Knowledge 2019 was the largest conference I had attended in several years. Suffice it to say, hosting a conference of this size is a major undertaking. Moving 20,000 people from room to room, or to and from a keynote session, is quite an undertaking. Directional signage was abundant and staff members wearing visible “Ask me” t-shirts helped attendees get to their destinations.
The magnitude of the conference really hit home with me at the opening keynote, as the huge room was filled with attendees. From where I was sitting, I couldn’t completely see the stage and had to rely on the huge display screens at the front to see what was happening. A colleague remarked she was seated in an overflow room to view the keynote – she wasn’t even in the same room!
No surprise regarding ‘hot topics’
There was no surprise regarding the hot topics at the conference. With many in attendance having backgrounds in ITSM, there was lot of discussion regarding efficiency and effectiveness improvements. Automation and AI were discussed during the keynote as well as in several breakout sessions. One of the things that ServiceNow is also focused on is bringing a personalised experience to the workplace. Getting work done at work using technology should be as simple as how technology is used at home. There was a lot of emphasis on the importance of both the customer experience and the employee experience.
The view from the top
I attended the conference on a media and analyst pass, which allowed me to have one-on-one meetings with some ServiceNow product leaders. One of the most impressive sessions, however, was a 45-minute, no-questions-barred session with John Donahoe, the ServiceNow CEO. When I saw this on my itinerary, I expected Donahoe to be on a stage, surrounded by some of his direct reports; I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Donahoe was sitting at the front of a small room (there were about 50 people asking the questions), with only a handful of ServiceNow folks sitting in the back. Donahoe fielded a variety of questions, ranging from business outlook to technical direction to philanthropic efforts, and answered every question to some level of detail. Donahoe only brought in one of his direct reports to help answer one question when he wanted to share some very specific information. I was impressed.
Not your typical expo floor
Perhaps one of the most impressive aspects of the conference was the expo floor. I know what you’re thinking: “Every conference has an expo floor, so what?“
First, the expo floor was huge, which was to be expected with a conference of this size. There was representation from solution providers, tool vendors and consultancies, in locations ranging from small stands to elaborate booths featuring meeting or presentation areas. But the vendor area only represented half the expo floor, as the other half was dedicated to ServiceNow customers and prospects. There were booths for exhibiting and demonstrating specific products or solutions, areas for customers to collaborate and develop new applications based on the ServiceNow platform, areas for knowledge-sharing and customer-to-customer discussions, and a “creator con”area in which teams could compete for developing the best solution to a specific use case. This area provided opportunities for attendees to have a personalised experience and have specific questions answered.