How to Design a Cloud Adoption Plan that Actually Works - with ServiceNow

2.13.17 By Matthew Stoltz


Cloud adoption has been…well…we’re not really sure how it’s been going.

The hype is strong. Read any tech news from the past five years and you’ll find the line, “everything is moving to the cloud.” Synonymous with digital transformation, cloud adoption seems to be a major initiative for most mid-to-large companies.

ServiceNow, the leader in cloud-based ITSM software, may have the largest stake in cloud adoption. The company relies on the technology to help businesses streamline everything from non-revenue-generating functions to how systems communicate.

What that means for your everyday manager in HR, finance, IT, and operations is that:

1) Workaday tasks are easier to manage

2) There’s a central service domain, and

3) Departments can better serve the business, focusing on delivering value rather than how work gets done.


If You Want in, Prepare to Transition

So, is ServiceNow simply another topic for your company board members to discuss, until the fad passes? Unlikely.

As Jim Cramer said on a recent episode of Mad Money, “A few years ago this was a small company, but now it’s the leader in IT service management.” That includes a 52% year-over-year growth of subscription billings.

Frank Slootman, Chairman and CEO of ServiceNow, and Cramer’s guest on the episode, said, “Most customer service products engage with the customer to deal with the symptoms of a problem, but they don’t root out the problem.” 


Image courtesy of: Screen Prism 

Everyone wants to minimize operational friction. The transition to a unified workflow, however, comes with a big ask; that leadership put aside old habits and work together to break down silos.

We’re talking change management, folks. You want to benefit from cloud adoption, ServiceNow, and all the wonders of modern tech? Then prepare for the change.

Don’t worry, though, because there are a lot of people, resources, and tech partners to help you.

Chris Laping, Co-Founder & CEO at People Before Things, has written extensively on the subject of change management, citing that 70% of initiatives fail.

For decades, executives have been good at making problems go away, but not solving them.  Laping claims that leaders remain accountable, saying “whether our organizations can really drive change and really innovate, is a product of [us] leaders.”

If enablement was a barrier to change in the past, ServiceNow seems to offer the way forward. Leaders can rally around the cloud-based product to build internal applications under a single system of record – as long as they have the right transition process, change culture, and tech vendor along the way.

One question on many leaders’ minds is, “where do we stack up against everyone else in terms of cloud adoption?" And, of course, "how do we make sure the investment is worth it?"


The State of Cloud Adoption. Are We There Yet?

ServiceNow conducted research to look into cloud adoption and the path to digital transformation with the 2016 Cloud Tipping Point Survey. The survey included 1,850 respondents from seven countries in IT, DevOps, and line-of-business owners (LOB).

There were a few interesting takeaways:


Unified Workflows are Becoming Mainstream

52% of people surveyed said they take a cloud-first approach to managing their enterprises, a shift driven by DevOps initiatives to streamline services and internal applications.

Fear is motivating. Early adopters to cloud technologies have carved clear paths of what to do and what not to do. Laggards are concerned that they will be outdone by their faster, more responsive competitors, and so we are seeing a full-scale race to the cloud.

77% of respondents reported that they will move away from legacy systems and traditional data centers within the next two years.


IT will Have a New Role

Your IT department is probably not cloud-ready. In fact, 90% of companies who have completed the shift to a cloud-first model said their current IT staff lacked the skills to enable the transition.

There’s always been some gap between IT and the business. Cloud adoption will add pressure for both units to align. The survey found that most LOB respondents placed IT into two categories; supplier or consultant. 65%, however, want to see IT as a “strategic partner.”

What will IT’s role be as the cloud rolls in? The survey claims IT departments will shift to “get out of the IT business,” meaning less data center and help desk projects, and more service and innovation work. As a service organization, IT will help business units with innovation and top-line revenue initiatives.

With the service-oriented operation model, the business will benefit by focusing on value rather than workaday tasks.

IT will need to adapt to the new environment, learning new skills and taking a leadership role along the way.


How can IT Transition?

Zeus Kerravala, Founder and Principal Analyst at ZK Research, points out how ServiceNow is helping customers overcome the cloud skills gap with its IT Business Management (ITBM) suite. According to Zeus, “ITBM can be thought of as the cloud command center where IT leaders have a view over resources, projects and costs related to cloud migrations.”

Essentially, ITBM grants visibility into IT management and cost per resource. Decision making and rationalizing investments become much clearer for executives.

To identify gap areas, ServiceNow's CIO, Chris Bedi, published an article titled, Five Must-Have Skills for IT Professionals in the Cloud-First Era. Here's the brief version:

  1. Process Architects: to modernize legacy processes, and work with developers on new service model applications.
  2. Business Value Analysts: to quantify business outcomes associated with modernization
  3. Technology Portfolio Managers: to integrate cloud and legacy systems 
  4. Business Relationship Managers: to acts as liaisons to LOB leaders as they adopt new applications and processes
  5. Cloud Contract Negotiators: to make sure SLAs are clearly defined

We're going to add "cloud procurement specialists" to the list. Executives are looking for a payoff, and can't be expected to wait around for IT to begin transformation initiatives. The gap in IT skills means leaders will look elsewhere to meet their cloud objectives while IT catches up.


Vendor Management Will be Critical

If your IT department isn’t equipped to help you navigate a path to the cloud, then who is?

Vendor selection and management will be the make-or-break factor of cloud adoption.

Shifting from traditional data-center (Cisco, Oracle), to cloud providers (Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure) is a process in itself. You’ll need a partner who can champion the technology modernization process and the cultural factors of change management.

And they are out there, if you explore.

Specifically, the Tipping Point survey stated that:

Service Integration and Management (SIAM) and vendor management will be more important than ever and will require [the IT department] to move from a “large grain” to a “fine grain” approach when managing the growing list of IT services.

Let’s explore what a “fine grain” approach entails.


What to Expect from Your Cloud Vendor

Are there vendors who have the expertise in data base operations who can also help us move to the cloud? Yes, but finding them isn’t always easy.




Culture Plays a Big Part

The ability of the vendor to understand your past and future systems means nothing if you can’t work together. Digital transformation is not a skill you’d toss to a Java programmer overseas. Expect onshore and nearshore vendors to step into the spotlight as US companies value communication and onsite availability above traditional low-cost, low-quality offshoring.

Look beyond tech giants and offshoring centers. This is your chance to net an up-and-coming tech company who’s agile and hungry enough to offer you consultation from their higher-ups while avoiding the pitfalls of offshoring.

Tech knowledge will take a backseat to a vendor's dexterity.


Skills Beyond IT

Now, more than ever, companies will expect their vendors to creatively solve problems. The tech body shop will become obsolete as vendors become stewards of change. Don’t get me wrong. Your vendor will need to be experts in ServiceNow, Azure, Oracle, and multiple other data and cloud tech, but it’s the project management skills that will make certain vendors stand out.

Require proof that your vendor can contribute creatively based on past projects.


Avoid the ERP Trap

Organizations fall into the ERP trap when they bullishly move an implementation forward without fully transitioning. When the system is ready, users’ hands become tied as they’re not sure what to do. The right tech vendor will ensure full use and adoption during the critical transition period.

When vetting, ask the vendor how they’ll guide you through the transition. Do they provide resources such as onsite workshops to guide your team through the implementation?


Pose Tough Questions to Leadership

The Tipping Point Survey recommends building cross-functional teams with strong executive support in order to break down silos. Your cloud adoption plan will need to outline how to move towards a flow-based work structure with leadership support.

Effective communication with your vendor will play a major role. Look for a vendor who can guide you through the change management process, then hand over the keys.


Your Plan Summary

The shift to the cloud will involve modernizing tech and transitioning to a service-oriented operating model.

Factors of a cloud adoption plan include:

  1. IT’s transition to serve business-line initiatives
  2. Vendor management & implementation support
  3. Leadership commitment
  4. Change management


The ServiceNow Tipping Point survey makes the point that, “the dangers and opportunities for IT are profound. Some, lulled into inaction, will miss the opportunity and fall prey to the dangers.  But for IT organizations that are paying attention, the cloud-first tipping point provides an exciting opportunity.”


If you’re gearing up for a modernization, or even if you’re fully set up in the cloud, the success of that technology depends on how well you and your partners can adapt in the next couple of years.



4th Source is a ServiceNow certified partner, offering a balance of capability, culture, and cost with an average CSAT rating of 9.5. Learn how to get fully operationalized on ServiceNow, regardless of your level or capability with the system. 





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