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Aligning Vision and Expanding Capabilities: Adam Follmer’s ServiceNow Journey

Your Host:

Sean Dawson

Our Guest:

Adam Follmer


Join Sean Dawson as he sits down with Adam Follmer, a seasoned platform owner at a mid-sized global law firm. In this episode, Adam delves into their unique journey of implementing ServiceNow, starting with CSM before moving to ITSM. Discover the challenges and triumphs of their aggressive six-month ITSM rollout, the importance of top-down alignment, and their transition from waterfall to agile methodologies. Learn how they manage continuous change, build a culture of engagement, and set the stage for future innovations with App Engine and GRC. This episode is packed with insights for anyone navigating ServiceNow in a complex organizational environment.

Sean: Hello and welcome to the Cask Distillery Podcast once again, where we unlock the full potential of ServiceNow with expert insights and practical strategies, only here on the Cask Distillery Podcast. 

And with me today I have a very special guest: Adam Follmer. And he is a platform owner at a large firm. 

Thank you so much, Adam, for coming on and taking time with us today. We’re recording this on a Monday. I really appreciate it: coming in off of the weekend. So thank you. I would love for you to introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about the organization you work for, just to frame who you are and where you’re at.

Adam: Good morning, Sean, by the way. Happy Monday. 

I’m Adam Follmer. I’m the platform owner for a mid-level or mid-sized law firm. We’re a global firm. We have 19 offices worldwide. I’ve been with the firm for 18 years. I’ve done everything from general IT support to now being the platform manager for ServiceNow.

Sean: And how long has the organization been on ServiceNow, and what did the initial implementation look like? 

Adam: We’ve been on the platform for four years now, going on five years. We took probably a little bit of a different path where we rolled out CSM first, and then we rolled out IT. So it was a little bit of a different route than most conventional companies probably take to launch ServiceNow.

Sean: What did moving on to ITSM actually look like? And I know you did CSM. I guess that would be a good question too. What was the business case for CSM at first then ITSM? Because it’s typical that you do ITSM first and then you start expanding. What was it about CSM that really drove that?

Adam: There are a couple things actually happening there. The organization actually had a different ticketing system that we had started working on prior to owning ServiceNow. So, for the better part of a year, we built out a couple of those CSM groups on the other ticketing system. Ultimately, it did not work out, and we ended up moving to ServiceNow.

We found it easier to actually start with CSM because we had already gone through all of the exercises needed to bring a team on the platform. We’d already done all the requirements. We knew what they wanted. So it was very easy to bring that group on. And IT was still living on our “older older” ticketing system. So it just made a little more sense to get that group brought over because of the work that we had already put into that team.

Sean: Yeah, that makes sense. Talking about the whole platform, what does the ServiceNow look like now today—or the program look like today—at your organization?

Adam: We are a full enterprise shop. We obviously have CSM. We have ITSM. We just recently released a process around major incident management. That was a very big exciting thing for the IT department. We’ve got ITOM. We’ve got ITAM, including SAM Pro. We have demand management. We have a lot of things cooking in a lot of different departments. And then, in our CSM department, we probably have maybe seven or eight different groups that are leveraging that module today. So, a lot of folks: over 500 users (or fulfillers, it will say).

Sean: You’ve got quite a few groups on there. Now, looking at that whole program—with CSM, ITSM, MIM (or major incident management), ITOM, SAM P—that sounds like, over the past two years, you’ve had a lot of change and adaptation for that team. What are some of the factors that have helped you guys to start seeing more success with a platform when you’re dealing with all that change?

Adam: I’m going to go back a little bit in history because this will help paint the picture. I think there was an initial question around ITSM and what that looked like. At the time—let’s go back four years—we had a team of three people: myself, an architect, and a developer. We didn’t have any BAs. We didn’t have any admins. We rolled out ITSM in six months. It was a very aggressive timeline, and we took ITSM mostly out of the box. 

There were challenges in that alone. There were challenges in getting our business process set up. Who owned that? There were ownership challenges. The catalog items that we were bringing to the platform were very basic catalog items. And very little iteration. Folks were not really willing to see a bigger picture. What that meant was that we were doing these very large waterfall releases, were trying to attain perfection, and really just not take things in smaller bites. 

Let’s fast forward two years to the question about the past two years. What we’ve changed: We’ve really gotten top-down alignment throughout the organization. That is so incredibly critical to the success to have all of the stakeholders and all the groups marching in the same direction toward the same goal. We’ve increased our staff, surprisingly. Surprise, surprise. I have five team members on my team now. We have three developers, business analysts, admin. And then we contracted with Cask. So we have a large contingent of contract workers that are helping us work through some of these primary work streams for the organization. 

A few other factors is that part of the result of working with Cask is that we have better prioritization. We have quarterly planning sessions, and everybody is aligned with what is going to be worked on. And the timelines are defined. And we just have a better outlook of the work in front of us. 

And then another big key component over the last two years is that we have started working in Agile. We are taking smaller iterations of work. We are not holding on to an enhancement for months to try and perfect it. We take small chunks and break it up and iterate through the process. And that has helped us immensely to be able to not only feel like we are accomplishing our own goals and trying to get work done, but also being able to release things to the organization and then improve upon them in a timely manner.

Sean: That’s great. I want to dig in just a tiny bit because this is like a rabbit hole. You mentioned going from like the waterfall or traditional release type schedule or project management. Was it difficult or was it challenging to get the organization to move from that kind of a mode to agile?

Adam: I would say no. And the reason I say that is because part of this growth of the organization was bringing us to the table and finding what was important to us. Early on in our planning sessions, we would list all these things we really have to do. “We need to do CMDB” and “We need to do harder asset management.”

And then also one of those privatizations was Agile. I can remember at one of our meetings, the—I don’t know if I would call them the steering committee, but our leadership was honed in on working on CMDB first. During that meeting, I actually spoke up and said, “If we want things to be better, we should focus on Agile first.”

At the time, we were using a continual improvement module to do all of our enhancement right, which did not really lend ourselves to working in smaller chunks. We would have these big stories, and it would take months to get through the whole story. And it wasn’t broken down. It was this big thing. And each story was a big thing. When we made the move to Agile, we immediately saw improvement with our development cycles. It almost seemed easy to us. It kind of came natural, even though none of my team had used Agile before to do their work. Adopting that framework really helped us accelerate, track, prioritize, and break things down into smaller pieces.

Eventually, the IT department as a whole adopted Agile or their ways to track their work and their project work. We were kind of the first folks that brought Agile into ServiceNow. And now almost every IT group in the department uses Agile to improve their way of work. We actually have a “way of working” team that onboards that group through the journey.

Sean: Thanks for expanding on that. That’s awesome. 

You mentioned something earlier that just really struck a chord with me, honestly, as you were talking about the fact that you’ve got people who didn’t know process—or the organization didn’t know processes—when you were implementing certain things. And I find that a lot of people typically think they can turn things on and just go with it.

We call it “people process technology.” I know you’ve heard this because you work with us, but that’s so huge because you don’t just turn stuff like this on. You’ve got to think about it a little more. It’s not just a click-and-go and you’re taking tickets. But I love that side of the story.

I wanted to talk about vision, because you’ve got a lot of stuff going on here. I’m kind of curious. How have you gone about actually defining and sharing your vision within the organization as you’re bringing in these new ideas and new products? What does that look like for you?

Adam: We’re very much kind of taking what the organization is giving us, in a sense that we’re letting the organization sort of define the vision a little bit. What I mean by that is that different groups have different priorities. And we build those priorities into the mission, so to say. What I will say is, kind of touching back on what I discussed, the important part was getting involved and being engaged with the organization to be able to steer your vision—also, while trying to get the organization what they want. 

So that’s kind of where that discussion about Agile came into play. We wanted to change the way we developed. We needed to change the way we developed. So part of our vision was to find a way to improve that. By working with the organization and sitting down and discussing why it was important, we were then able to bring that into the organization’s vision.

It’s a give-and-take. But being at the table and being confident to be able to speak up and know where you want to go, but also know where the organization wants to go, it’s pretty important.

Sean: Great. So talk to us a little bit about the pace of change and how the culture impacts that from your viewpoint.

Adam: We have four or five primary workstreams going on right now. We’re moving very fast. The change within the platform is monthly, sometimes biweekly. We are doing big releases all the time. Change is hard. Change is hard. I know everybody has said that. It is true. The organization so far, the culture so far—again, with top-down alignment—has been open to that change.

Four years ago, folks saw ServiceNow as something that’s going to change your job, or it was just something that was unknown to them, and they didn’t know where we were going. But today, there’s still bumps in the road. But the importance of organizational change management and having teams engaged with the pace of change kind of softens the blow, if you will, or makes that change easier. Folks know that we are changing fast. And so far, they’re open to it.

Sean: That’s great. So you hit on something with organizational change management that’s great: always thinking about how it’s going to impact/who it’s going to impact, and getting that out early to help ease the doubts, ease the fears, and getting to change faster. I love it. 

What does platform governance look like for your organization now, today, with all the things going on there? What does that look like?

Adam: Platform governance is and always will be a work in progress. Today, that is definitely, probably an area of weakness for us. And that can be attributed to the pace/the removing. Some of that stuff’s not always the prettiest stuff to work on, but it’s incredibly important. We certainly have a set of standards that we use for our development, right?

But what I will say is that it’ll be an area of focus for us as we try to expand beyond our team developing. What that really means is one of the goals we’re looking at this year is to try and build out a citizen developer program and using App Engine. But in order to do that, you have to have some sort of governance in place. So we’re not just handing the keys to the castle over and allowing for controlled chaos. 

Platform governance is something that we are definitely going to focus on more the rest of this year to be able to allow ourselves to open up capabilities for others on the platform.

Sean: That’s great. 

So what’s next? What’s next for Adam and your organization and ServiceNow? What’s the next big thing or thought?

Adam: What isn’t next? That’s the real question here. What isn’t next? For the next six months, I think our focus is really going to be about creating a portal, onboarding more departments, looking at process binding, starting to build that citizen developer program and learning about App Engine. And then we’re also looking at governance risk and compliance. Those are some of the big things.

What happens after that is anybody’s guess. I know we have this laundry list of—you call it the “plus plus list.” That just has darn near everything under the sun that can relate to ServiceNow. We’re super excited about what the future’s going to bring and the new technologies that we’re going to be able to develop on in web form.

Sean: What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned in your ServiceNow journey?

Adam: No pun intended here, but it’s a marathon—it’s not a sprint (even though we work in sprints). The journey here is long, and it can always change. That’s kind of the beauty of the platform is that it is designed to change. As long as you know that and you’re able to adapt to that change or make change happen, then things are going to be fine.

The important thing is getting folks engaged—making sure they are part of that journey. Early on, folks were not engaged. They saw it as more work, and they didn’t really see the full potential. It was a little rough in those first two years, I will admit. We were trying to attain perfection. We were not iterating. It was hard. But once we got past that and got folks to understand that “We’re here, we’re not going anywhere, we’re going to continually change.” things have gotten easier.

Sean: Last question for you today is what’s important to you that you would like to share with others in your shoes for those that are watching or listening to this?

Adam: I’m going to keep hammering this message. Getting top-down alignment from your organization is critical. You are working with your peers. You don’t always have to be able to get folks to do what needs to be done. That’s where, again, having top-down alignment from your CIO down to your directors and your managers—everybody understanding what the goals are—is critical.

And then again, getting your stakeholders engaged in the process, making them own their process. I know that’s probably something that a lot of folks don’t do, at least acknowledge. It sounded like that was a new and interesting way to work, to have people own their process. But it’s 100% necessary. I don’t know all of my department’s processes. They have to own that. And then they can own their change.

Engagement, ownership, alignment. Those are the critical things that are going to make platform owners and your development teams’ lives easier, because they can then just focus on what they do best and not necessarily have to understand the intricacies of people’s work—just how to make it work for them.

Sean: Great. Well, Adam, that’s it for today. Thank you so much for taking time out of your Monday. As I said earlier, we really, really, really appreciate it.

Adam: No problem. It was fun.

Sean: So for those listening and watching, thank you for taking time out of your day to listen and watch what we’re producing for you. So please like and share and let us know in the comments if you would like to see anything else or what you would like to see. For now, take care. Have a good one. Bye.

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We’re with you for what comes next

You're working in a rapidly shifting environment.

Global dynamics, AI advancements, heavy competition–the only certainty is change.

We get it. And we’re here to help you harness the full potential of ServiceNow to simplify transformation.

Let's navigate the future together.

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