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Scaling up in Asia

ServiceNow Leadership team driving aggressive expansion plan across Asia Pacific and Japan 

During the run up to the ServiceNow IPO in the summer of 2012, discussion focused on the company's plan for aggressive expansion across the Asia Pacific and Japan markets (APJ). This piqued the interest of Jimmy Fitzgerald, who joined ServiceNow in 2011 as Global Vice President of Professional Services. Jimmy had previously spent five years in Asia working for major players like Siebel Systems and ServiceNow's APJ expansion represented a fantastic new challenge.

He didn't have to wait long to put his ideas into practice. Early in 2013, he was offered the role of Vice President for APJ and relocated back to Singapore. 

Jimmy has certainly made the most of the opportunity. In the past three years, ServiceNow's revenues from the APJ market have increased nearly seven fold. This performance contributed to ServiceNow breaking the US$1-billion-dollar barrier - and it is only the second SaaS-based technology firm to accomplish the feat.

We caught up with Jimmy for the inaugural edition of the #HNTECH Asia Newsletter, to discuss what others can learn from how ServiceNow approached the APJ market, how to rapidly scale a business, and identify the qualities to look for in new hires. 

Q: Let's start at the beginning. What was the ServiceNow go-to-market strategy?

Jimmy Fitzgerald: "Like many global technology companies, ServiceNow entered the region through the ANZ market, which provided a strong foundation from which to expand into other regional geographies. 

Looking at parameters, such as cloud maturity and concentration of Forbes Global 2000 companies, the initial markets we expanded into were Singapore, Hong Kong, and Japan, which we knew would be a long-term commitment. At the same time, ServiceNow went from two offices in Australia to six, across Australia and New Zealand. 

During this period of extreme growth, it was critical to ensure the teams stayed focused, so we assigned new account executives smaller than usual territories so they could execute very focused sales strategies. We also knew that partners would be critical to our success, so we invested a great deal of time in building relationships with Global Systems Integrators, Service Providers, and Local Solution partners." 

Q: How do you build a leadership team that can scale?

JF: "We were confident that the ServiceNow solution would be successful in the region and that APJ - with more G2K companies than either North America or EMEA- represented a significant opportunity.

Accordingly, when it came to hiring leaders we looked for a number of qualities. Of course, they had to have the relevant experience. But we also wanted candidates who were motivated to grow a longer term business for ServiceNow in APJ, and had the entrepreneurial skills and/or desire to make it happen.  

Within six months of starting the APJ business, we had senior leaders in place for all critical functions, primarily located in either Singapore or Sydney to ensure high levels of alignment and collaboration. It has worked well, with the team delivering outstanding results over the last few years, as well as building a plan for the next few years in line with the company's global 2020 plan."

Q: What is your secret to attracting and enabling A-players? 

JF: "It's no secret. In fact, you can get a very good idea of the best way to bring in and empower the brightest and best talent in the book "WHO" by Geoff Smart and Randy Street, which we made required reading for anyone joining the executive team.

One of the best decisions we made was to hire a Senior Enablement Executive. As one of our earliest hires, they ensured there was a programmatic approach to on-boarding new employees, but that responsibility remained with the hiring manager. 

Over the past three years, ServiceNow has grown the number of employees in APJ from around 25 to over 440 people, including some global functions such as support and R&D. Hiring at this scale always presents challenges, so the leadership team invests time and resources in staying aligned with recruitment needs and not compromising on hiring standards. 

Each manager has quarterly hiring targets, making it a critical part of their role. It's become part of our performance culture, which we review very carefully every quarter and calibrate as needed to meet current and anticipated requirements."

Q: What's your blueprint for success?

JF: "It's not a blueprint, more of a book! Given the scale of the build-out, the APJ leadership team recognized it was important to have an operational model in place - we call it the "Success Playbook" - to clarify our critical success factors and define the best way to measure them.

These five critical success factors are Customer Interest, Sales Engagement, Customer Success, Financial Success and Employee Engagement. Each success factors has three metrics that are continually measured against the ServiceNow scale of 'Insanely Great' behaviours.

This approach has helped to keep all functions and the whole region fully aligned, speaking a common language and understanding how the business can scale to meet its 2020 goals."


Lessons learnt from ServiceNow:

  • To scale up your business, adopt a systematic process from day one
  • In addition to seeking candidates with relevant experience for specific roles, hire people with the following qualities:
    • Long term focus
    • Entrepreneurial drive
    • Resilience
  • Never comprise on hiring standards
  • Invest time and resources in your employee on-boarding process 

For more information:


#HNTECH ASIA is a quarterly newsletter that provides a roundup of recent technology news, insights from tech leaders and the latest talent trends. 

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