Knowledge Institute Podcasts
Ahead in the Cloud: Fast and Flexible Innovation with ServiceNow's Rohit Batra
Rohit Batra, VP and Head of Product, Mgmt Telecom, Media & Technology Industry at ServiceNow discusses innovation and cloud functionality. The discussion also covers unique challenges of implementing technology in telecom, media and technology space.
Hosted by Chad Watt, researcher and writer with the Infosys Knowledge Institute.
“We are not trying to become a big data company. That's not our approach. We want to be able to execute workflows, core business processes, and digital transformation for our enterprise.”
“Our roots were in the cloud. I think it wasn't cool to be on the cloud back then. Nobody knew what the cloud was. But we were founded on the cloud itself.
“Media companies in the past used to care about providing digital content to a distributor and not really have any relationship with the actual consumer who's consuming that content. But now all the order top services have a direct relationship with the consumer.”
- Rohit Batra
- ServiceNow was founded on the cloud itself.
- 90% of ServiceNow clients are using ServiceNow via the cloud. There's only a handful of customers in very few industries (telecom being one) which probably comprise 5% to 6% that are still on-premise.
- Challenge in getting companies that are more comfortable being in control and on-premise to move to ServiceNow in the cloud is geography dependent. So based on which part of the world that you are in, it's a lot easier for people to embrace cloud. And it also depends on what functionality you're using it for. And some data just can't be moved to the cloud. For example, in a case of telecom, if you want to be closer to the network, because latency is an issue, you can't afford to move that to the cloud because it wouldn't work in the business model that telcos live in.
- ServiceNow is comprised of four different portfolios. The first one is around IT. It's more driven for IT organizations within an enterprise to be able to support their employees, their partners. The second one is around employee workflows. The third one is essentially around customer and industry workflows. The fourth workflow organization is everything to do with creator workflows capability. And within those workflows, there are different products that ServiceNow delivers for each use case.
- ServiceNow’s approach is that if you have data coming in from a variety of different systems, we get the signals into us. But what our real focus is, once you get the data into ServiceNow, this is where you define what to do with it.
- As a company, we deliver two major releases a year, one in the spring, one in the fall. And then depending upon how the demand of the use cases in the product, we can launch new releases and new functionality every quarter as well. So the pace in which our products can get innovated, the pace in which our customers can adopt those functionalities and use it for their business requirements, I think that's what differentiates ServiceNow.
- When you look at ServiceNow, there's a platform underneath which there are the core components that are shared across all these different workflows. And those shared components include your workflow engine, AI engine, knowledge management, and every kind of application that you want to build on top. So when we build applications, whether we are building it for customer, industry or employee workflows, all of these products and applications are leveraging what's in the platform.
Chad introduces himself and Rohit
Rohit describes ServiceNow
Chad and Rohit talk about ServiceNow and ServiceNow's roots. Rohit tells Chad about the journey from the platform going to the cloud.
How much of a challenge is it to get companies that are more comfortable being in control and on-premise to move to ServiceNow in the cloud?
Let's dig in a little bit on the kind of cloud functionality. What is it that ServiceNow can deliver in the cloud that would previously not have been possible in terms of these workflows or these kind of problems that the platform solves?
Rohit talks about unique challenges in implementing technology in telecom and media and technology space.
There's so much information that you within your own platform are generating. There's so much more information from connected systems that is collective. How how do you find what data matters most?
Where are you putting data and AI systems to work in those workflows?
Can you talk to me about how you as a person who specializes in these industries sees those things converging and the role that cloud plays in that connection?
Going from telecom to other industries,how quickly was it hit within telecom and how quickly were you able to scale it to other industry groups?
Chad Watt: Welcome to Ahead in the Cloud, where business leaders share what they've learned on their cloud journey. I'm Chad Watt, Infosys Knowledge Institute researcher and writer, here today with Rohit Batra, Vice President and head of product at ServiceNow for the telecom media and technology industries. Rohit, welcome.
Rohit Batra: Thank you so much, Chad. Pleasure to be here.
Chad Watt: First off, let's get everyone on board with ServiceNow. Inside the business tech world, ServiceNow is an established leader in the ITSM space. Now let's talk about your hypothetical analog auntie. You can tell that ITSM means information technology, service management, but then how do you describe it to her?
Rohit Batra: So back in the day when we founded ServiceNow, the company was founded on the fact that it wanted to be a platform. It wanted to be a workflow engine. And funny enough, that's how we created a company. The founder, Fred Luddy, built it based on a workflow engine, which was supposed to be extremely flexible and you could use it for any application. Well, when we went in front of our customers, the first question I was asked is saying, "Well, what am I going to use it for?" And so Fred said, "Well, let me give you an example. Let's assume IT service management, you've got an employee, you've got various people in the organization. They need help. They need to have a request for a laptop. They have a request for a service that needs to be instantiated or something they want to report."
So he created an application as a demonstration of the power of the workflow. And that demonstration eventually ended up becoming a product. And that's now one of the largest products for us within ServiceNow. We have the largest market share within the industry. It's an industry domain in its own. And that's really what it was. So ITSM, as an industry, got formed based on customer demonstration that we were trying to do as part of ServiceNow when we were founded.
Chad Watt: Let's talk a little bit about ServiceNow and ServiceNow's roots. We've talked about the platform. Tell me about the journey from the platform going to the cloud. This is a platform that predates cloud.
Rohit Batra: You're absolutely right. So back at that day, we actually started in the cloud. So 2004 is when the company was founded. Our roots were in the cloud. I think it wasn't cool to be on the cloud then. Nobody knew what the cloud was. But we were founded on the cloud itself. So it was just a way Fred, who I think is actually still quite involved with the company and the strategy and he gets still involved into board meetings and so on, provides constant guidance to our executive management team, is an absolute visionary. He believed strongly in the movement that cloud was going to be. And so we did form the company on cloud and we've been cloud companies since then.
Chad Watt: How much of the challenge is it to get companies that are more comfortable being in control and on-premise to move to ServiceNow in the cloud?
Rohit Batra: So it was a challenge for many years, I'd say. I think it's getting a little bit more acceptable, but I'd say even then it's geography dependent. So based on which part of the world that you are in, it's a lot easier for people to embrace cloud. And it also depends on what functionality you're using it for. So I'll give you a simple example. If they have confidential data which is more customer specific, and if you are in a highly regulated geography, say it's controlled by GDPR regulations, in Europe as an example, it's less convenient or it's less acceptable for them to move that data into the cloud.
However, for example, in the Americas where it's largely predominant, with cloud-driven due to all the innovations that's happening in the valley, I think it's a lot easier for people to consider moving things to the cloud. So I'd say it's geography dependent definitely. And some data just can't move to the cloud. Like for example, in a case of telecom as an example, if you want to be closer to the network, because latency is an issue, you can't afford to move that to the cloud because it wouldn't work in the business model that telcos live in.
Chad Watt: Overall, what proportion of your ServiceNow clients are using ServiceNow via the cloud?
Rohit Batra: I would say 90%. There's only a handful of customers in very few industries, telecom being one, which probably would comprise to, I want to say 5% to 6% that are still on-prem. Everyone else is on the cloud.
Chad Watt: Let's dig in a little bit on the kind of cloud functionality. What is it that ServiceNow can deliver in the cloud that would previously not have been possible in terms of these workflows or these problems that the platform solves?
Rohit Batra: So if you look at the portfolio that ServiceNow has, we are largely comprised of four different portfolios. The first one is around IT and we talked about ITSM a little bit. It's more driven for IT organizations within an enterprise to be able to support their employees, their partners. That's kind of what that is focused towards. That's our technology workflows and division. The second one is around employee workflows. So when you're looking at an HR organization, how they can support employees that are onboarding? And a lot of that is happening to the remote because of the pandemic. And so when employees getting on to the journey with an enterprise, how do you make sure that they still feel part of the organization? How do they get the required help, the processes that you can do to onboard them and work through them? That becomes part of our employee workflows.
The third one is essentially around customer and industry workflows. So customer industry workflows, which is where I sit, is a combination of how enterprises provide support to their customers. So things like customer service as an example. The other thing is taking those use cases specifically purpose driven for industries. So in that middle back office that is focused around customer interaction, customer engagement, the core business functions, how they can be further verticalized for industries like telecommunications, financial services, manufacturing, and healthcare, those are specific capabilities that we offer in the customer industry workflows.
And then the fourth workflow organization is everything to do with creator. So essentially as a platform, ServiceNow gives you the ability to be able to expand into domains that are not available out of the box. So when you are using the platform, let's assume an organization wants to build an application that might be, I don't know, for travel as an example. Not an application that serves nor supports out of the box, but travel is a use case that might be required by enterprise. And so using the creator workflows capability, you can very quickly launch and build a new application using the code data model and the platform of workflows that we have. So it allows the extensibility and the citizen development use case that we are working towards. So those are the four workflows broadly speaking that ServiceNow delivers. And within those workflows, there are different products that we obviously deliver for each use case.
I was going to say to your question about what is it that we can deliver on the cloud that we didn't get before, I think it's largely innovation. So for example, as a company, we deliver two major releases a year, one in the spring, one fall. And then depending upon how the demand of the use cases are in the product, we can launch new releases and new functionality every quarter as well. So the pace in which our products can get innovated, the pace in which our customers can adopt those functionalities and use it for their business requirements, I think that's what's different in my past career. I've seen that take years actually sometimes for them to be able to get that innovation built when companies didn't have a cadence of release schedules, didn't have the ability to release any more than one release a year. That to us can happen as quickly as a month and allows a lot of flexibility for the organizations.
Chad Watt: I'm curious. Do you have any stories or examples of a kind of feature or product you launched, was your favorite new idea that flopped or any sort of kind of nice to have that you threw in there that suddenly just took off like a rocket ship? I mean, I'm just curious from the product manager side, putting a product out there and then watching what people do with it, because once it's out there, it's not your child anymore.
Rohit Batra: So I started about two years ago. Initially our first use case was customer service because that's ServiceNow. It's in our name. We have to be focused on customer service. We launched specifically for telecommunications, build all the capabilities associated to it. Got interesting set of customers initially adopting it. First customer came in the first week we launched the product, which was brilliant. But in the first month itself, we had one of our customers here in the US that came to us and said, "Look, you are doing customer service, which is very good. But if you look at telecommunications as an example, a lot of our customer care calls is about orders." Like if a customer calls in, as I'm a customer of carrier and if I call them up and I say, "Hey, I have a problem with my service," the carrier agent is actually telling me about a new service that they've launched, a new upgrade plan that they might have. And as part of the upgrade plan, I might say, "Yeah, I'm interested in it" and submit an order for it.
And so we got a conversation saying, "Look, you're not looking at order management," but order management is very closely tied into customer service. And in telco, that's not just sales. It's sales and service because we want customer service organizations also to be able to sell into customers. And so we started playing around with the idea saying, "What would an auto management solution look like?" Because we were not the commercial catalog. We are not a CPQ engine. We don't have the price lists that are required by a billing system or a sales platform. But we started thinking about what would that auto management workflow look like and what are the problem that we're going to solve? And we had a few customers that already expressed interest in it. So we worked with two of them, but defined the use cases.
And today's one of the fastest developing products in the company. We've got some of the largest telcos in the world that are using it right now. We purpose built it for telecom. We wanted to try and incubate it within one industry and see if it will work. I think five of the top 10, 12 telcos in the world are using us for auto management at the moment. And these are all of the enterprise services. The most complex services that you can imagine are getting orchestrated with ServiceNow. And now as an organization, we just launched auto management as a horizontal functionality across all industries. So the ability to take the success that we have in telecommunication and now create that functionality so that it can be used by industries such as financial services, healthcare, it can be used for manufacturing companies forum. As a cloud services organization, any one of those can now use auto management within ServiceNow.
Chad Watt: Can you talk to me a little bit about the kind of unique challenges implementing technology in telecom, the media and technology space?
Rohit Batra: I'll talk a little bit about both telecom and technology, the slightly different context, because there's unique challenges in both. So in telecommunications, obviously being a regulated industry for many years since then, obviously it's opened up, but there's a lot of legacy stuff that's in there. These telecommunication companies has existed for a long, long time. So if you go to any enterprise today, if telco, they've got hundreds of different applications that they come in. So if you are trying to come in and position an integration of different platforms that the ability to be able to standardize some processes, you have to coexist. There's no other alternative organizations are not looking to yank and replace applications from the existing landscape. And so we focused a lot on talking about industry standards, the ability to be able to integrate to a legacy software that exist in an organization and not recreate everything into ServiceNow.
You have the ability to use this as workflow engine or a system of action and not always as a system of record. If your system of record is in Salesforce or is in Workday or is in SAP, or Oracle, wherever it is, we can continue to work with those but we can give you a consolidated pane of glass where your workflows for TMT can work on top. And that really helps customers saying, "Great. I might still have the mess in the backend, but I'm still providing a consolidative experience to my employees and to my customers and to my partners and allows them to launch these services really, really quickly." And so that was our approach.
Chad Watt: You mentioned through your domains and the workflows, you're constantly collecting telemetry, passive data. There's so much information that you within your own platform are generating. There's so much more information from connected systems that is collective. How big can the pane of glass be and still be coherent? One. And two, how do you find what data matters most?
Rohit Batra: For us, we are not trying to become a big data company. That's not our approach. We want to be able to execute workflows, core business processes, and digital transformation for our enterprise. So our approach really is that if you have data coming in from a variety of different systems, we get the signals into us. But what our real focus is, once you get the data into ServiceNow, this is where you define what to do with it. The big data platforms that are there in the market are really good in their AI and algorithms to be able to tell you what the data is telling you from all this variety of different noises that are coming from different applications. But once you get that, the next stage for this is, "Now I know what's happening in my environments using all these sources of information, but I now need to execute on it."
And what that execution is can be very dynamic because if signal comes in for X, you want to do a series of steps. But X coming with another signal, now the series of steps then change, it has to be dynamic. It has to be in context of the customer, in context of the journey that the customer is, or an employee or a partner. And so that's kind of where our focus has been. We won't try to become the system of big data, but we will become the execution engine sitting on top.
Chad Watt: So let's talk a little bit further about that if you don't mind about data, AI automation. How or where are you putting data and AI systems to work in those workflows?
Rohit Batra: Two years ago when I was looking at joining ServiceNow, one of the big challenges for me was... One of the big questions for me rather was, how would I build in this platform? What is it in this platform that's unique and different from everything else that I've done in my life? And I think there's a unique attribute about ServiceNow, which people, unless you worked in the platform, is very hard for you to know. When you look at ServiceNow, there's a platform underneath which has all the core components that are shared across all these different workflows. And that shared components include your workflow engine, your AI engine, core things such as knowledge management, such as tasks that are required, every kind of application that you want to build on top. So when we build applications, whether we are building it for customer workflows or industry workflows or employee workflows, all of these products and applications are leveraging what's in the platform.
So when it comes to AI and ML, our approach is we will build the AI/ML capabilities within the platform so that every product doesn't need to redevelop in AI algo, it doesn't need to redevelop an AI on set. We are all leveraging from what's getting built into the platform. So there's a lot of thought put in into what the platform delivers. Now, what you can do is you can contextualize it for an industry. So a simple example is forecasting AI/ML model that needs to exist. So that's built within the platform. Now once that forecasting module exists and you can contextualize it for a network forecast based on what my network is, manufacturing would have forecast based on my supply and demands. You could forecast based on workforce people who are going to go dispatch across the field technicians that are going on for, but that's data specific. So based on the data that's coming in, you can use the same work flow as an AI, the same AI/ML algorithm. And then you can contextualize the output of thel specifically for that domain.
Chad Watt: Can you give me an example of a time when you've done that? Even just kind of anonymized way.
Rohit Batra: Here's a great example. So in ServiceNow as a platform, everything is driven by a task. Because when you're using a workflow, it's a task that you're trying to perform. But everything can be a task, a case when you're creating, when you have a problem with your service, and order, when you're placing something that you want to get executed upon, a request that an internal employee is placing because he wants an upgrade to his laptop. So when we tried to do optimization of our processes or when we tried to do process mining capabilities or any intelligence, we built it on the task platform. And so when we built it on the task platform, when you're doing a case, now you can get process mining within case capabilities. You can get process mining within order management. You can get process mining within employee workflows and the universal task object that they have. But we built it on the core component through which all these things are getting derived. And process mining that we launched I think two releases ago is a classic example of how that got put together.
Chad Watt: I want to come back to your point around telecom, media over the top. Can you talk to me about how you as a person who specializes in these industries sees those things converging and the role that cloud plays in that connection?
Rohit Batra: Yeah, so I think there's a couple of areas where I see this converging. I think more and more we are seeing happen is across these industries, there's a growing transformation that's happening saying, "I want to be closer to my customer." That's one area that's happening. So media companies in the past used to care about providing digital content to a distributor and not really have any relationship with the actual consumer who's consuming that content. But now all the order top services that are happening, you have a direct relationship to the consumer as well that you want to build. So they're trying to learn from their peers in other industries, maybe retail, telecommunications, and others to say, "What does that look like? What does that look like when I'm trying to become more closer to my customer? What capabilities do I need?
I think in technology as well that's happening more and more. The advent of B2B2C is more common, or B2B2X even is very, very common in cloud software especially. And so when you look at those kinds of organizations, the transformation is being led in, "How do I get more proximity to my customers?" I'd say one other thing that we've seen which is consistent across these industries, the fourth era of digital transformation that happened, I don't know, few years ago was focused on customer engagement. Everybody talked about, "How am I going to make my relationship with my customer better? How am I going to be in my channels that I need?" Chatbots that were virtual agents were coming up. Self-service channels were getting transformed all the time. The messaging platforms were still being looked at for engagement with the customer. And that was really important.
But what happened after that, especially in these three industries that we saw was, you were systematically getting data across all these channels into the organization. But once the data came in, once the customer was able to request the customer wanted, on the back end and in the middle office, you were still dealing with a mess. You were still dealing with the legacy applications. So you got the right way to get the data in, but you were not able to solve what the customer was asking for because you hadn't solve the middle office in the back office functionalities. Front office got transformed. And I think what we are seeing in these three industries is saying, "Okay, now I need to get the middle office and my back office transformations to be done where I want to streamline the workflows. I want to have different people who are servicing that same request that's come on, looking at the same data at the same time so that they can all interact with it accordingly. And I think that's the shift that we see happening in digital transformation right now.
Chad Watt: You launched this order management product for telecom. Can you give me some sense of the trajectory of the uptake on that? And then going from telecom to other industries, how quickly was it hit within telecom and how quickly were you able to scale it to other industry groups?
Rohit Batra: So it's funny. We launched, I believe it was the 12th of December back in 2020. Somewhere around that week. And two hours after that product was on our store, which is where we publish our product, I got an email from a customer saying the documentation isn't refreshed. And I was like, "How do you even know that a product got released?" Because we hadn't done an announcement. But we had customers looking at it right as soon as the product was launched and the documentation was going to go get up published and updated in about four hours. It's just the staggering of when the documentations get sync into the systems. Well, we had customers downloading the application the same day. And funny enough, three months later, I believe it was at the end of March, we had the first go live of the product in one of customers.
So December we launched the product, it was still WWAN. So obviously with WWAN, there's a lot of things that still were planned and roadmap. But three months later, the first customer went live and they were extremely successful, very happy and still are using the platform and continue to launch new services and products on top. And since then, which was probably about now 14 months ago, we've had about 12 to 14 new customers that have added on the platform. Several of them have gone live. They've talked about publicly into our knowledge events and how successful they see the platform and how confident they are about the roadmap and what they're seeing coming into the next areas. If anything, they want us to accelerate the roadmap, which I think is always a good sign. So that's kind of how we see the trajectory coming forward.
Now, to switch over to horizontal, that's an effort that started towards the second half of last year. When we looked at right around this time last year in the summer, we took a stock of what's actually working in the first half of the year, what do we want to build in the second half of the next year and so on, at that point in time, we realized that the momentum in auto management and what we were hearing from our customers was extremely positive. There was something that we thought we could really add value to our customers. We didn't really need to go in and replace systems and platforms because what we were doing was so unique that we felt that we could fit in quite nicely into that space that was already existing. And so we started to take that core components of it and started to build that functionality across for other verticals as well, make it into the core horizontal offering. And so now in February of this year, which was six months afterwards, we launched the horizontal offering for management as well.
Chad Watt: Terrific. I appreciate it. Let's kind of wrap up here. We've talked about telecom and media across all the verticals you could be involved in. You're kind of on the glitzy end of the spectrum. Do you ever get close to the stars or is it just telecom?
Rohit Batra: No, telecom unfortunately. No stars at the moment, but I would still say it's still a glitzy industry, at least for me. I've always felt telecommunications and media and technology for that matter are extremely critical for the way we work. I think the last two years, if anything, has shown how dependent we are on connectivity, how dependent are we on software as a cloud-based services and applications and technology, and how dependent we are media to keep our kids entertained when they've been at home for all this long. So I feel very thankful that I'm part of this industry because in the past two years, what really showed the... I guess all of everyone involved is saying how critical connectivity and communications is in our lives. And so being a part of that and being able to contribute to it has been a great privilege for the past few years.
Chad Watt: Thank you, Rohit, very much for your time and your insights today.
This podcast is part of our collaboration with MIT Tech Review in partnership with Infosys Cobalt. Visit our content hub on technologyreview.com to learn more about how businesses across the globe are moving from cloud chaos to cloud clarity. Be sure to follow Ahead in the Cloud wherever you get your podcast. You can find more details in our show notes and transcripts at infosys.com/ika in our podcast section. Thanks to our producers, Catherine Burdette, Christine Calhoun, and Yulia De Bari. I'm Chad Watt with the Infosys Knowledge Institute signing off. Until next time, keep learning and keep sharing.
About Rohit Batra
VP and Head of Product, Mgmt Telecom, Media & Technology Industry at ServiceNow
Rohit leads the product strategy and road map for TMT pertaining to domains such as network and service experience, order management and customer experience for ServiceNow customers. Prior to ServiceNow, Rohit ran the solutions and product strategy teams at various organisations including Salesforce, Amdocs, Oracle and Comverse. He has over 20 years of experience in capital TMT industry across Customer Experience BSS/OSS domain running delivery, solutions, and product management functions. Rohit also ran several industry standard initiatives including leading the Customer Experience Lifecycle and Omni-channel best practises for TM Forum.
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