Bob Osborn, Chief Technology Officer, Global Governments at ServiceNow
What technologies, business models, and trends will drive the biggest changes in your industry over the next two years?
Over the next two years, the application of supervised machine learning and artificial intelligence is going to drive the largest recognizable change.
Business models are going to change too. As we have seen the shift of people going into office buildings to do their work to distributed workforces, a hybrid workforce is going to be the business model of the future. Businesses are re-evaluating the requirement to have floor space in buildings. People can be more effective and, in many cases, more productive in a remote environment. We’re going to see this shift continue to increase and coupled with AI, we have an exciting, innovative future ahead of us.
The defence industry has always been a leader in innovations and technologies. Many of the technologies that we use in our everyday lives originated in the defence industry – communication devices, radar, radio, wireless technologies. There is a multitude of organizations in the commercial sector that support the defence industry in developing new and innovative ways to apply AI across the enterprise. Defence is always at the vanguard. What will change is how that technology is applied within a new business model of how people work within the defence departments and ministries. In most cases, people don’t have to go into offices so it will drive significant change within the workforce structure in the dense departments.
What is your advice for our readers?
Never be satisfied with where you are. Never delay chasing your dreams. Apply yourself 100 per cent and help others along the way be the best they can be. If you are chasing your dreams, working hard, and helping others, you are going to be successful.
What is your role at your organization today?
As the Chief Technology Officer for Global Governments at ServiceNow, I help government agencies achieve their digital transformation strategies and deliver better experiences to citizens and employees.
Throughout my career, I’ve held many high-level IT leadership positions, including Director of Logistics IT for the U.S. Army G4, Deputy J6/CIO for the U.S. Transportation Command, and CIO of the National Nuclear Security Administration where I was responsible for the Nation’s nuclear weapons design and manufacturing information.
However, my career didn’t start in technology. I began my career in the logistics industry, and I was involved in the military for 27 years. My career path is unique, but it ultimately led me to receive a Masters in Information Management at Syracuse University. This education equipped me with the technical knowledge I needed for my career, and I paired it with the leadership skills that I learned in the military and other businesses.
My career journey really taught me the importance of leading by example. You’re only as successful as your team, which is why it is so important to always make sure employees feel empowered. If the people on your team are successful, then your organization will be too.
It all comes down to people and making sure technology is truly in the service of people.
What was your most challenging moment?
Over the course of my career, I have had many challenging moments but there are two instances that stand out to me that have been particularly challenging. The first was the transition from government into civilian life. I found it difficult because of the way people interacted and navigated the concept of organizational identity. Business culture is very distinct from government and applying the same principles of duty, honour, and country into the commercial world was especially different.
The second moment that I think we can all relate to is the pandemic. We were all suddenly presented with the challenges of being separated from normal ways of doing business on top of a global health crisis that was making our loved ones ill.
Losing the opportunity of being together was challenging as I am a people-oriented person and virtual connections were not the same. I thrive with in-person interactions and watercooler conversations, in addition to working with my team. The remote environment we found ourselves in presented many obstacles to staying connected through screens.
What was your A-HA moment or epiphany that you think will resonate most with our reader, tell us that story?
For me, it’s not an a-ha moment, but a reinforcement of the belief that it is all about people. I’ve always focused on individual excellence by helping people achieve their goals and reach new heights of potential. I find when you lift others up, your organization exceeds expectations and rises alongside it.
What is the one thing that has you most fired up today?
Artificial intelligence is going to change our world. It gives people the ability to reinvent relationships, work, and ultimately, how they live their lives. We’re on the cusp of that concept with technology that services people and it’s only going to be accelerated by the application of AI across all aspects of life. We’re accelerating into a new way of working and living, which is why I’m fired up about being in the technology industry at this pivotal moment in time.
What is the best advice you received?
The best advice I ever received was from a First Sergeant of mine when I was a sergeant in the Marine Corps. He took me under his wing and told me, “Sergeant Osborn, never forget that if you take care of your people, the mission will be accomplished. Always take care of your people.” This stuck with me and moulded my philosophy of how I live and provide leadership to my teams.
What is a habit that contributes to your success?
I would say I am a voracious reader. I am continuously learning, looking out for new things that also go beyond my field. I’m deeply interested in human advancement, new innovations, and applications of how people do things differently to make the world a better place. I’m always reading so I never stop learning.
What people or organizations do you believe best embody the innovation mindset?
The person who I believe embodied innovation the most was Nikola Tesla. Elon Musk embodies that same zest for innovation in our world today that was originally sparked by Nikola.
How is ServiceNow changing the game within your industry sector?
For global governance, the ServiceNow platform is truly a game-changer. The differentiated technology enables government agencies to achieve the transformation they strive for. Having a multi-instance architecture that gives visibility and control to government agencies allows them to apply new technology continuously, including AI.
We’re driving towards hyper-personalizing the experience for employees and citizens who interact with government agencies. Achieving the end state of a participatory government is within reach when you take a platform-centric approach that allows for the technology to be the control tower of the organization. These solutions help manage all the legacy technologies and deliver new and innovative services in commercial-like ways.
What are some of the biggest impediments to innovation in your industry sector?
The biggest impediment is the tendency to be satisfied by the status quo. There are many external factors that affect our industry in government, including factors that are legislative or programmatic, as well as related to budget and politics. Governments transform and move at a slower pace so there is continuity, reliability, and trust among citizens towards their government. This makes digital innovation and adoption more difficult than in the private sector. The biggest impediment at the heart of the industry is finding change leaders who are willing to step up and drive innovation.
How has innovation become engrained in your organization’s culture and how is it being optimized?
ServiceNow was founded on the principles of innovation. When Fred Luddy designed the ServiceNow platform with its unique multi-instance architecture and common applications logic, it allowed service delivery to be reflective of workflow-based processes in an organization. He wanted ordinary people to be able to transform how they deliver services or how they get work done in their organizations without having people work with long, drown out programs that took time and effort away from the function of the integration. For example, traditionally a change in government would be six months and cost a million dollars. The ServiceNow platform allows change to happen within days and be completed by the practitioners within the line of business that is going to take advantage of the change and technology. It’s a totally different way of approaching delivery and services to citizens. With two releases of software updates a year, ServiceNow is continuously refreshing the technology. Innovation is at the core of our company DNA.