Bob Evans interviews Erica Volini, SVP, Global Partnerships, ServiceNow, as part of the Partners Ecosystem Innovation series, in which he speaks with top executives responsible for the ecosystem businesses of the Cloud Wars Top 10 companies. This exclusive series leads up to the Partners Ecosystem Digital Summit, taking place on April 20, 2023. Click here to register for the event.
Bob and Erica Volini discuss priorities for ServiceNow’s partners ecosystem, examples of co-creation with partners, and how the ServiceNow partners ecosystem brings customers transformational value.
Register here for your on-demand pass to view all content from Partners Ecosystem Digital Summit. The digital event, which took place on April 20, focused on analyzing the business and IT imperatives around cloud, AI, automation, data modernization, and cybersecurity that define the future of partnerships.
00:40 — After introducing her, Bob asks Erica what the top priorities are for ServiceNow and its partners ecosystem. “I can’t pick one,” explains Volini. “I feel like I have three.” When talking with partners, ServiceNow retains a strong focus on customer success. Volini notes that “we want to be able to help our clients really move the needle on digital transformation.” ServiceNow’s partners help customers “get to transformational value.”
01:50 — ServiceNow is a platform company, which they view as a major differentiator. As a platform company, ServiceNow believes that it should be helping organizations fundamentally change the way business works. “This is about putting a platform in place that’s going to be the basis for that business transformation.” In order to achieve both of these priorities, Volini explains how ServiceNow has to “have enough certified people.” The company recently launched an initiative called RiseUp. The company aims to have a million new people added to its partners ecosystem by the end of 2024. RiseUp is about making sure that customers and partners are equipped with the right talent to “execute and meet customer demand.”
02:56 — Another priority for ServiceNow and its partner ecosystem is “contextualizing [the] platform within the context of all different business issues out there.” ServiceNow “plays across the entire enterprise” and relies on partners to help make them relevant within that context — from ESG initiatives to employee experience. “For us, it really comes down to those three areas. And that’s why partners are more important to us now than ever before.”
03:30 — Bob emphasizes how not long ago, the primary role of partners ecosystems was fulfillment. From what Volini explained, it sounds like ServiceNow requires its partners to be involved in “almost the full customer lifecycle, all the way out to delivering those essential business outcomes.” He asks Volini if this is a fair way to look at it.
04:04 — “100%. I would just take the word ‘almost’ out of it.” ServiceNow needs its partners to be involved — from ideation to creation of market, all the way through delivering that transformational value and ensuring that the value is ongoing. At the core of ServiceNow’s work with its partners ecosystem is that customer expectations have changed — it is no longer solely about output, it’s about delivering an outcome. “It never really ends when you’re talking transformational value.”
05:10 — The notion of digital transformation, or overall business transformation, having a “beginning, middle, and end” is popular amongst many companies. Bob says that Volini explains the role of partners as an ongoing, cascading opportunity to create value for, and with, those customers.
05:40 — Volini believes this is why ServiceNow is able to recruit the best partners in the world to be part of its ecosystem. This should matter to customers and prospects because their [partners] are the ones who are helping to make sure that value is delivered. ServiceNow partners need to know that they can make money, explains Volini. “You can get all three types of revenue — implementation revenue, subscription revenue, and recurring revenue — using our platform, that to me is the trifecta right there.”
07:04 — Before shifting gears, Bob clarifies that he “got the numbers right” as it relates to ServiceNow’s goals with its RiseUp initiative. Volini says this is one of the most important initiatives in the company, and is really about “opening the funnel.” “We’re really trying to expand the aperture of the types of people that come in and build careers on the ServiceNow platform.”
08:20 — Bob asks Volini to elaborate on the role that ServiceNow’s partners ecosystem plays in moving toward industry-specific solutions.
08:56 — Volini explains that ServiceNow “builds true industry solutions with industry-specific data models, industry-specific configurations to tackle those big issues that industries are facing.” Right now, ServiceNow’s big industries are financial services, healthcare, technology and telecom, manufacturing, and the public sector. ServiceNow partners bring a level of deep, industry expertise. Retail as well as oil and gas are areas where the company is looking to expand its solutions. “We’re encouraging our partners to do that, because that’s what a platform company does, right? We want our ecosystem to build and to be able to extend the value of our platform.”
10:56 — Bob notes how Bill McDermott, the CEO of ServiceNow, often talks about trust. He asks Volini how the company manages this concept and the mindset amongst the ecosystem that partners can trust ServiceNow.
11:30 — This is one of the critical things partners ask about, says Volini. She adds that she fundamentally believes that by being transparent, upfront, and having a clear process, ServiceNow can work successfully with its partners. When she started the role, Volini met with leaders of all of ServiceNow’s products, inquiring about their “three-year roadmap, where they are focused, and where they are going, and their ‘open skies’ (areas outside of the roadmap).” Last September, Volini said the ServiceNow partners ecosystem got complete visibility into the “open skies.”
14:06 — Intimacy is the “North Star” of ServiceNow’s partner experience. Between true partners, there should be no walls, believes Volini. She views this as one of the company’s biggest differentiators.
14:33 — Bob asks Volini to share an example of solutions ServiceNow has developed with its partners.
14:50 — Volini references NTT, a global technology services provider, as an example. The company came to ServiceNow wanting to drive faster adoption of its 5G offering and knew it needed artificial intelligence (AI) and cloud-based workflows to help digitize the work. Built alongside the ServiceNow platform, ServiceNow worked with NTT to launch into a space, put out to customers, and deliver value. There are many examples — industry-specific and horizontal — where ServiceNow has been able to “expose the full capabilities of our partners by using our platform.”
16:25 — Bob asks Volini to further elaborate on the “types” of partners ServiceNow works with and the relevant trends across these partners. ServiceNow recently launched a new partner program that focuses on “four key motions”:
- Resell ServiceNow products
- Advise, consult, and implement the ServiceNow platform
- Build on the ServiceNow platform
- Provide managed services through the ServiceNow platform
ServiceNow has partners that “play in all four of these motions,” some that play in a single motion, and others who focus strongly on one and “dabble” in another. Overall, ServiceNow wants to enable all of these options for its partners as they continue to evolve their business strategies.
19:16 — Quoting Bill McDermott, Volini says that “no one has to lose in order for us to win.” ServiceNow fundamentally believes that it can work alongside any other technology in the ecosystem. To be a strong reseller of ServiceNow products, partners must understand not only the ServiceNow platform but other major platforms and “pull that together.” To be a strong consulting and implementation partner, partners must bring forth industry expertise to drive transformational value for customers. As it related to “build partners,” they must be able to bring forth new means of innovation, says Volini. Managed services partners are “all about continuous improvement.”
21:31 — When talking to those four “types” of partners, ServiceNow is talking about continual growth and expansion for customers, renewal rates, and customer satisfaction. “Our view is that partners can play anywhere. You tell us what your strategy is and where you want to play, and we can enable it.”
22:15 — “In some ways, I think that mirrors a trend in the tech industry,” says Bob. Businesses are changing, jumping across industries, and flipping into subscription models — it’s “fascinating” that ServiceNow offers opportunities for partners to be able to “pick and choose across those four different sets of capabilities,” he adds.
23:12 — Similar to how “every company has become a technology company,” Volini says she feels the same about the partner world. Ultimately, it comes down to what is best for customers. “Our North Star comes down to ‘How do we create the best customer experience through enabling our ecosystem in these broad ways?'”
24:32 — In closing, Volini adds that ServiceNow is a very different company than it was a few years ago, “truly playing across the enterprise, truly wanting to impact the most important business issues out there.” This is why ServiceNow has fundamentally changed the way it looks at partners — they have become essential to [ServiceNow] being the defining enterprise platform company in the 21st century.
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