Insight 2 Value has a wealth of experience in building customer-centred solutions on pure play Workflow technologies. Our key focus is on how we really add value to customers, using:
- Considerable domain experience in our customers’ industries working with customer-centric workflows. With decades of experience working with clients in the financial services, insurance, banking, telco, retail and utility industries, we bring best-practice ideas to solution design and implementation.
- Our technical expertise in delivering enhanced value around document intelligence, task intelligence, and AI capabilities, all of which deliver greater value to the customer.
It’s not just about delivering solutions faster. It’s how we deliver them better.
In recent years, there’s been a real shift in the process automation market away from pure-play workflow technologies to low-code automation platforms. Therefore, in order to gain a better understanding of the capabilities of these low-code platforms, we decided to take one of our existing solutions and see how easy it would be, or not, to build it on one of the market leaders – the Now platform from ServiceNow.
The Now platform is a low-code platform designed for professional developers and business users. It uses visual-based modelling to streamline the development process but also allows those with coding experience to code by hand when needed.
Our goal was to see if we could deliver solutions for our customers with at least the same and preferably greater levels of functionality – but critically more efficiently and faster, allowing them to meet their business imperatives quicker.
Getting started on ServiceNow
ServiceNow, through the ServiceNow Developer site, makes the platform and training material available for anyone who wants to evaluate or get started on developing their first application. This too was our starting point. Setting up a personal developer instance and going through their training videos and documentation to look at the various aspects of the functionality we would need, we began to build.
The solution we chose was complaints. Historically like all our solutions, we began by examining the data models, user experience and workflows needed to support the application.
It soon became apparent that ServiceNow is so much more than a low-code development platform. With the platforms we’ve used in the past, most of the application had to be built from scratch. With ServiceNow, the key building blocks required for the application were provided for our reuse or to extend upon.
The data model provided by ServiceNow already had the key concepts of people, locations, and tasks, so these only had to be extended to add the additional metadata required for our solution.
With respect to the User Interface, previously, you would develop a UI from the ground up to surface that data model, but we realised that ServiceNow generates an out-of-the-box UI which you can start working with and then tailor if you want to do something out of the ordinary.
Similarly, Process Automation within ServiceNow provided the key functional requirements for deploying customer-centric processes such as SLA tracking, escalations, multi-channel interactions etc.
Embracing development on an agile platform
It was a learning experience for us to get used to a dynamic low-code environment. We had been used to building in a relatively static environment. ServiceNow is constantly releasing new functionality. They release a new platform version every six months, and they also have application functionality releases in between. We began building the complaints-handling solution on the San Diego version, and to be honest, the Now Experience Framework that we were using for the UI, a relatively new direction for ServiceNow, was rudimentary. We came across some limitations that required code to resolve. With the subsequent releases of Tokyo, and now Utah, ServiceNow considerably improved and simplified this UI framework.
We have to remember that while we are developing agile applications on ServiceNow, ServiceNow is going through an agile development programme of its own and improving the platform as they go. There’s actually a real buzz around the version releases. We have to embrace that.
When working with other platforms, when new releases or upgrades came out, we went through a considerable planning programme as to how to integrate those upgrades, assess their impact, recode and regression test. What we discovered was that when building on ServiceNow’s core capabilities, the work we had done on the Now platform converted over without problems. In some instances, it was worth going back over and removing unnecessary customisation we had coded, because of improvements in the platform.
A change of skill sets and adding value with low-code platforms
At Insight 2 Value, we’re all used to having to get into the weeds of how the underlying components of an application work – whether it’s the database, the application engines, the OS or the ‘plumbing’ that integrates them. With a cloud-based platform such as ServiceNow – that is all abstracted from us. We have limited visibility of how it is architected under the surface.
Going forward, this will mean an evolving skill set for us, working more in the application layer of the solutions rather than the underlying components.
What we learned
As we hoped, building the complaints management solution from scratch on ServiceNow really proved to be a great vehicle to evaluate the capabilities of the platform. What we didn’t really appreciate was the breadth and depth of ServiceNow’s capabilities and how much was already there. We started by thinking it was a development platform to build on, and we knew it had some of the basic capabilities and tooling we would need to build applications. We also were aware that they had an ever-increasing App library of APIs and integrations to which a large ecosystem of vendors contributes. What we hadn’t appreciated was that there is a huge wealth and richness of out-of-the-box functions and applications that ServiceNow delivers on their platform.
The real power of the platform comes from building solutions that extend ServiceNow’s core capabilities. For instance, something seemingly as simple as being able to integrate email (inbound and outbound) with a complaints case – in the past could well have taken 2 or 3 days of integration and development effort. With ServiceNow, it’s out of the box!
Even though this was very much an education for us, the effort required for delivery – thousands of lines of code, reduced to hundreds, and timescales went from months to weeks.
During our journey, we discovered that ServiceNow already had complaint applications in their Customer Service Management and Financial Service Operations solutions, along with claims and account management applications – applications we are also very familiar with. Using these applications as a starting point to customise rather than building from scratch, will reduce development effort even more. There’s also a massive impact on our sales activities – being able to put together proofs-of-concept for customers in days.
A final observation for this blog. ServiceNow has a very rich set of capabilities that encompass, for example, aspects of CRM, Account Management, and Financial Services. It is though, definitely not positioning itself as a system of record, but a system of action. The idea is that it will integrate your systems of record, whether that is your financial banking system or your CRM or whatever it might be – into a common data model allowing for easy integration into your customer-centric processes.
It’s all about cross-enterprise integration and collaboration – adding value to the organisation – our key tenet.
In future blogs, we will look more at how we bring further capability from the platform and share our “Now learnings” as we embrace the low code wave.
If you’d like to find out more or to see a demonstration Contact Us.