ServiceNow Finally Goes Public: Which Way Now?

It’s been a long time coming; I’ve been having conversations around ServiceNow’s IPO or their acquisition by another vendor for as long as I have been an IT analyst (and that’s late 2008). Last night its initial public offering price was set at $18 (above the previously expected $15-17 range – yes, even after what happened to Facebook) and I assume trading will have commenced by the time you are reading this blog.

But I’m not a market analyst, I’m an IT industry analyst … so bar there being a major hiccup with the valuation post-trading the real meat for me is what it all means for ServiceNow, its customers, and the IT service management tool market. And let’s not forget other software markets that it no doubt has its eyes set on. Build a platform and then exploit it – why not?

So let’s get you up to speed with ServiceNow

ServiceNow was started by Fred Luddy, the ex-CTO of Peregrine Sytems, in 2004 with the intention of making a better IT service management (ITSM) tool: "The IT industry deserves a tool that just works. We're going to give it to them." So much has happened since then: rapid growth in customer numbers and revenues (and market share), in employee numbers, and in the solution’s capabilities. In capability terms, today’s offering is a radically different beast to the initial offering – SaaS (or more specifically its PaaS) has allowed ServiceNow to grow the offering at a spectacular pace.

Where is ServiceNow now? Some quick facts and opinions

Without boring you with a ten page overview of the current ITSM tool market and ServiceNow’s capabilities, ServiceNow sits with the two previous heavyweights of the ITSM tool space (BMC and HP). BUT ServiceNow is more than just a SaaS ITSM tool:

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Dark Clouds On The Tech Horizon Redux: Europe Drops, China And India Slow, US And Canada Limp Along

Haven't we seen this show before?  Like last year?  Once again, Europe wrestles with and is again losing against its debt crisis.  Once again, after some promising growth in late 2011, the US economy is showing signs of losing steam.  Once again, China and India are flashing distress signals.  And once again, John Boehner and the Congressional Republicans are threatening to refuse to raise the US debt ceiling unless US Federal spending is cut sharply. 

Last year, the mid-year economic troubles did take their toll on tech purchases in the third and four quarters of 2011, but a last-minute resolution to the US debt ceiling issue, the European Central Bank's aggressive lending to banks so they could buy Italian and Spanish government debt, and some strength in US consumer spending, Germany's surprisingly strong growth, and continued growth in China revived global economic growth in Q4 2011 and into Q1 2012.  Much depends on whether this pattern of slump and revival will recur again in 2012.   My bet  is that we will in fact see the same pattern. 

So, let's look at the economic evidence, and then the tech market evidence. 

  • US economy slows but continues to grow.  In the US, the US Bureau of Economic Analysis on May 31 revised down Q1 2o12 real GDP growth to 1.9% from 2.1% in the preliminary report, and on June 1 the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that a disappointing 69,000 increase in payroll employment in May, the second month of sub-100,000 job growth.  On a more positive note, US retailers and auto makers reported good sales growth in May, while gas prices at the pump continued to fall from peaks earlier.   My take is that we will see real GDP growth in the 1.5% to 2% range in the remainder of 2012, down from my earlier assumption of 2% to 2.5% growth. 
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