Automation, connection, and scalability enable ServiceNow’s growth

Cutting data consolidation from 10 hours to 10 minutes with Anaplan empowered ServiceNow’s finance team to understand and improve performance drivers

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To meet ambitious growth goals, ServiceNow constantly seeks ways to automate and scale business processes. Purchase order reconciliation in marketing required 10 hours of data consolidation weekly before work could begin. Using Anaplan, they reduced the task to 10 minutes. Automation with Anaplan eliminated the risk of data-entry errors and freed up time for financial analysts to dig into data, understand the business drivers, and devise strategies to support efficiency and growth.

With Anaplan, ServiceNow achieves growth at scale through the power of automation and standardization.

Sean Dahlin, Finance Solutions Architect

ServiceNow has set an ambitious goal to grow its revenue from $5.5 billion to $15+ billion over five years. The digital workflow company’s dramatic growth will require more than simply increasing sales; it will mean transforming how business gets done, notes Strategic Finance Director Sandy Swanson. “It’s about getting into that new world where we can be more advanced as a financial organization,” she explains. “We need to be able to change in order to scale and grow as a company.”

Daily struggles to connect the dots

Routine tasks that consume time but add little strategic value – such as processing purchase orders – can be a roadblock to transformation. That was the situation faced by the finance team that supports ServiceNow’s marketing organization, which generates 60% of the company’s POs. “It would take weeks of time for them to take thousands and thousands of POs and try to connect the dots of what was in accrual, how much has been paid against it, and what our forecast should be,” Swanson recalls.

Part of the challenge was that the data required to process the POs resided in multiple systems. Combining that data manually took hours of valuable time and introduced the risk of mistakes. “As their manager, I saw the struggles that they had every single day,” Swanson says of her team. “And I knew that Anaplan could fix that for them.”

Automation enables in-depth analysis

Finance Solutions Architect Sean Dahlin was tasked with automating the manual data-consolidation process. “I essentially built a process that took a pipeline from our data warehouse to Anaplan, business logic encoded,” he recalls. “It made a 10-hour process of consolidating this data each week into a 10-minute process.”

The automated process eliminates the risk of data-entry errors and frees finance personnel to explore how the numbers can be improved. “They now have the ability to understand the drivers of what’s going on in the business and how they can influence it going forward,” Dahlin says.

Seeing the bigger picture

“With Anaplan, ServiceNow achieves growth at scale through the power of automation and standardization,” Dahlin explains. “It allows disparate business units to come together and holistically create a path and a plan for the company to grow.”

Purchase order processing is just one example of how ServiceNow is transforming its business using Anaplan. A model for program spend, which will give leadership visibility into the cost of strategic initiatives and enable ServiceNow to build program spend into both long-range and annual operating plans, is a high priority. Other groups in the company are modeling and planning sales territories and quotas; forecasting and reporting headcount needs; and much more. Hwa Tsao, Vice President of Strategic Finance and Head of FP&A, has seen dramatic improvements in the forecast cycle. “We can run monthly cadences and scenarios now,” he says. “We can run ‘what-ifs’ at a corporate level with Anaplan, and we have more confidence in the fidelity of the calculations. With our old tool, we couldn’t do any of that.“

“What we’re trying to accomplish with Anaplan is really Connected Planning,” Swanson explains, noting that artificial intelligence and machine learning are now at their disposal with the Anaplan platform. “We want to be able to do all of our forecasting and planning in one tool.” In this new paradigm, the finance team at ServiceNow is elevated to a critical role in making the company’s growth goals a reality.