The COVID crisis brought to the fore the need for greater agility in federal systems. While many agencies were able to support a rapid shift to remote work, others stumbled in their efforts to shift on the fly. Governance and security, scalability and manageability – all suffered, at times, as the government moved to adjust its workflows.
“Did you get the right assets to the right person in a reasonable amount of time, and was it done within the compliance framework?” said Jack Nichols, CDW-G’s CTO for Federal-Civilian. “In many cases, people were able to work from home, but it wasn’t done in accordance with the security posture of the agency.”
How to make government more efficient and responsive? Many agencies have turned to the workflow optimization platform ServiceNow. By expanding their ServiceNow implementations, they could potentially drive further-reaching improvements in efficiency and agility.
What it does
ServiceNow delivers cross-enterprise digital workflows that connect people, functions and systems in order to accelerate innovation and enhance productivity. It enables federal agencies to create a modern, compelling IT service experience.
In the midst of the pandemic, for example, agencies had to deploy thousands of laptops for remote work. ServiceNow’s asset management capabilities help to streamline that effort.
“Agencies had to make sure that the configurations and the images on those laptops were going to be set up so people could tunnel and VPN, and the security was going to be there,” said John Manna, a CDW-G senior manager on the ServiceNow team. “ServiceNow enabled them to manage that process so that it was standardized, and so that it also minimized risk.”
In terms of IT Service Management, or ITSM, ServiceNow ensures coherent and consistent workflows in support of effective IT service engagements. “It’s all about minimizing outages and reducing impact on users, keeping the teams productive,” Manna said.
“With workflow automation, you can improve how work moves through the organization. That means, for example, that federal employees can request a new laptop, and we're actually getting it imaged and spun up and shipped out to them with very few touch points. Everything happens faster and more smoothly,” he said.
With support for IT services, “people can come to a ServiceNow portal and either ask for help or search the knowledge base to help themselves,” Manna said. “And once a request is logged, the workflows behind it will automatically move that work to the right people.”
Operations management, likewise, can benefit from enhanced and automated workflows. In the effort to ensure the health of the IT backbone, ServiceNow’s support for the configuration management database, or CMDB, plays a central role.
Robust CMDB support helps to automate fixes, with network monitoring to support IT in its effort to shift from a reactive to a proactive posture.
“ServiceNow helps ensure an agency has an intelligent and accurate CMDB. That means we're going to have an asset repository that's reliable and also automatically updated. The laptops, the servers, the infrastructure items: They're all in a single repository that we can trust,” Manna said.
This, in turn, supports key functionality such as event management and network monitoring. “ServiceNow can aggregate information coming from network monitoring tools and make sense of it via event management,” Manna said. “With that, IT can figure out the underlying root cause of a problem. They'll also know what services are being threatened by a potential event on the network.”
ServiceNow also delivers a change management capability, which is key to ensuring smooth operations. “If we're going to bring servers up or down on the weekend, if we're going to upgrade or move a data center, the IT service management tools handle that workflow,” Manna said.
Taken together, “all these capabilities actually make things work faster, better, cheaper,” said Sheryl McCurnin, senior manager of federal programs at CDW-G.
One of the most common stumbling blocks to federal responsiveness is the acquisitions process. When agencies needed to deploy thousands of devices during the pandemic, for example, many found their efforts stymied by the complex processes required to configure and purchase those devices.
Automated workflows help to resolve this common sticking point. With critical definitions and configurations established within the ServiceNow platform, “all the pre-work is already done,” McCurnin said.
“Buying the equipment is part of that workflow: Here's everything that is needed, it's already predetermined and it automatically gets over to the contracting officer's hands so that they can basically push a button and just buy it,” he said.
For federal agencies looking to expand their existing ServiceNow implementations, CDW-G has a GSA schedule in place to support those efforts. “We can help to buyers to acquire the services and the products that they need to actually implement the ServiceNow capabilities and solutions,” McCurnin said.
“Through the use of our GSA schedule, we have not only the ability to provide the assets, but also the services to make this integration and these efficiencies happen,” Nichols said. “This is all about getting the right device to the person ready to use in compliance with the agency security posture, and doing that in the shortest amount of time.”
CDW-G enables agencies to secure needed software and services from a single trusted source. “We have the contract vehicle to not only purchase these assets, but to do it in the most efficient manner,” Nichols said. “For the agencies, you're saving them time, money, and effort.”
While many agencies have partial ServiceNow implementations in place, few have taken full advantage of the automation and workflow-improvement tools available through the platform.
“For most organizations ServiceNow is a 10-year journey,” Manna said. “They are constantly building more, turning on new tools every six months, adding more automation and more functionality. As an enterprise workload platform, ServiceNow just grows within the organization.”
Agencies looking to get more out of ServiceNow can take steps today to pivot toward an expanded implementation.
“They should have a roadmap that includes people, processes and technology, and we can help them with all three,” Manna said. “We can help create a plan for how they're going to expand utilization of ServiceNow every 12, 18, or 24 months. We also offer process alignment workshops and IT best practices.”
When an organization wants to do more with ServiceNow, CDW-G can help to realize that vision. In doing so, agencies can mature their use of the ServiceNow platform while also maturing their IT processes overall. This, in turn, leads to greater flexibility and enhanced efficiencies across complex and ever-changing government workflows.