The value of the cloud

The value of the cloud

Having developed a hugely successful business spanning the USA, Western Europe, and Australia, ServiceNow has expanded its operations to cover a number of key markets in the Middle East. Following 8 years of efficacious operations, the company is now widely regarded by many as the top provider for enterprise cloud systems and IT-driven solutions in the region. 

After it recorded revenues of $1 billion last year, ServiceNow embarked on an ambitious strategy to massively expand this growth and become further aligned with the markets that it serves. We speak to its Regional Sales Manager Mark Ackerman to learn how the company has been able to deliver world-beating technology tailored to the specific needs of customers in the Middle East. We also explore the business model that has enabled ServiceNow to double its customer footprint and set itself the ambitious goal of generating $4 billion in revenues by 2020. 


ServiceNow’s operational strategy and customer offering is centred on the idea that the everyday processes of office life can be looked at as if they were services – and improved accordingly. By providing a range of scalable solutions which often have the potential to cut through complexity and measurably speed up processes, the company has developed a model that evolves with the needs of the customer. 

Mark Ackerman, ServiceNow’s Regional Sales Manager for the Middle East explains: “Globally, we were the second company to reach the billion dollar mark in the SaaS space – we achieved this milestone faster than any other company in this market space making us the fastest growing SaaS company in the world! 

“We now also have a strong presence in the GCC countries, particularly in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, and Bahrain, both directly and with strategic partners. Due to our international presence, we also have customers from the likes of Egypt, Morocco, and Lebanon.”

ServiceNow has a three-pronged offering to the market that consists of products, services and solutions but also offers opportunities for partnering; it underpins these capabilities with a robust support network. Its diverse range of products cover everything from IT operations and enterprise service management, to business and financial management, facilities management and application development. 

Keen to differentiate from simply being a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) company, it has developed the ServiceNow Platform which enables customers to streamline their applications to be as user-friendly as possible, supported by real-time analytics and a cloud-based delivery system. 

Ackerman adds: “We are branching out – what we are doing with the ServiceNow platform is applying the service management principles to business. We're starting to look at business services, support services, marketing, finance, admin, and legal. We are creating a harmonious environment for business process automation and, most importantly, management and subsequent monitoring, it’s the ERP for IT.”

Empowering the individual 

Ackerman explains that the philosophy underpinning much of ServiceNow’s solutions is to grant individuals within an organisation the independence to perform as much as possible without being constrained by outside inputs. By design, the company’s solutions are certainly innovative, but are also grounded in the everyday needs of businesses around the globe.  

He says: “We did a recent state of work survey in the US and discovered that people spent as much as 49 percent of their workday on emails. Nine out of ten people are saying their level of efficiency is based on somebody else's input and, effectively, someone else's efficiency. 

“If you send someone an email and then you wait for them to respond, from your perspective, you've passed down the job because you asked somebody else for their input. Often businesses do not know exactly how efficient (or inefficient) they are because they often have no clear way of measuring the delivery of a service, and as a result, it's always inconsistent.” 

Offering businesses and individuals the ability to measure progress and performance is not only helpful to internal operations and executives looking to do more with less; it has placed ServiceNow in a position to be able to say with full confidence that its solutions have delivered departmental efficiencies of as much as 30 percent. 

Ackerman expands: “We have an ‘Amazon’-style look and feel for customer interaction. All internal processes are published and are then viewed as services within the company. Divisions within the company, such as HR, Finance, Legal, Facilities and Marketing, can publish a list of all the services they provide, and what the organisation ends up with is a very powerful Platform for Business Automation coupled with a strong knowledge base and mobility, per department.

“With the ‘Amazon’ example in mind, ServiceNow becomes the internal ‘Amazon’ for any organisation, dealing with all the provisioning of the services employees request in the background; all the employee wants or needs to know is what’s the status of my request and when will it be fulfilled.”

“People are getting the answers they need a lot quicker than using a standard email inbox because our systems enable them to practice ‘self-help’ and proactive collaboration using mobility.

“As we drive and publish all these services from the different departments of the organisation, we then automate the workflow behind that. This system of interaction and engagement sits above the existing systems of record such HRMS, ERP and Building Management Systems and removes the need for multiple Portals, sites, URLs.  

“We're now able to measure the efficiency of how we deliver services within the organisation, because the minute you actually put in a workflow and capture the activities related to a particular fulfilment request, you can measure the response and the turnaround times and see how efficient that particular business service is.”

Competitive strategy 

Being one of the only Enterprise Service Management SaaS companies of any noticeable scale in the Middle East has obviously given ServiceNow an edge over local and international competitors, but the company is far from complacent. Having already partnered with some key blue-chip and government operators at a global level, Ackerman is keen to extend this coverage to similar companies in this target region. “Using specialist process and business reengineering specialist partners in the territory such as Unikomm, SilverStorm and Quintica we are able to actively address our customer specific needs within the Middle East Market.” He says.

“Customers in the Middle East are a lot more security conscious and data solvency is a big issue for them. We do have a lot of challenges convincing people that their data will be more secure on the cloud but this is something that all SaaS providers are experiencing.

“Our massive growth of over 40 percent year on year has come not only from green field opportunities, but a large component of our success has been in replacing legacy solutions that have not moved with the times.”

ServiceNow approaches its relationship with its customers in a radically different way to similar companies, many of which have businesses formed around perpetual licenses. Since the SaaS model is subscription-based, it has to ensure that the level of service it gives its customers is consistently at the highest standard and constantly evolving to stay relevant to the needs of its customers. Ackerman adds: “Our global customer retention rate of 98.6 percent is the best endorsement of how well we are serving our customers.”

Having developed a sound business model shaped by the challenges and standards of international markets, ServiceNow has fine-tuned its operations to work seamlessly in the Middle East and deliver unprecedented growth and performance to a range of customers. Moreover, having made its solutions very accessible and user-friendly, the company is set to singlehandedly change the face of enterprise cloud systems in the region. 

Mark Ackerman