University Of San Francisco Puts ServiceNow Apps To WorkServiceNow's new app builder tool helps nonprogrammer cobble together solid tracking apps for everyone from campus police to university fundraisers.
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Jim Uomini doesn't consider himself a programmer, but at the University of San Francisco he is often the one who can whip up an app quickly for use by everyone from the campus police to university fundraisers.
Uomini, who serves as USF's service level manager, has become adept at stretching the limits of ServiceNow's cloud software, which is best known as a platform for IT service management and help desk functions. This reflects a trend that ServiceNow has been encouraging with the latest release of its platform, which enhanced mobile support and introduced an app builder to turn users of the platform into all-purpose problem solvers.
"I'm not a particularly technical person," Uomini said. "My background is journalism, and I came up through the help desk world, so I'm not a coder per se." The reason he can get things done anyway is that the core features of the ServiceNow platform -- for recording a problem or request as an open issue, tracking the follow-up on that issue, and eventually marking it resolved -- can be applied to a variety of business processes beyond IT functions.
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Business processes can also be modeled in a flowchart-style visual workflow tool, providing additional opportunities for automation, Uomini said. When presented with an application challenge, "The answer is almost never 'You cannot do it'" in ServiceNow, he said. "It's good for most any app where there's information coming in, with some sort of a ticketing process where that information is looked at and scored, a service is provided, and a response is provided," he said. As a bonus, every app built in this way can take advantage of the platform's metrics tracking for reports on the quality of service provided, he said.
The ServiceNow apps are not necessarily sexy, but they're functional, and support for devices like the iPad is actually making them a bit sexier, he said.
As a result, the university program-management office now steers a significant fraction of the requests it gets for data tracking apps to Uomini. When he created an app for tracking fundraising requests for the development office, "I got it because their request for a more expensive system was turned down. They came to me because I was more or less free," he said, meaning they only needed to cover the cost of additional ServiceNow licenses. "I was kind of a Plan B."
In another instance, the campus police were trying to use a generic ServiceNow incident response app to handle tasks related to building security, but it wasn't really meeting their needs, Uomini said. "They were dealing with things like alarms and door access cards -- nothing IT-specific, but they had their own hardware, their own requests -- things like, 'I need this vendor to have door access to this building from this date to this date.'"
Uomini was able to create something more specific to their requirements. In that case and many others, the need for a better solution probably wouldn't have been met at all if he hadn't been able to provide it, he said.
In other cases, he has addressed tasks with even less related to technology, such as issuing transit passes to students or rating budget requests.
The university selected ServiceNow in 2008 as a replacement for BMC's Remedy. A case study on the ServiceNow website gives more detail on the reasons for the switch and the speed of implementation -- accomplishing what was planned as an 18-month transition in just three months.
Follow David F. Carr at @davidfcarr or Google+, along with @IWKEducation.