ServiceNow Africa Summit 2023: How to modernise and unify for better experiences, resilience
Times are tough. But in the words of our former president, Nelson Mandela, we prove ourselves by getting back up. Technology can help us move forward, but real progress happens when we modernise operations to create better experiences for employees and customers.
Yet, as technology sprawls and innovations leave companies rushing to catch up, running successful and resilient organisations is harder than ever.
Hundreds of business professionals gathered at ServiceNow's Africa Summit 2023 on 7 June 2023. Hosted by the effervescent and energetic master of ceremonies, Mo Jussab, they sought to find answers to their challenges. Top experts from ServiceNow's local and international teams, and guests from ServiceNow customers, tackled these issues through presentations, panel discussions and networking opportunities at The Forum, hosted at The Campus, in Bryanston, Johannesburg.
Work in the face of uncertainty
The event suitably started with a quote from former president, Nelson Mandela, which encapsulates how we should think about doing business in times of uncertainty: "Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up."
Jessica Constantinidis, ServiceNow's Field Innovation Officer for the EMEA region, led this theme by asking how we make the world work in times of uncertainty:
"South Africa has challenges such as load-shedding. We have the war happening in Europe, there are shortages, inflation, all of these things are happening around us. When I go to customers – and I'm primarily talking to CIOs, CTOs, CFOs, platform owners – most of them ask me: 'What do I do? Where do I get my investment? How do I change what I'm doing on a day-to-day basis?' It's not easy. And it's not just a world that is changing in terms of inflation, economy and uncertainty, but technology is rapidly evolving as well."
Concerns also included new technologies, specifically the rapid rise of generative artificial intelligence such as ChatGPT. The summit provided an answer: the more companies can unify and improve their operations, the better they perform against different challenges.
"It's our responsibility as strategic digital partners to your business to help guide you through this environment," said Constantinidis.
Customer-centricity and frictionless experiences
Companies shouldn't choose between stability and innovation. The most resilient organisations pursue both, yet that can be tough when dealing with silos and digital sprawl. The guiding star for successful businesses is to focus on the experiences of customers and employees, which requires building stronger, better and safer services for end-users.
"How do we control technology sprawl?" asked Martin Jaeger, VP of Technology Workflow at ServiceNow EMEA. "How do we make sure that the quality is there, even though we're investing heavily in multiple systems? For digital innovation to happen, and digitisation to happen, a lot of things have to work hand in hand. However, the way we structure it is already in silos. Platforms can help you bring down some of the silos and make sure that the work flows across them."
The detriment of fractured technologies is apparent, especially among employees. Jaeger cited research showing 77% of employees were already experiencing burnout in their current jobs, 68% were more likely to leave a company due to disconnected experiences, and the number one complaint about shared services is insufficient self-service capabilities.
Even though companies invest proactively in technology, the lack of unity undermines those investments. Consequently, they think they must choose between good experiences and benefits to the business. But Daniel Wilks, ServiceNow's EMEA Area Vice-President for Employee Experience, noted that it's not a choice: "One message I want you to leave with today is that it's not an either-or conversation when it comes to employee experience and delivering benefits to your organisation. They are two sides of the same coin. Employee experience is about operational efficiency as much as it's about delivering a great experience to your team."
Create resilience and modernisation
South Africa's major companies appreciate the link between experience and operations. Speaking during a customer panel discussion, Vitality Global's senior operations manager, Dhesigan Naidu, noted that challenges such as uncertainty, market saturation, scalability, social impact and such prompt a new way of thinking: "It really forces organisations to rethink the past in new kinds of innovative ways, which are underpinned by technology. A lot of what we've been focusing on is around customer-centricity, providing value-added services, modernising IT, service management and really the adoption of a service culture and mindset."
The substantial challenge tends to emerge from the back-office, noted Jack Govender, Solution Sales Executive at ServiceNow, when he discussed how to create those sought-after frictionless experiences: "In our conversations with customers, they are all experiencing the same thing. A lot of focus and investment is done in the front engagement layer – that's your contact centre channels, digital channels and so on. But once it transcends into the back-office, it goes into a black hole, usually a real mess of different solutions, pockets of CSV files, different processes… And that contributes to a really poor customer experience for your end customers."
Platforms unite innovation and performance
Platforms such as ServiceNow unify those fractured environments without disrupting or invalidating them. The message from the ServiceNow Africa Summit 2023 is clear: focus on innovation and experiences by using state-of-the-art platforms to bridge silos, improve processes, streamline employee interactions with digital services and strive towards a user/customer-centric culture.
ServiceNow is proving to be that unifying platform, affirmed by its tremendous growth. African customers are particularly interested in what such a prime business platform can do to help rein in technology sprawl and empower people. Muhammed Omar, who leads ServiceNow's Africa operations, emphasised that purpose and investment.
Locally, ServiceNow has tripled the local team with more technical, business and sales experts to support the fast-growing customer pool in the region. Their jobs are to help customers modernise and unify their operations while focusing on improving customer and employee experiences.
"Our purpose remains unwavering: to make the world of work better for people. We are building the future of business on the ServiceNow intelligent platform," said Omar.