Knowledge 14: Enterprise IT bloated and under automated, says ServiceNow CEO

By Danny Palmer
30 Apr 2014 View Comments

IT in the enterprise is ridiculously bloated and should move towards the implementation of automated services, even if it means the ‘scary' prospect of jobs being lost.

That's the view of ServiceNow CEO and president Frank Slootman, who made the comments during a Q&A session with press and analysts at the firm's Knowledge 14 conference in San Francisco. Slootman said the only reason why many organisations haven't implemented automated IT services is because they haven't got around to it yet.

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"The IT organisation in enterprise is overstaffed and under automated, sometimes ridiculously so. Why is that? Why are there so many damn people and so little automation? You just haven't gotten around to it. The service model really is the platform," he said.

Slootman argued that every IT system should be designed so that it doesn't need a person to operate it, and so that it provides the enterprise with a much more effective service.

"You look at things in terms of how do I do this without hands? How do I do this without anybody touching this? It's fully automated, it's light speed. That should be the design centre for every service that gets implemented."

The ServiceNow CEO believes the main reason more systems aren't already automated is because IT staff have designed them so as to ensure their job security.

"Humans like to be in the middle of these processes because it offers job security, social factors and all this kind of stuff. They designed job security right back into these damn applications even though they don't have to," said Slootman.

"The economic imperative needs to be inverted," he continued. "Assume the process can be done without hands. And then if they have to be reinserted at some level, there better be a good reason as to why people are needed in that process."

Slootman admitted that the prospect of losing jobs because of automation worried some people, but said the "bloated" and "expensive" IT department is no longer necessary.

"It's a scary thought from a social backdrop standpoint, it's a very difficult conversation, I understand all that. But you're talking about IT staff that are bloated and ridiculously expensive and you have to downsize," he argued, using an example of a bank that has reduced its number of IT employees after deploying a ServiceNow solution.

"We have a large financial institution in Wall Street, they have 60,000 people in IT. Can you even imagine that?" asked Slootman.

"Now they're taking a thousand people out of IT with ServiceNow - that's a hundred million that's going to be straight to the bottom line. They said that's a walk in the park and we're just scratching the surface because people are so heavily involved in these processes," he continued, arguing that automation of services will eventually be the norm.

"As a society, I'm telling you, we're going to move dramatically to substitution from people to systems – you ain't seen nothing yet."

Speaking at a ServiceNow event in London last year, Slootman said he wanted to "drive a truck through the opposition". Computing asked the ServiceNow CEO if this was still his goal and he suggested that it continues to be the direction the company is moving in, with only positive things to come.

"The truck keeps moving, you can track our results," said Slootman. "The company is moving really well and we're super-pleased in terms of how things are going, so in terms of driving that truck it's all going well," he concluded.

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