8 min Applications

How a small service provider chose for ServiceNow

How a small service provider chose for ServiceNow

ServiceNow markets itself as the platform of platforms, enabling you to digitize and streamline all your business processes. ServiceNow customers are usually large organisations. Think of multinationals, hospitals, governments, etc. Yet, we recently spoke with AVEX, an SMB audiovisual service provider that chose for ServiceNow. They have put their customers on the ServiceNow platform to offer better services. It also makes the platform more useful and affordable than just using it for your internal organisation.

Recently, we spoke with some CIOs who expressed some criticism on ServiceNow. In their opinion, ServiceNow’s implementation time is too long. Some of them also don’t like the standard defined processes of the Now Platform and indicate that competitors offer more customization.

Clear arguments, although we do think that ServiceNow should no longer be seen as just an ITSM tool. It’s a broad platform that needs to be widely deployed. The criticism did give us a reason to talk to ServiceNow, a partner and a customer about an implementation process, the challenges and what the customer experienced. Is ServiceNow only suitable for large organisations or also for SMBs?

AVEX needed a platform that could deliver a secure portal

We sat down with AVEX, a Dutch family business providing audiovisual solutions to many customers. AVEX is not the typical large ServiceNow customer; it’s an SMB. Among other things, AVEX provides solutions to stadiums, digital signage solutions in retail, reservation systems for rooms in large offices and audio/video solutions for meeting rooms and hospitals.

A large customer in the security world asked AVEX if it could supply all the necessary audiovisual systems and services they needed. At the same time, the customer also immediately put a solid set of requirements on the table. The large deal could only happen if AVEX could provide service at a high level from a secure environment. For example, the customer demanded a portal environment that included all equipment and its status. There should also be the ability to escalate in case of problems. In addition, the environment had to meet certain security standards.

At that time, AVEX was using Microsoft Dynamics as its ERP system and its own monitoring tool. However, it did not have the ability to bring those worlds together in a secure way and meet all the set requirements. AVEX needed an enterprise solution at an SMB level.

The challenge of implementation

Walter van de Biggelaar, Manager of Business Services at AVEX went on the hunt for a solution and had a tight deadline. If he wanted to win this client, a secure portal that met the client’s requirements had to be in place within six months. After a few conversations, two candidates remained: Microsoft Dynamics 365 and ServiceNow. Two large solutions for which external expertise is a requirement. For Dynamics 365, a huge amount of custom development was required. Given the time constraints, that was impossible.

For ServiceNow, Van de Biggelaar talked to Bart van Muyen who is employed at ServiceNow partner Thirdera. Thirdera mainly asked about the current business processes and how data was currently being processed. AVEX operates in three countries and has over 250 employees. The processes were still primarily by e-mail. For Van Muyen and his colleagues at Thirdera, that was a red flag and a reason to draw a line. After all, this meant that in a short period of time, a lot needed to be changed, not only in terms of IT, but also in how people work and the business processes involved.

Thirdera stated that AVEX would only be able to implement this customer within the deadline if the company would fully commit to ServiceNow’s Now Platform and the standard service processes. There wasn’t enough time to do custom development. Especially since the ServiceNow processes had already proven themselves with other customers. However, Thirdera was also confident it was feasible within six months.

Thirdera’s honesty was ultimately the deciding factor for AVEX to partner with them and choose for ServiceNow. The platform has since been delivered, and AVEX has won the big security client. However, getting everything ready on time has been a lot of work.

The challenge of implementation

Two people from Thirdera spent four months, about 50% of their time at AVEX, setting up and building the platform. According to van de Biggelaar, AVEX often struggled to keep pace and deliver the right data on time. Because the implementation team at AVEX is not huge and they work closely together, the changes in business processes among the staff were embraced fast and went relatively easy.

Ultimately, there were two major technical challenges during the implementation process. The first was linking ServiceNow to Microsoft Dynamics so that ServiceNow could read what a customer had purchased from AVEX. The other way around, there also had to be a link so that maintenance contracts, hours or materials could be billed through ServiceNow. ServiceNow has to invoice the customer through Dynamics.

The other technical challenge was linking AVEX’s self-developed monitoring system. If equipment fails at the customer and the monitoring system picks it up, tickets are automatically opened in ServiceNow. The customer can also view the current status via the portal, as well as report equipment problems. AVEX also uses Field Service Management from ServiceNow. If a technician needs to come by, the customer can immediately see when someone is coming and for what kind of maintenance.

ServiceNow takes central role within AVEX

AVEX has now chosen to give ServiceNow a central role within their SMB organization. All customers will now be migrated to the ServiceNow platform and have access to the portal. The goal is to have all customers migrated by the first quarter of 2024. After that, AVEX plans to see how it can automate and add more services to the portal to optimize the customer experience. To date, the customers who have migrated are very positive about the portal. The communication with customers has improved a lot as well, customers have more insight, and if there is an issue, customers are now well informed. In the past, they would send an e-mail, and after some time, a response would come back that it had been solved. Now, that entire path to problem resolution has been made transparent, with many status updates in the portal.

AVEX also uses ServiceNow to manage their IT systems better, but this is only possible because they have put all their customers on ServiceNow. This justifies the investment in ServiceNow as an SMB. Using ServiceNow only as an ITSM tool would simply have been too expensive for AVEX. Which brings us back to the earlier point, ServiceNow is more than ITSM, it is a platform that allows you to digitize the entire organization.

Tip: ServiceNow introduces Vancouver release and makes generative AI available

ServiceNow is not quick and simple to implement

Returning to the criticism we have heard from CIOs, this also seems partly true. ServiceNow is not a platform you can implement in 6 to 10 weeks. It is an ongoing process where you can automate and digitize more and more of your organization’s processes step by step.

ServiceNow has developed a lot of standard processes based on best practices. These processes work well, are efficient and have proven themselves. ServiceNow also recommends working primarily through the fit-to-standard principle because this will allow you to continue to innovate quickly.

You can compose and develop every process individually within the Now platform, but the question is whether that is wise. After all, maintaining all those processes then becomes a huge job. In the past, large organizations also built everything to order. If they needed to innovate or migrate to a newer version years later, all the customization became a huge problem. Those custom developments are not always supported in newer versions.

ServiceNow’s standard processes are supported by the platform now, and in the future, ServiceNow will make sure of that.

Also read: Knowledge23: Do people now know what ServiceNow is and does?

ServiceNow digitizes your entire organization

The Now platform is extremely extensive; you can digitize, optimize and innovate the entire organization. As a result, it is more suitable for large organizations. You shouldn’t use ServiceNow for just a ticket system or your ITSM. You have to think much bigger. Because of this larger vision and the processes involved, implementations often take some time. We learned that six months is a bit of a minimum. Ultimately, you’re also never done with ServiceNow. Once you’ve migrated every department and all business processes to ServiceNow, things can still be optimized. As an organization, if you work with the platform for some time, based on AI analytics, the platform will also tell you where you can still optimize.

During our conversation, Van Muyen said that if you choose ServiceNow for your organization as a project manager, you actually get an additional role. Namely, you become a ServiceNow expert and the point of contact within your organization for everything concerning ServiceNow. Colleagues will start asking you to digitize and optimize processes so that they can work more efficiently. Also, because ServiceNow covers the entire organization, you’re never done. This also indirectly confirms ServiceNow’s focus is more on larger organizations. However, the story of AVEX is a great example of how an SMB can implement ServiceNow, and exceptions are possible.