“If you get up in the morning and think the future is going to be better, it is a bright day. Otherwise, it's not.” ~Elon Musk
Sometimes, it’s difficult to wake up and think the future is going to be better. Some days, the amount of tasks, staff management, decision making, future planning and financial pressure starts to form cracks in the foundation. When this happens, laying in bed at night wondering what happened or what can be done to relieve some of this pressure gets in the way of a good night's sleep. As the massive amounts of tasks to manage and staff grows, the risk of losing control becomes a very real issue and requires very specific planning and direction. Many companies decide to utilize ServiceNow to mitigate the risk of this growth along with using it for future expansion protection. ServiceNow is not a inexpensive service, so why is it that it is so widely and often used? Fortunately (or unfortunately) we live in a Google based search world so there is always significant relevance to the SERP (search engine result page) rich snippet that comes up when searching a question. When we pose the question "why do businesses choose ServiceNow?" here is what we get:
Here is the link to the above article if you wish you read it in its entirety. The first result gives you adjectives; flexible, powerful. This really doesn't give us insight into what is provided though. The second result clues us right in with "potential of solving IT problems and management." This is of course one of the main reasons that ServiceNow is utilized. The only issue here is that we still have this one word that leaves all sorts of room for disappointment to strike: POTENTIAL. Unfortunately, we are all well aware of the idea of potential unrealized and the same concept can happen with ServiceNow as well. Here at VividCharts, we believe that this doesn't have to be the case. We believe that with just a bit more direction, everyone can have their ServiceNow cake and eat it too. I sat down with Robert Feoruk, Chief Experience Officer and Mitch Stutler, CEO and Co-Founder here at VividCharts to dig some deeper insights into how ServiceNow users can have their enterprise software cake and eat it too.
1. You had quite a bit of experience with ServiceNow before VividCharts. How do you feel about ServiceNow's ability to produce custom reporting?
Yeah, I did, and I was specifically, most passionately on the reporting side of the house before I came on at VividCharts. I considered maybe, I'll just be a performance analytics consultant and I'll just go place to place and build cool PA dashboards and help them understand and pursue outcomes, plus discover what they need to measure. Basically just teaching people how to report more effectively. So when I saw what VividCharts had going on, and it was obvious there's certainly a wider range of things that you can build, I was interested. Still, I would never would have described the created charts to my peers as "custom reporting", especially because in this industry, custom is a bad connotation word. Okay, you see what I mean? For instance a common trope in the ServiceNow space is, oh, we built something too custom for too long, and now we can't do anything. Essentially we painted ourselves into a corner, and now we have to re-architect because "customization" is bad. Then you'll often hear people describe things, (if they're uncertain about how we're going to build something) by saying "well, make sure it's configured", not customized.
2. I noticed that you really enjoy being part of the ServiceNow community. What do you feel often muddies the water or causes burn out in the ServiceNow community?
I really do enjoy finding my own path and learning inside of ServiceNow. I've just made myself cognizant of the different kind of personas and roles that exist in that ecosystem. So one thing our customer base struggles with a lot, is that ServiceNow is not inexpensive. Okay? Not inexpensive from a licensing perspective, but also not inexpensive to make do what you want. It's a platform, right? So I buy it, and part of the journey is me putting things onto it. I do that with vendor partners, I do that with my own resources, and to some extent, you buy a very expensive chassis, but it's not a Lamborghini yet, it's just the frame, the wheels and the engine. Then it's up to the customer to make the Lamborghini. You've described the Lamborghini to the client and they utilize it, but you come back a few months later and it looks something maybe a little bit more like a Honda Civic, with a Lamborghini engine in it.
So our stakeholders struggle with the fact that it is expensive. They don't want to spend more money because they are often not clued into the value of what they are spending the money on initially. I use this metaphor all the time. It doesn't matter how much this thing costs, right, what matters is the value that you get. So if you have a room in your house, that during construction, they didn't put any doors on it, but inside this room is a chest with $50,000 worth of gold in it. Then a carpenter says, I'll charge you $8,000 to put a door knob and a door on the room. What the ServiceNow ecosystem is doing is saying $8,000 is preposterous for for a door, right, but they're not seeing that there's this chest full of gold on the opposite side of it. So there's a constant mental battle because of this concept. Craig Pratt has mentored us on this. If you look at ServiceNow sales teams they are all validating the value. How much time will this save you? Well, that equates to this amount, this amount of value, and getting customers to see and express it in terms of value. Once you get the value high enough, the price tag doesn't matter. Then all that matters is the price tag is lower than the value. Right? So all kinds of stuff contribute to this, one of which is that people don't have a strong reporting paradigm. People will think nothing of spending a quarter million dollars on an Asset Management deployment, right? Let's manage our hardware better. Yeah, that sounds like a great idea, a $250,000 services contract to set it up. Yeah, that's cheaper than the next two people, so let's do that. Then there's a quarter million dollars spent and one line item on that scope of work says DO REPORTING. Everything else is - feature this and process that, but they'll have one line that just says "do reporting". Then we get to a month past "go live" and then they start asking questions similar to, was that worth it? Does it work the way we think it does? So you see how the domain that we're in, the reporting domain, plays into perception of the value of the platform, in an ecosystem where people feel as if ServiceNow is expensive.
3. Do you feel as though less or more than half of companies have a good understanding of being able to report on items that deliver value?
It's confusing and gray. Not a lot of people are, quote, unquote, doing the right thing because this is very, extremely complicated, even though we've been doing it for half a century now. People don't give enough credence to how complicated this is. So if you really think about a NASA Space Shuttle, right, and NASA basically was doing CMDB, before they had a name for CMDB. So you basically have hundreds, maybe 1000s of vendors who are shipping new materials and parts that they're specifically manufacturing. It's not as if NASA owns factories that make the screws to connect component A to component C, The people who are actually assembling it know, often it doesn't work in real life as it is on paper. So we have to change the configuration of the of the "thing" right? And so people start saying, when I have a "thing", what properties of the "thing" do I actually care about? I (as a NASA employee) will never care about the color of the screw, but, I care very deeply about its heat tolerance, and the grade of steel that it is made up of. So when somebody like the manufacturer says, oh, we'll just change the grade of steel, because it's whatever on our side, they can mess the whole thing up. Right, you know? And so the the space shuttle basically, is all these components that are controlled, we know exactly which properties we need to control, and we have a process to control that change. That's crazy, right? Now, consider that a space shuttle has exactly two missions Exactly two; to go up and come back down. Now imagine processes with 1000s of missions and reporting becomes extremely complicated. That's why less than half generally have reporting in good shape, their businesses and processes are just massively complex and numerous.
1. Before VividCharts you spent significant time building custom/configured dashboards and charts. Can you explain how that led to the start of the company?
Basically, when I was consulting, I was doing a lot of custom interface builds of portals and things similar to that. If they needed a custom report or chart built, that maybe queried the data differently, or displayed the data differently, it got passed to me to do. And it just took a long time even to do even a simple donut chart that just looked at tables differently than ServiceNow reporting expected you to. So you basically had to build it from the ground up, and it took a long time. VividCharts solves that issue.
2. During the interview with Robert, we discussed the concept that ServiceNow is a tremendous platform but sometimes leads to frustration purely because of what happens after "go live". What in your mind might help solve some of that issue?
I don't think people do a good job, ServiceNow knows this too, of reporting the value back to the customer of the platform. For a while, they (ServiceNow) might still have it, they built a team that was literally trying to do value reporting for customers. So I think sometimes, ServiceNow loses favor in an organization because people are spending a whole lot of money but aren't really sure what their savings are in dollar benefits for that purchase. It's often hard to tell.
I also think it's both difficult for companies to ascertain what should be reported and there are also limited ServiceNow developmental hours. The first limits the second, because you might have a hunch, but it's probably going to take some iterations to actually nail what you should be looking at. With the current out of the box toolset that ServiceNow has, it's necessary to interact with the data to report on it and it takes a long time. Especially if you're doing it in a highly configured way. So you can't really go through those iterations very quickly. Plus, I think a lot of people just lose steam on that journey because you want something tweaked, but it might take five or 10 hours of a ServiceNow admin that also is way over booked on all other types of work they're supposed to be doing on their ServiceNow implementation.
3. So does a typical ServiceNow developer have built in time for building reporting items or is that not generally something they will have as common daily responsibilities?
It definitely ranges pretty widely, but it helps to think about it first in the sense that there's a huge demand for people who know how to use ServiceNow, not just as an end user, but able to configure ServiceNow. So at a company, let's just make one up; at Company A, for example, that person typically isn't spending 100% of their time building ServiceNow reports, instead they're probably also asked to, go build a new workflow for groups such as the change management team, update a certain workflow, update a specific form, or add a script. Generally all of those are unrelated to reporting but common daily tasks. ServiceNow is just such a big and wide tool, that there's tons of work to be done. And in these organizations, they have a small set of users who really know how to do that type of stuff.
Ultimately VividCharts exists to bridge the gap between the ServiceNow expectations you have and the disappointment you potentially feel after implementation. Don't let the broadness and potential of the platform keep you from being able to really harness the value. Both Robert and Mitch had their own feelings about how VividCharts plays into the role of mitigating the frustration.
Robert - I feel like we have a narrow mission. Our mission is to let more people build reports that have a greater, presentability. In a nutshell, we do some other stuff too but our mission is specific. VividCharts, the platform, is a huge discovery operation, because, for example we might ask "do you use Incident Management?". "What are you trying to maximize with Incident Management?". We could very well be sitting across from somebody who's, as we talked about before, just trying to quote unquote, do reporting, right? Since ServiceNow can be so uncharacteristically rigid, you can't call the ServiceNow status report that really (reporting). It really causes users to realize this whole, complete outcome that I am hoping for just isn't there right out of the box. That's where VividCharts steps in.
Mitch - One thing I'd add on to that, too, is there's a lot of people who are tasked with building reports on a periodic basis, which you know, that might not really know the why or care, but they're just flat out being told to do it, which is fine. It might be upper management needs to see these 10 things every week or month or whatever, they don't really care how you get it to them, they just need it. So if you bring VividCharts into the equation, it presents the opportunity to lighten that workload for the people who have to present that data. You know, maybe they are architecting those metrics, or more or just being tasked with putting them together. So VividCharts lets them be a little bit more proactive about those efforts first, instead of it just becoming a 10 hour a week part of their job.