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ServiceNow World Forum 2023 Recap: Service Operations 101

Updated: 22nd Nov, 2023
ServiceNow World Forum 2023 Recap: Service Operations 101.

World Forum was a blast – props to ServiceNow for organising and to attendees for bringing the best energy I’ve felt in an event since the pand*mic – can’t wait to see it back even bigger next year.  

The AI geeks of us were in our element with this year’s content but we decided to bring something slightly different to the table for our Partner speaking slot and talked all things Service Operations. So, for those who missed it, or just need a recap, here’s ‘Service Operations: Decoded’ debriefed…

ServiceNow World Forum 2023 Recap: Service Operations 101.
Unifii at World Forum

What is Service Operations?

With just 15 minutes on the clock, we split the session into 2 halves. First half, we focused on what Service Operations is (and isn’t)...  

Service Operations (ServiceOps) is a term that has been around for a while in the ServiceNow world but many upon hearing it, associate it with the ‘Service Operations Workspace’ first made available in San Diego & now becoming the default agent view as Agent Workspace is deprecated. The workspace is awesome and essentially a collection of actionable information and insights from Service (ITSM) and Operations (ITOM) processes that give agents visibility, context, and enable fast prioritisation of work. The workspace components are configurable, but the real power of Service Operations lies in the engine that drives those components. Together with the foundation of a CSDM-aligned architecture, Service Ops is and will be, at the core of all products and capabilities across the platform, moving forward.

In short, Service Ops says that ‘Digital first’, high levels of automation, and proactive issue resolution are only possible by bridging the gap between the historically siloed Service (desk) teams and Operations teams – those that look after end users, and those keeping the lights on infrastructure wise.  

I gave a few examples from my previous roles and the difference for me personally in areas where we were able to bridge that gap between infra going down (in one example, a part of an app with over 6 million users) and the impact that would have on specific groups of users (in this example, customers of the business). Aside from the operational efficiencies that enabled us to warn those customers and tackle the issues more quickly, the mindset shift in actually understanding the end-to-end service on both the ‘Service’ and ‘Operations’ side was extremely powerful and allowed me and others to make much better decisions both strategically and ‘in the moment’.  

So, ServiceOps is not a workspace, a product, or a capability – it’s a combination of all those things and more; a powerful approach to modernising organisations that has genuine, tangible benefits and ROI when gotten right. It takes the best of many products across the platform (based largely on the power of ITSM and ITOM), has its foundations in a Service based architecture (CSDM), and delivers an overall experience that is multiple more valuable than the sum of its parts – a real ‘better together’ story but also, as discussed below, one that introduces a real ‘risk of doing nothing.’

Why Should You Care?

That risk of inaction can be distilled down into 4 areas: 

First, the whole platform is moving this way. As discussed above, the focus is shifting from what has historically been ITSM at the core to a core of ServiceOps built on CSDM. Processes, features, and the underlying architecture of the platform are being geared towards a Service-based way of working. So, any deviation from that moving forward will require more complex customisation both to keep the lights on and to take advantage of any new features that come Out Of The Box (OOTB). CSDM is a hot topic with most clients and has been for a couple of years, but as discussed in the presentation, if the goal is to continue to align closely to OOTB and take advantage of new features without the need for heavy customisation, the case for aligning to CSDM and the broader ServiceOps concept has never been stronger.

Second, is the opportunity cost of not doing so. Data from Forrester shows 30% higher Agent productivity in clients who effectively leverage both ITSM and ITOM compared to those who either have these capabilities across different tools or underutilise operational capabilities such as automated Discovery and Service Mapping.  

Third is that you can do so much of this stuff without having to buy more products. Most clients we speak to at the moment are early-ish in this journey and their focus is not on running before they can walk. It doesn’t need to take years but starting with a solid foundation of CSDM alignment and a clear ServiceOps roadmap that includes immediate ROI along the way is critical – this early stage needs ITSM licenses only and very quickly moves clients without ITOM into a position where the business case for taking it becomes a no-brainer because the platform (and business) are ready to see value from these capabilities Day 1 – not spend months paying for licenses that the business is not set up to fully take advantage of. For those with ITOM licenses already in place, a clear roadmap is even more important and the opportunity to start realising value from the overall investment in the product is even closer.  

Lastly – we know that it works! ServiceNow themselves are a great example. They leverage ServiceOps across the business and have demonstrated its scalability clearly in their ability to build a skilled core technical support team who, through the ratio of support staff: to end users over the last 7-8 years of their growth, have shown how effective this approach can be (happy to share data/detail on this for anyone who is interested!). Equally, many ServiceNow clients have also done so with equally impressive results:

ServiceNow World Forum 2023 Recap: Service Operations 101.
ServiceNow. (2020). Service Plus Operations: Your dream team for resilient IT. Retrieved November 17, 2023, from

ServiceOps: Key Challenges  

The second half of the talk focused on a few of the ServiceOps-related challenges we’ve seen our clients face and how they have been successful in overcoming them. I’ve summarised these below

ServiceNow World Forum 2023 Recap: Service Operations 101.
Senior Leadership buy-in can be tough.

To really get the most bang for your buck with ServiceOps and ultimately the platform moving forward, most clients, regardless of maturity, recognise the need to do a level of foundation work, which can present a few perceived issues when pushing for budget/resources to do so. It can seem a bit like digging the floor of a house up to redo the foundations, which often means we see it end up on the ‘we know we need to do it but not this year’ pile, losing out to more automation/transformation projects that have shorter-term results.  

We’ve seen this with most clients at the start of their ServiceOps journey and with even ServiceNow themselves suggesting that a platform reset is commonly the most efficient way to start (this certainly doesn’t have to be the case), Senior Leadership buy-in can be tough.

ServiceNow World Forum 2023 Recap: Service Operations 101.
Hammering home the risk of doing nothing.

We’ve helped a few clients in this space and those who’ve had the most success have done a few things well: 

  • Hammering home the risk of doing nothing and helping the business to recognise that in order to deliver on all other priorities, the core of the platform has to be fundamentally right. Senior leaders are then very clear that building on top of sub-optimal foundations is not an option and that the fastest way to sustainably achieve those other priorities, is by getting that core right -  as talked about extensively above, it will have to be done at some point…why not now? 

  • Having recognition that this is not just a technical exercise – I’ve seen this with pretty much all clients we’ve done ServiceOps-related work with - the piece that really gets senior leaders bought in is the opportunity to be far more service-oriented and for them to have reports in their hands that show exactly how well each of their services is performing – use the platform or work with your partner to visually show SLT the art of the possible when the platform is CSDM aligned.

ServiceNow World Forum 2023 Recap: Service Operations 101.
Automation sits at the heart of successful ServiceOps and to ‘increase automation’

Automation sits at the heart of successful ServiceOps and to ‘increase automation’ – including the use of AI to do so - has been on 99% of all of our clients' strategic objectives for the last 2+ years. But in the context of ITSM, CSDM, CMDB, and S&HAM, they’ve found it really difficult to know where to start and where might give them the biggest bang for their buck.

ServiceNow World Forum 2023 Recap: Service Operations 101.
The effort was not insignificant, but the recognition that they could start with those high-priority conversations meant it was completely manageable.

So, what we’ve seen from the clients who’ve done this well is: 

  • Target a specific area with high volumes of tickets – in a recent example of ours, an international retail client chose “Retail Operations”  

  • Analyse ticket data and identify highest traffic themes - this same client took their top 10 highest volume Requests and Incidents 

  • Find opportunities to automate - we decided Virtual Agent was the best course of action not only to automate those requests but gather even more data for future automation 

The effort was not insignificant, but the recognition that they could start with those high-priority conversations meant it was completely manageable. And the risk was negligible because anything that went through the agent but was outside of those configured conversations, would just be routed to a live agent as it was previously.  

The end result for them was that 98% of conversations with the Virtual Agent did not require interaction with a live agent at all – 98% deflection in the first 3 months of go-live! 

ServiceNow World Forum 2023 Recap: Service Operations 101.
A final common theme is the ‘it’s too big/too complicated’ mantra.

A final common theme is the ‘it’s too big/too complicated’ mantra that is linked to the first challenge and is so easy to fall into. Despite the ITSM and ITOM roadmaps being readily available for years, there hasn’t been a clear, ServiceOps-specific roadmap that truly combines the power of both and allows organisations to understand their current ‘ServiceOps’ specific maturity and steps required to move up that scale.  

ServiceNow World Forum 2023 Recap: Service Operations 101.
In order to get that roadmap in place, Step 1, is understanding the current state of the core ServiceOps elements within an organisation.

In order to get that roadmap in place, Step 1, and by far the most important for us, is understanding the current state of the core ServiceOps elements within an organisation.  

We’ve developed our own process and look at things like ITSM build (technical & architectural alignment to OOTB), CMDB maturity, and CSDM definitions and accountability but for a very high-level view, ServiceNow themselves have the: Modernise, Automate, Optimise guide and now a much lower level version that I think can be helpful context (shown below). The only caveat is that it speaks specifically to ITSM and ITOM-related capabilities/products so can make clients feel even more ‘too big, too complicated’ if read out of context, so we’d very much encourage you to work with a partner with ServiceOps experience to bring it to life in a much more specific, targeted way that focuses on outcomes, not just products.

ServiceNow World Forum 2023 Recap: Service Operations 101.
ServiceNow themselves have the: Modernise, Automate, Optimise guide.
ServiceNow World Forum 2023 Recap: Service Operations 101.
A much lower level version that I think can be helpful context.

 Next Steps

And there you have it, ‘Service Operations: Decoded’ debriefed. We’ve had some brilliant conversations with customers since the talk so thanks to all who have been in touch. And we’ve tonnes of content in the pipeline, including events, where we’ll dive even deeper into all things, ServiceOps with panellists from Partner, Client, and ServiceNow sides. We’ll share more details very soon, but in the meantime, if you’d like any more info or details on the above, give me a shout!


Written by

Jack Williamson

Managing Consultant

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