Episode #27: Low-Code Partner Series – ServiceNow 

Kevin Long: Broadcasting from Fairfax, Virginia. You are now tuned in to The Highlight Cast with your hosts Adam McNair and Kevin Long.

Adam McNair: Hello everybody, welcome to another episode of The Highlight Cast. This is Adam McNair. Thanks for joining us again. We are joined as always by Kevin Long. Kevin, how are you today? 

Kevin Long: I’m doing great. How about you, Adam? 

Adam McNair: Great. We are also joined by a couple of special guests. We are joined by Kevin Milner, who is one of our architects and part of several of our programs, and also Sarah Dryer, who is on one of our programs currently and has worked with us for quite a while. And we wanted to talk today specifically, and the reason that, uh, that Kevin and Sarah here, we wanted to talk specifically about ServiceNow. So, The recent podcast that we’ve been doing we have been talking about some of our vendor partnerships and again the vendor partnerships are really a way for highlight to deliver elevated services support of a technical environment that includes better utilization of a platform that has been purchased by a customer organization. So, That means different things for all the different platforms. That could be better access to training, better access to certified staff, etc. Now, we are a certified ServiceNow partner, and we’ve been increasingly using ServiceNow on some of our programs. Now, Kevin Long, uh, when, when you look at ServiceNow in customer spaces, what are you seeing You know, service now as a what capabilities is that giving to a customer organization?

Kevin Long: A lot of times you’re seeing things, you know, historically help desk management, IT infrastructure and things like that. But even more and more, we’re getting to see things where as a platform, we’re being able to implement Customer workflows, be able to asset tracking and things like that and help provide a lot more business intelligence into how customers are operating both financially and technologically.

Adam McNair: Now, I’ve been involved with various ITSM type tools. I think the baseline of that is. Pretty much just a ticketing system and the automation that you can build on top of it. And we’ve certainly seen this in service now is that we talked in a previous podcast about process automation. And one of the things that that we’ve seen is that. A lot of your standard requests, certainly service requests, uh, sometimes incidents for things like requesting an account or requesting a password reset, there are things that are relatively typical that follow a standard request. Pretty standard workflow. Now there, like I’ve done a lot of service desk work, there are things that have to go through a troubleshooting process, there are things that have to go through a little bit more nebulous approval process, because you have to decide if a person gets something, or do some sort of cost analysis, or, uh, so forth.

However, I do think that we see a lot of automation and, uh, That ultimately increases the customer experience and ServiceNow has has supported that a lot. Now, Sarah, I know that you’ve been working on our one of our army programs and understand that, you know, you’ve been instrumental in our expanded utilization of ServiceNow in the environment. Could you? Talk a little bit about what the use case is there and how we’re using it. 

Sarah Dryer: , so right now we are using ServiceNow for a centralized location for the Army and especially for ECMA to be able to manage all their licenses and licenses as far as in IT licenses or asset management licenses. So you have the JIRAs and confluences and the Calibras and things of that nature. Right now, all of that information that they have to track it, performance dates, pricing, just in general, is just on spreadsheets. So, the spreadsheet lives in every location you can think of, and there’s not a centralized location. Well, in ServiceNow, we are building that. We are building the ability for ECMA to be able to manage their license, be able to make sure that the customer doesn’t have a license, That’s the lapse in licenses, but also be able to manage the projects and then the budget that are associated with those licenses.

Adam McNair: So license management is a common issue. I mean, I think every organization has some aspect of, of license management, unless they’ve completely outsourced it to a different group, they face that challenge at, at some level. So is this replacing just a massive amount of manual labor? To track sort by email. Is that really kind of what ServiceNow is is replacing? 

Sarah Dryer: Correct. It’s replacing the lack of ability to be transparent and what they have in their environment. It also then can then expand from this very tight knit unit and be able to expand to the Army as a whole. So the purpose of what we are doing is be able to solve small of license tracking and license management and requests and then be able to expand to Army wide.

Adam McNair: So that makes a lot of sense. And so I guess the next thing that that makes me wonder is, and this is a question for Kevin Milner, somebody told me one time as I was, you know, talking to them about some platform or tool that the salespeople had told me that it was, you know, self explanatory. And. The guy that I worked with said something along the lines of everybody that’s really good at something thinks it’s self explanatory. It’s when you pick it up and don’t know what you’re doing that all of a sudden you find out it’s really confusing and difficult. So I’ve been through a lot of demos for a lot of platforms. I’ve I’ve been through a lot of. Low code. This is just configuration. I’ve I’ve been through. Hey, this is something that you’re going to have to write a massive amount of custom code behind to get it to do what you need as a architect individual and a developer from the technology side of it, where does ServiceNow fall on that continuum from every time something needs to change, it’s call Milner and have him write code in the back, or it’s pretty much click a button and something changes?

Kevin Milner: Yeah, ServiceNow, it builds itself as low code, meaning that out of the box, it will do a lot of things. If you have some specific requirements, though, for your organization. For instance, at ServiceNow, I mean, at ECMA, we have a couple of layers of approval we have to go through. So we have to automate. The way that approval communicates back and forth between ServiceNow and the person requesting it and going into ServiceNow and then it going to, to the approvers. So we were able to actually do quite a bit of low code, meaning you write like a handful of lines of code, maybe for the most part, it does everything that you really need it to do sort of out of the box and you just customize it rather than. Implement something new. Now, there is a lot that you can customize with ServiceNow, and so that can be somewhat overwhelming if you sort of dive in expecting to Have it do what you want with without working with it. Some so it does. It does require a bit of a learning curve, but in theory, once you get past that learning curve, you can do 99 percent of what you need to do without writing code.

Adam McNair: And so is it safe to assume that the code writing is really for. Integration with other data feeds that are maybe don’t have a ServiceNow API or highly customized reporting or interface changes, are those kind of the categories of things or, you know, so you basically, if you want to, if you want to track some things and have user permissions and access and those types of kind of fundamental services, that’s a front end configuration as opposed to back end. Is that kind of how it works? Yes. 

Kevin Milner: Yeah, so for instance, I’ll give you an example of both cases in terms of low code. We were for for that approval process. I mentioned earlier, we were able to get an existing module that somebody has developed and sells through the service now store that can handle a lot of the PDF signing and uploading and tracking. And versioning that sort of thing for another project, where we wanted to be able to get license counts from a specific administrative console for an application. We were able to write some custom code in JavaScript. And it gets ran by the internal JavaScript processor and executed and we did that to actually reach out to another web page using HTML, pull it back and then look for the specific data point. We were interested in and output that. Yes, to answer your question. 

Adam McNair: Okay, and so, and what I’m also hearing is that, for lack of a better term, you’ve got essentially an app store, uh, you know, and I know we’ve seen that, we’ve seen that with Salesforce, we have seen that with some other tools, that it is probably highly likely that the problem that you’re trying to solve has been solved at least in part by someone else, and there is a Notional, call it a plug in, call it a widget, call it something that you buy and add on to your ServiceNow instance. And ServiceNow 

Kevin Milner: uses both of those terms interchangeably for it. Okay. Module, widget. 

Adam McNair: Alright, so if we wanted a license capacity module that would give us a dashboard widget that would tell us where we were with licensing, and in the event that that was something that was in the store, now that may be a native capability, but if that was something that was in the store, is that a As long as you have administrator access to the ServiceNow instance, you, you can install that when you install that. Is that installing it for like your instance and everybody that uses it now has it? Or is it just installing it for you? Or is it? Does that get that into kind of the user permissions and user groups? 

Kevin Milner: Yeah, I think that has more to do with the license of a given module. I know that for UXStorm, the particular instance we were looking at, or module we were looking at, it was per instance. But other, other ones like the built in ServiceNow HR module is per person that you have in there. So ServiceNow makes it available to set the, the licensing structure to how you want on your, your modules. So, so it really just depends on what the author is doing. 

Adam McNair: Okay. And I guess my kind of last question on that angle of ServiceNow is from an implementation timeline. When you’re starting from notionally zero, let’s just say that they’re not using ServiceNow. Again, I know everything’s always constrained by requirements and how much you know about what you actually need, and if you’re trying to just do a pilot or do a full enterprise stand up. But if you wanted to do, let’s call it a pilot, let’s say that you wanted to stand it up and something around, you know, just like license management, you wanted to stand a tool like this up. Is this days, weeks, months? What’s that look like? 

Kevin Milner: So, I would say, depending on on your skill level, and your experience with ServiceNow, could be anywhere from a handful of weeks to two months. And it depends on how much customization is required. For instance, say, When I worked at another organization, and I don’t know if I should say the name or not, they purchased ServiceNow to set up and initially went in with the assumption that we were going to customize everything. And if you do that, sure, you can do it, but that will really. Slow down your, your deployment. So really it service now almost takes the approach that you do the minimal amount of customization to get what you need so that you can get going quickly and have a usable, minimal, viable product and then put in all the bells and feet and whistles that you’re custom implementing later.

Kevin Long: future proof it also at that point. 

Kevin Milner: Yeah, yeah, yeah. 

Adam McNair: Yes, and I think that’s consistent. You know, a lot of these platforms, and I, I correlate a lot of it. I think one of the first ones that was just so commonly available, SharePoint was everywhere. Oh, yeah. Because enterprises got it for free, essentially. And so it was an easy answer when it was, I need a solution for something. It was, well, can SharePoint do it? And You can dig a hole with a hammer, but I wouldn’t recommend it. And so, yeah, yeah, it’s good, Sarah. 

Sarah Dryer: And I was going to say service now as, as based off of that too, their users with licenses is incredible. If you come in and you request something, that’s not a license that you had to pay for. So you can do. Up team amount of requests to a landing page. Things of that nature. The only thing you really have to pay for us a filler. So if you go in and tweak something in the background and you fulfill a ticket or you do a service agent, all of that is cost. But the actual modules when you download them, that is a cost, but all the plugins that come along with it that’s associated with the module. So when we do the ITS and management, the pro type or the enterprise edition, all of that is included. So it’s really cost efficient. To when you think about it because it’s it’s a foundation and you bring in an instance and then you buy the sandbox and then you come in and you and you’re able to get the test prez and prod and all that is included and then you can negotiate pricing things of any nature. So the structure of it as a whole. Whole is amazing. And then the after effect to upkeep it is also cost efficient too. So one of the concerns that we had was we have a million requests. What is that going to cost? That doesn’t cost anything to come in and to request license. Only thing that costs is fulfillment. So ServiceNow actually thought about that. And now ServiceNow also thought about sandboxes. What does that look like? So you can go in there and you can develop in your sandbox. And it’s like the wild, wild west. And the great thing about that is, is that you only incur cost if it’s associated to a production, if it’s associated, but if you want to do training, there’s. Up team amounts of just free trains. You can go through just recently. They had a whole free training of the fundamentals. And so they take you through when they look at everything and service now is fantastic about having just cost efficient things for the outside environments. You just come in and look at it. So people think, sorry. 

Adam McNair: Yeah, that sounds like a, you know, a very good point. I think also that if you look at it from an enterprise standpoint, what I’m hearing is that, and this certainly been an issue with other tools that we’ve looked at in the past is your enterprise licensing cost is going to be related to the number of people that are really using it as a tool to provide guide. The underlying support, but the, the customers of the system, so to speak, that those licenses are free, that you’ve got a robust and what sounds like free training capacity and the ability to have included in your licensing a sandbox or test instance so that you can, uh, If you are starting from the idea that you’re going to do a limited scope pilot that you’re going to come up with something as a minimum viable configuration, and then use that to drive further requirements, because I think one of the things that we’ve talked about here before and elsewhere is that, you know, the technology is rarely the problem anymore. And so I think the challenges that you’ve run into in an implementation like this is that. You may not know who approved something in your organization. You might not have really defined when, when is something automatically approved or when is it discussed or who discusses it or who approves it. I mean, I’ve worked a lot of places, both customer organizations and internally, where the decision to provide somebody, for example, with a really high end desktop machine, you know, a really high end desktop machine. Was kind of this ad hoc decision, the decision as to whether or not somebody got developer access, kind of power user access to different tools and administrative access to the box that they worked on was kind of an ad hoc discussion about, well, why do they really need it? And those kinds of things are very, very difficult to map out as a business process. And they are. infinitely difficult to track or forecast, because if you don’t have any kind of criteria for why you make a decision, deciding how many of those decisions you’re going to make next year is nearly impossible. So one of the benefits of the incremental, you know, evolution of a, of a, of a rollout like this is when you come across those business questions, when you come across the, the bits of governance that you have not authored yet, the system, when you get ready to Do your next little piece of it. That next little rollout might ask a half a dozen questions that you have some time to answer. Whereas if you tried to scope an architect and enterprise wide rollout, there are going to be questions spawned by questions that you’re not even going to know who to go to to answer. And so it’s a much more manageable business activity if you take that. And it’s also helpful to know that the sandbox and training. So, so both you can be, you can be learning about the potential. You can be socializing that with the customer organization. You can be having conversations about what other capabilities there are and then using the. Quote unquote free development environments to come up with the next versions of that and then use that to drive the conversation about how one gets things approved. And if the customer is OK from a governance perspective, that makes a lot of sense. I think that’s kind of the to me. That’s what I take is the summary value of this is that it’s easy enough to get some value out of almost immediately, and it will help you organize data and organize workflows. And streamline or get visibility onto your customer support, and then you can iterate that maturity from there. So, in summary, ServiceNow is continuing to grow market share in the federal government. We’re excited to be a ServiceNow partner. You know, we talked a little bit today about one of the use cases where we have been using ServiceNow. There are others. We’ve used it on several other programs. And ranging from there’s no system in place and so we having something to track user interactions or licensing is helpful up to we think there’s something there but we really need more maturity and better visibility and chargeback of licenses and some of those kinds of things. We’ve had a lot of really good success with with ServiceNow and so I just wanted to thank everybody for listening to the HighlightCast today. You can keep up to date with Highlight News on our website HighlightCast. You can also follow us on our LinkedIn page. Thanks again to, uh, to, as always, uh, Kevin Long, but also to Kevin Milner and Sarah Dryer for joining us. Tune in to our next episode. We are going to be talking about emerging technology. And thanks again for listening to The Highlight Cast.

The views and opinions expressed in this episode are those of the hosts and do not necessarily reflect Highlight Technologies and or any agency of the U. S. government.

Highlight Appoints Elma Levy, Paul P. Peou, and Nancy Peters as Board Members, CEO Rebecca Andino Quoted

On January 3, 2023, Highlight Technologies, Inc., announced it has appointed three GovCon industry leaders to its Board of Directors and has named Highlight’s current CEO Rebecca Andino as Chairperson of the Board. The incoming Board members are Elma Levy, co-founder and former CEO of Dovel Technologies Group (acquired by Guidehouse), Paul P. Peou, Managing Director at the McLean Group, and Nancy Peters, formerly of CACI and a 30-year GovCon industry veteran. The new Board will guide and oversee Highlight’s next phase of growth and maturity as a 100% Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP)-owned company.

Elma Levy

Elma Levy co-founded Dovel Technologies Group and grew it from a start-up to an exit to private equity as a $200M+ enterprise. She served multiple roles at Dovel, including Chief Executive Officer and Chair of the Board. She is the co-founder and principal of the Eldov Group, LLC, a boutique investment firm in the Washington, D.C., area that supports IT/healthcare solution startups. She is also the founder Coach to Strength LLC, a leadership coaching firm. Along with her husband, Dov Levy, she co-authored Partners in Life and Work, which chronicles her business journey and partnership. In addition to serving on several corporate Advisory Boards, she is a current Member and past Chair of the Board of Directors of Montgomery Hospice and Prince George’s Hospice, the largest non-profit hospice in Montgomery County, Maryland.

Paul P. Peou

Paul P. Peou is a Managing Director at the McLean Group, LLC, and has over 20 years of experience in mergers, acquisition, capital financing and growth strategies with over $1B in completed transactions. For over 10 years, he has been engaged in the government services sector serving large and growth stage companies graduating into full and open competition. Among clients’ end customers are state and local, federal civilian, defense and intelligence agencies. Notable deals he has led or supported include Dovel Technologies’ acquisition by Macquarie Capital, Customer Value Partners’ acquisition of Atlas Research, and was a director for TASC’s M&A efforts. Mr. Peou’s previous experience includes securing funding for established and emerging telecommunications companies, and he currently serves on the advisory boards of two health informatics startups.

Nancy Peters

Nancy Peters has over 30 years of experience as a GovCon business development executive in large organizations, recently serving as a Vice President for Business Development at CACI. She led and influenced diverse, cross-functional teams, resulting in over $1B in gross bookings over the past 20 years, including GWACS, IDIQs, and Task Orders on ALLIANT, DHS EAGLE, and TABSS. Ms. Peters developed strategic plans and marketing initiatives that resulted in expanded services and solutions to new markets and new customers in the federal civilian space. As manager for CACI’s Small Business Office, she leveraged and expanded CACI’s small business relationships to provide a maximum competitive advantage, resulting in four DoD Nunn Perry awards for Mentor Protégé Excellence. Ms. Peters currently serves as a Board Member of the Baltimore Metropolitan Women’s Business Center.

“Highlight is immensely fortunate to have a board of this caliber. Nancy, Paul, and Elma bring significant GovCon industry experience from their successful careers, deep expertise in their respective areas, and the desire to help Highlight meet our goals for growth and performance as a mid-tier firm,” said Highlight CEO and Chairperson of the Board Rebecca Andino. “On behalf of Highlight and our employee owners, I am grateful for their commitment to join Highlight as Board Members and look forward to working with them as a Board.”

About Highlight
Highlight Technologies (“Highlight”) is an award-winning, employee-owned, ISO® 9001, ISO® 20000, ISO® 27001, ISO® 44001, ISO® 56000 certified, CMMI-DEV Level 3, and CMMI-SVC Level 3 appraised federal contractor that provides Digital Government and Mission Support services across the federal government. Highlight delivers federal loan services, grants management, strategic communications, international development, conference and event support, program management, administrative support, agile systems development, DevSecOps, data management and analytics, cloud services, web services and automation services to National Security and Intelligence (DHS, DoD, State, DOJ, IC), Health IT (USAID, NIH, HRSA), and Citizen Services (FCC, EPA, GSA, HHS, SBA, Education) agencies. For more information, visit www.highlighttech.com.