Founded in 2004 in Santa Clara, California, ServiceNow has become a premier publisher of collaborative software worldwide. Bill McDermott, who has been CEO since November 2019, reveals the future development strategy of the group – particularly in Europe – and shares his insights on technological innovations that should leave a lasting impression on the world of work.
Can you tell us more about your background and how it led to becoming CEO of ServiceNow? How do you see the evolution of your mission?
Bill McDermott: I’ve spent quite a bit of time in the industry and about a decade in SAP. I had the opportunity to participate in the development of digital solutions that have helped millions of employees around the world. This is also why digital is strategic, and its impact is global: you only have to see how much the iPhone has changed the lives of millions of people.
The priority has always been improving the digital experience and minimizing the disconnect between businesses and the general public. Everyone understood that it was very easy to do a Google search at home, for example, but in business, finding information is an entirely different matter. Loss of time can sometimes reach 20% among employees who often have to dig through many different applications.
Digital must be used to better manage company assets but also and above all to make the employee experience as pleasant as possible. It should also make it possible to improve recruitment and integration of new talent thanks to the complete applications available in the same place.
This digital has gained more importance during the health crisis, particularly in customer relationship management – which is now mainly done online. In this context, no-code solutions such as ServiceNow have been widely adopted. Companies expect all applications and data to be integrated into a single platform connected directly to the cloud. ServiceNow’s slogan is “Meeting You Wherever You Are”. And in the increasingly mixed and highly mobile world of work, this task takes on even more meaning.
What are the accomplishments you are most proud of?
BM: I came with a dream that ServiceNow could define the cloud for the next century. It has been with great pleasure to watch over the past four years how ServiceNow has created a buzz around the world. Many famous brands have put their trust in us, such as Airbus, Amadeus and Orange. Big business is on our side and we’ve had the biggest growth in the industry.
But it is not the turnover that determines the success of the company, but above all its ability to influence the world of work and society in general. Likewise, we are very proud of having one of the highest customer satisfaction rates in the world. For my part, I’ve become a bit of a whisper in the CEO’s ear because they know I’m only seeking to tell the truth and point out their organizational shortcomings to better support them.
What do you think about Europe wanting to impose a stricter framework of digital trust around data hosting and use?
BM: Digital trust is critical, and Europe has a strong head start when it comes to sovereignty and data protection. We fully support these initiatives and our cloud strategy is fully aligned with current European rules.
Our data strategy is clear: our customers’ data is only theirs and we make it completely anonymous so we can’t access it. We are not at all in the business of data marketing, and since our architecture is not multi-tenant, this requires that data centers be deployed locally.
What is your development strategy for Europe?
BM: We are growing very quickly everywhere: across Europe with data center deployment projects to adapt to new data management regulations and to meet the needs of our customers. We also launch in the Middle East, Japan and other places, because our ecosystem is global. Each country or company has its own program, and this requires us to devote engineers or marketing experts to this task.
What do you think of the current craze around generative AI like ChatGPT? Does this herald a strong comeback for chatbots?
BM: ChatGPT has a consumer-centric approach to data usage which is why we decided to integrate OpenAI into our platform. But we don’t just follow fashion: we always start from specific use cases to determine whether language models are suitable for implementation. We also have an exclusive partnership with Nvidia to explore potential breakthroughs in this area.
Chatbots never went away, but the difference today is that conversation on a global scale is made possible. We launched an innovative AI solution called “Now Assist for Virtual Agent” that allows employees to ask simple questions and let the AI look up information for them based on context and person. Our solutions also improve productivity by at least a third.
These new paradigms make exchange more relevant, even more “human”. And in the world of programming, this is also a game-changer: you can now send a simple text to an AI that will take care of converting it into code.
Isn’t technology going too fast, adding to the concerns of some employees?
BM: You have to see things from an optimistic angle: it is clear that your business may be affected but that does not mean that it will disappear. What’s more, the promise of technology is greater prosperity and greater productivity. This will necessarily involve replacing situations that are considered repetitive and boring. It is essential to remember that computers only serve humans.
This is a fairly old fear, but publishers have always developed new solutions that have created new jobs. Today, artificial intelligence is going through a turning point like that of the iPhone: very quickly no one will be able to do without it and new skills will be born.
Expectation is always worse than realization and 40% of CEOs admit that their business model will not be viable in the next 10 years if they fail to transform. Moreover, 90% of them believe that this digital transformation is very important in the context of a recession.