To conquer Asia, first go deep in ANZ
ServiceNow was founded on the simple and very SaaS-aligned idea that work should be easier; that getting simple things done shouldn’t be hard and that complex stuff should be manageable. Based in Singapore, Jimmy Fitzgerald was Vice President of ServiceNow for the Asia-Pacific / Japan region from 2013 to early 2018 – growing the business from 15 to 1,000 employees and from one office to fifteen and with data centres across the region.
Says Jimmy, “We started with IT, creating a ‘System of Action’ to streamline and automate unstructured work, eliminating the back and forth emails, phone calls, and manual processes that waste time, money, and sap productivity. Today, your entire enterprise – HR, customer service, security, and beyond – can tap into the power of the Now Platform™ to create a better experience for employees, users, and customers, and transform the way work is done”
How did you end up in Asia?
“I spent my early career with Accenture, IBM and Shell, all the time working on SAP programmes. Shell took me to the Netherlands and then to Australia. I then joined Siebel Systems in Australia as one of their first employees in the region, initially as a technical account manager and then ultimately taking responsibility for growing and running technical business services across the region. Along the way, I moved to Tokyo and then to Singapore; and soon became known as a guy who knows how to get things done in Asia.
“Siebel moved me back to Europe to run the Professional Services business in the region; and then globally through the acquisition by Oracle.”
“I heard about the new CEO at ServiceNow, Frank Slootman, in 2011 (he is now the Chairman). I wrote a letter to Frank saying that I could mature the Professional Services and Partner ecosystem on the back of our initial coverage from Gartner who had suggested that this was an area of improvement, so I ran their Professional Services business for about two and a half years. We were doing the IPO roadshow and people were asking “why are you not in Asia?”. I put up my hand and moved to Singapore in January 2013.
How did you grow the business in ASIAPAC?
“I was head-down in the region for four years; and I think, in hindsight, we took an unusual approach. We didn’t pilot anything: we went ‘all in’. As a company, when we commit, we lean in and don’t do anything by half measures. The company had confidence that the value proposition would equally apply to the Asia Pacific market and was looking to that market to drive further acceleration in growth.
“On the eve of going public, we were hitting approximately $200m in revenues around the world and the challenge from the market to us was was simple: “your proposition applies horizontally so you need to grow faster!”.
“For the first 18 months, I focused almost exclusively on people; and we added talent very fast. During that entire period, I had to do a weekly headcount forecast. I started by building an AsiaPac leadership team with senior and experienced individuals, but who were often young and on their first major job. So they had a lot to learn, but also a lot to gain. And those people built out the teams underneath them.
“Australia and New Zealand quickly became our #2 market, bigger even than the UK. I’d push any start up to go big in Australia. Once we had success in one bank, three months later everyone in the sector knows you. Also, ANZ is leaning into cloud in a big way. As a market, I can’t say enough good things about the region.
“I’d push any start up entering the Asian region to go big in Australia.”
“So don’t ignore ANZ: it’s a relatively easy market. There may be only ten big companies, but the deeper you go, the more success you will have. We were lucky in that we got a great leader in ANZ, David Oakley, who has now been MD of ServiceNow in ANZ for five years. He helped us build a great culture, with a focus on diversity and high performing teams.
Did you make any mistakes?
“Our biggest mistake was to initially treat the rest of Asia as one big market. We started selling into Indonesia and the Philippines and reacting to inbound leads. If I had my time again, after ANZ, I would just focus on making Singapore a success for a couple of years and ignore everything else.”
Jimmy’s advice for success in Asia:
1. Pick one, maximum two markets. Focus on ANZ first and go deep.
2. Focus on one or two markets at a time for one or two years each.
3. Build a world class team.
4. Define success before you enter each market: what are the key verticals, and across your chosen markets which are the 10 ‘mustwin’ logos? This will help you identify what success looks like across 18-24 months.