What drives well-known, experienced managers to join the EMEA Advisory Council of a company like ServiceNow? Speaking with German trade publication ComputerWoche, Fred Kindle, former CEO of ABB and Swiss Sulzer AG, explains his motivations.
In May, ServiceNow announced the formation of its EMEA Advisory Council – featuring industry titans such as former Deutsche Bahn CEO Rüdiger Grube, Société Générale’s Juan Maria Nin Genova, Bain Capital’s Russell Chambers, and Volvo’s Lone Fønss Schrøder, among others.
Another esteemed member is Fred Kindle, former CEO of ABB and Swiss Sulzer AG, who shares his thoughts here on his involvement with the Council.
What motivated you to become a member of ServiceNow's EMEA Advisory Council?
The combination of innovations like the Internet of Things, 5G and Artificial Intelligence represents one of the most important changes in the history of industry.
This transformation is massive – and will fundamentally change our lives. I’m still an engineer at heart, and these kinds of developments fascinate me. I saw serving on the Advisory Council as an opportunity for me to be part of this new industrial revolution, and experience how the world is changing from the inside, so to speak, rather than just as an observer on the outside. For someone like me, who comes from what you might call "old-fashioned" industry, it’s really exciting.
Did you know ServiceNow before you joined the Council?
I’d come across the name ServiceNow a few years ago during a strategy session at another company. Since then, ServiceNow has made a huge leap forward, and is now one of the most interesting players in the enterprise software space. With the NowPlatform®, it’s built a product with incredible potential.
What do you see as the reason for the success of ServiceNow?
ServiceNow has created a platform that is universally applicable. The business has developed a methodology to systematically automate workflows, and, at the same time, made workflows more efficient and reliable.
What do I mean by universally applicable? Well, the platform was originally intended for processes within the IT department, but when you think about it, the more we digitize business processes, the more that similar issues arise in all other areas of the company.
Its flexibility means the platform can make a difference even today when the enterprise software market is so densely populated. By making it possible to deploy with relatively little effort, the investment pays for itself very quickly. Therein lies its attractiveness, and that's why I believe ServiceNow has the potential to maintain its tremendous growth rates for many years to come.
What role can the Now Platform play in the manufacturing industry?
The workflows in IT departments aren’t really that different from those you find in industrial plant maintenance. The workflows used in both are repetitive for a reason: Customer A usually has the same problems as Customer B.
Given this repetitiveness, many processes can be easily automated, freeing up employees from having to do those routine tasks. It’s a trend that is set to accelerate in the years ahead – and that means in the long term, employees can be freed up to spend their time on more creative fulfilling work, or complex and unusual tasks that require a deeper level of understanding.
So, truth be told, the differences between IT and industry maintenance are not so great. And the same goes for many other industries, whether telecommunications, insurance, or something else.
What other benefits are there for industry?
One huge benefit is that there are no switching costs. The platform works in combination with existing infrastructure, so you don't have to replace or switch anything. Anyone who’s been involved in a switch from one large-scale application to another knows what these large-scale projects can entail, not only in terms of costs, but also in terms of the associated risk of operational disruptions and interruptions. If you can add value without fundamentally changing existing infrastructure, that's a huge win.
Another benefit is how ServiceNow handles data. The amount of data globally is set to continue massively, and this offers huge opportunity, but also raises new problems, not least that of data overflow. (There is such a thing as too much data.)
In addition, a lot of data doesn’t belong to a common processing system – it resides in the different siloes of respective applications. Integrating these usually involves a lot of effort, and a lot of delays.
A great feature of ServiceNow is that it can quickly remove data from these its silos and make it readily available, typically without the need for major programming.
How do you yourself intend to perform your role on the Advisory Council?
I see my role as helping the company in two areas.
Firstly, ServiceNow has to find its way out of the IT department and introduce its benefits to the wider company as a whole. To do that, you have to get in touch with a different layer of decision-makers, and that requires slightly different arguments about the benefits of the platform, as well as, to some extent, a different language. I can't use the same language with a CEO or CFO as I do with a CIO. I personally understand this language much better than the language of IT, so I can contribute here.
My other task is to help a company that has grown up in California and is now becoming increasingly active in Europe to link up with large European companies. Given my career history, I have connections to a wide variety of companies in Europe, so I can provide support there as well.
As for why I do it, it’s because I find the company and its product highly interesting. And I’m willing to associate my own name and reputation with it, because I believe that ServiceNow is a company that offers quality – and that there’s a lot of desire for a solution like the Now Platform.
Is there a difference in mentality between the U.S. and Europe that needs to be reconciled?
I would argue that any difference is becoming increasingly smaller.
Major European companies are now all global players. The business models, the ways of thinking, and the language are highly comparable. Even if you look at it from the shareholder perspective, they’re often the same names as their American counterparts.
The language in management is also almost the same, apart from some cultural differences. The question that crops up most from a management perspective is more than often, "Why should I trust this relatively small company from California, anyway? “.
Everyone knows Microsoft, and perhaps it’ll be the same with ServiceNow in ten years – but not right now. So it's more a credibility gap that needs to be bridged, rather than a mentality gap.
This article was originally published in ComputerWoche.