ServiceNow's Knowledge 16 is weeks away and we're excited to spend another brief week in Las Vegas, mingling with ServiceNow's high performing sales team, charmed clients, and hand-picked roster of speakers, all taking time from their usual grind to grind on another set of topics. 2015's Knowledge 15 theme was 'Everything as a Service' with compelling keynotes and strong messaging to encourage non-IT parts of the business to migrate their internal process to the SaaS wunderkind that is ServiceNow. Reading ServiceNow's partner enablement collateral on Helsinki and more than a few tea leaves scattered by ServiceNow's sales and account teams, I'm left thinking 2016 will be the year of 'ServiceNow-as-a-Platform' (SNaaP).

… and it's maybe a compelling story.

Following the trend of leading SaaS solutions building an initial industry presence as a fit-for-purpose solution and then exposing components of the platform to developers in order to build an application ecosystem (similar to Salesforce), ServiceNow launched their developer program last year at Knowledge15-in between releases-and has been slowly adding the success stories of clients choosing ServiceNow to replace legacy applications… a Lotus Notes replacement here, a custom HR application there. There are even stories of enterprises choosing ServiceNow as the de facto standard for application re-platforming, requiring solid justification to deviate from the standard.

The next major release of the platform, Helsinki's release is timed to roughly coincide with this year's Vegas powwow and follows ServiceNow's pattern of incremental improvement to many of the platform's application, some applications advancing more than others-and the greatest gains being in the space of improving user and implementer experience. Paling slightly in comparison to the long-awaited and substantial Geneva release, Helsinki delivers substantially in a few areas:

  • Service Portal Designer super-charges their custom portal (front-end) offering with no-code authoring features comparable to other modern web authoring platforming.
  • Native apps on Android and iPad to accompany their iPhone native app. Details are slim on how functionality will differ between the native clients, but it's probably safe to say they will be close enough on major functionality.
  • Contextual help and configuration wizards. The word is out on how much this will be impactful. How much do users really read the help documentation? And how much do configuration wizards embolden new clients to go-it-alone on initial configuration? We'll have to wait and see.

There's also the usual host of incremental improvements to many things from enhanced dashboards/widgets, a CMDB health monitor, social/chat/collaboration refinements, encryption, and much more. I have strong feelings the chat and collaboration features won't stop major enterprises from investing in the same features within their O365 footprint, and the social component (other than user-support-oriented chat) may go by way of Google+, these improvements may just make some organizations or support teams day when it comes to productivity… and major platforms would be caught without at least attempting it.

But getting back to the SNaaP story, Helsinki has improved and finer control over development user permissions, tools to improve source code control, and support for JavaScript 5. Game-changing features? No, but it's another leg of the SNaaP journey and congruent to their incremental improvements driven by customer demand. Also, the keynote and similar messaging from ServiceNow execs will attempt to provide convincing for the executives present to at least get them a seat at the table for consideration when large organizations are considering when and how to re-platform legacy applications on the cloud.

One of the most powerful aspects of ServiceNow as an ITSM/ITOM platforms is the tight integrations between the applications, CMDB, and associated tools. When you ask the platform to extend beyond it's SaaS, it will be a question of critical mass-is the platform ready and competitive to choose it over other SaaS-turned-PaaS solutions already in the environment? Will enterprises re-platform enough of their non-IT applications to reap the benefit of the single platform? Or will organizations struggle with governance and develop a series of point solutions (a la SharePoint)? Will organizations go 'all-in' on ServiceNow in an attempt to chase the same dream as Domo?

The story continues to unfold, and May 15-20 in Las Vegas will mark another year of growth, expansion, and Vegas style excitement fit for an industry leader.