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The latest in ServiceNow's twice-yearly stream of updates has arrived, with a particular focus on making it easier for customers to develop their own applications on the platform.

As previously reported, the ServiceNow service automation platform is being used to help manage a variety of processes, not all of them directly involved with IT operations.

The latest release of ServiceNow features new tooling including a service creator for non-technical users and drag-and-drop forms designer (illustrated above) to simplify the creation of custom applications, ANZ managing director David Oakley told iTWire.

"You can build applications in a matter of hours without touching a line of code," he said. A 'hackathon' event at ServiceNow's recent Knowledge 14 user conference saw people create "quite incredible" applications in a couple of hours.

The idea is to put as much control as possible into the hands of business analysts rather than IT staff, but Mr Oakley stressed that ServiceNow's philosophy is to sell its service through IT departments, not around them. The company does not want to encourage 'shadow IT,' he said.

Custom applications are becoming increasingly popular: "we've seen a lot more of that" and a majority of customers are creating them, he said, giving the example of a major Australian bank that used ServiceNow to build an application to automate the merchant acquisition process.

Among the other changes he highlighted were new facilities service automation and demand management applications, plus a refined and updated user interface.

The facilities service application generalises the product's underlying IT paradigm to include concepts such as maps, asset tags and incidents, Mr Oakley said, adding that a local company had expressed interest in using this application to manage its gaming (as in gambling) floor.

The demand management application is for consolidating requests from the business to the IT department is about categorising, prioritising and visualising. "Visualisation in general has been a big theme in this release," he said (illustrated below).

ServiceNow Visualisation

Mr Oakley pointed out that ServiceNow has been investing in operational issues as well as the software itself. The company's Sydney and Brisbane data centres have seen $50 million of capital expenditure in the last two years, and ServiceNow boasts "the highest service levels in the industry" with 99.92% uptime including planned outages.

This is better that Salesforce.com's approximately 97%, he claimed, and better than Amazon, Concur and other well-known SaaS providers manage.

It seems the message is getting through: the last few months have been "a record period" locally in terms of signing up the most and highest-profile customers, he added.

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Stephen Withers

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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences, a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies, and is a senior member of the Australian Computer Society.

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