers’ expectations have changed, right? They’re no longer looking for what I would consider to be an ‘output.’ It’s not enough to turn the lights on on a system and say, ‘That’s a success! Let’s get the cake out!’ When the go-live happens, hey, that’s fantastic — but it’s about delivering an outcome. And delivering an output is very different than delivering an outcome that has to be ongoing, sustainable, and scalable. And so that’s why our partners need to help us from the beginning, all the way through in that continuous lifecycle because it never really ends when you’re talking transformational value.”
Ecosystem Priorities: “First, our partners need to help our customers get to transformational value. We’re a platform company, and we should be helping you fundamentally change the way your business works, that’s our brand So we need partners–who, by the way, deliver a vast majority of our implementations — to make sure this isn’t about deploying technology and you’re one and done. This is about putting a platform in place that’s going to be the basis for that business transformation,” Volini said. “And second, in order to serve our customers’ needs, we need to make sure we have enough certified people. And I know that feels transactional but for our partners, it’s about investing and building and developing those capabilities to help us grow, so we’ve launched a program called RiseUp to help us add a million new people into the ServiceNow ecosystem by the end of 2024. It’s a lofty goal, but it’s about making sure our customers and our partners are equipped with the right talent to be able to go and execute and meet our customers’ demand. And then third is help us contextualize our platform around all the different business issues out there… We play across the entire enterprise so we need our partners to help make us relevant in everything from ESG to employee experience.”
Innovation Agenda: “One of the first things I did when I came in was get together with every one of ServiceNow’s product leaders to ask, ‘What does your three-year roadmap look like? Where are you focused? Where are you going? And what would we consider are the open-skies areas that are just not on our roadmap? And then last September,” Volini said, “we gathered our entire partner ecosystem and gave them complete visibility to where those open skies are. And at the same time, we built what we’re calling a Partner Solution COE, which is a dedicated set of people within my organization who are solely responsible for facing off with partners to help them figure out:
- Where do you want to build?
- What’s the associated TAM [total addressable market] there?
- Is it going to be a conflict with our business?
- What’s the right architecture to get this going forward?
- How do you have to go to market to actually make it successful?
“And then that group helps engage our product lines to make sure there’s complete alignment before we all invest. That’s been a big shift.”
Unique Approach: “It all comes down to creating a context of intimacy, which is the North Star for our partner experience,” Volini said. “And I think if you’re a true partner, there should be no walls and we should always be able to have those kinds of upfront, honest conversations. And it’s not that everyone’s always going to be happy — but everyone will leave feeling like they heard the full story. That’s super important, and I don’t think everyone treats their ecosystem like that. That’s what I see as one of our biggest differentiators.”
Big Quote: “We’re trying to move away from segmenting our partners into silos, and instead we’re saying, ‘Here are the four motions you can work on with us: you can resell our product; you can advise, consult and implement our platform; you can build on our platform; or you can provide managed services through our platform,” Volini said. “We have partners who play in all four of those motions, and that’s fantastic, and we have other partners who play in just one of those motions, and others say we want to be a leader in consulting and implementation… And we strongly encourage all of that because we know partners are continuing to evolve their business strategy because our customers’ needs and requirements are changing all the time.”