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I was in Las Vegas yesterday attending the annual user conference of a business software company called ServiceNow. It’s a $30-billion-plus market value company you wouldn’t have heard of if you don’t work in the guts of your company’s IT department. But credit ServiceNow—which started by automating “tickets” that route internal tasks—for capturing commercial value from mundane jobs others hadn’t monetized.
A few takeaways:
* ServiceNow’s (now) CEO for one year is John Donahoe, the former CEO of eBay (ebay). In his keynote he noted that tech at work, compared with consumer technology, is pretty bad. “No one would call it simple, easy to use, or intuitive,” he says, implying that ServiceNow aims to change that.
* At its annual update for Wall Street analysts, ServiceNow says it aspires to having as much as $15 billion in revenue in a few years, up from just under $2 billion last year.
* Talking to chief information officers at the event, I heard repeatedly that many are giving human names to the “bots” running various tasks on their information systems in the hopes the anthropomorphizing will allay human fears. Example: Magellan Health’s (mgln) employee portal is called Vern, which stands for “virtual employee resource network.” It comes complete with a goofy-looking human-like animated presence.
* Tech leaders have begun thinking of the needs of their machines in the same way they think about their employees. “Accenture has tens of thousands of non-human workers,” says Andrew Wilson, the firm’s chief information officer. That’s interesting, if a little scary.
The “future of work” is one of the abiding new buzz phrases of our age. Consider these topics a small window on what that future will look like.