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Knowledge24: GenAI dominates ServiceNow annual user conference

The topic of artificial intelligence (AI) is dominant both in and outside of the tech sector at the moment, and a huge part of the Knowledge24 agenda focused on generative AI (GenAI), with many of the platform and product announcements made during the event featuring the technology, including the further embedding of GenAI into the Now Platform.

“Every single workflow of every single company, in every industry, in every market around the world is about to be re-engineered with GenAI at its core,” said ServiceNow CEO Bill McDermott, during a media briefing at this year’s ServiceNow user conference.

GenAI, a type of AI technology that uses prompts to produce imagery, pictures or audio outputs, was added to the ServiceNow platform last year, and this year the company announced several partnerships, including with Microsoft, Genesys and Fujitsu, with the intention of pushing forward the use of technologies such as GenAI and automation in the industry.

While the goal of using technology in this way as part of platforms such as ServiceNow is to increase efficiency and productivity in the workplace, there are concerns surrounding AI replacing certain people’s roles and jobs in the future.

As part of the Knowledge24 closing keynote, actor and filmmaker Dan Levy said there’s a fine line between using technologies such as AI for financial gain, and for the benefit of humanity.

“I think, for me, it’s about decency in the wake of growth, because I think sometimes in the quest for success, economically we often overlook decency and the value of human input,” he said.

But singer-songwriter Jon Batiste claimed technology “won’t take jobs away from unicorns” – people who he describes as having a special talent or passion for that they do.

While many are concerned about the impact AI will have on the workforce in the future, ServiceNow CEO McDermott claimed many of the CEOs he has spoken to, though admitting AI will disrupt their companies and sectors, said AI has the opportunity to have a positive impact on business. “70% of the soul-crushing work that workers have to do in companies today can be eliminated by technology,” he said.

As far as ServiceNow is concerned, GenAI is set to make people’s work lives better and more interesting. “You can make people’s lives better, you can improve productivity, you can improve the speed by which work gets done,” said McDermott. “All of those use cases have massive value.”

Dave Wright, ServiceNow’s chief innovation officer, even went as far as to call the current state of the technology industry an “intelligence revolution” akin to the agricultural and industrial revolutions, with GenAI specifically offering an opportunity to “start to evaluate why we do things and if we can do it better”.

“Being able to take that action and being able to execute on that intelligence is what’s going to fundamentally change the way people work,” he said.

GenAI spend

ServiceNow isn’t the only company going all-in on GenAI, or AI in general. IDC research has predicted firms will spend more than $40bn on the technology this year, increasing to $150bn over the next three years.

For users of ServiceNow, the use of GenAI is focused around speed and productivity – just some of the functions that were pitched included allowing the use of natural language and no-code or low code for generation of demands, prompts, apps and catalogue inputs on both the employee and developer/admin side.

“When you bring AI into a platform where you can take action, you can complete end-to-end tasks and user journeys,” said Amy Lokey, ServiceNow’s chief experience officer. “It’s an incredibly powerful thing to deliver to our customers and users.

“We’re leveraging all the power of our platform with workflows with a single data model, single architecture and a trusted platform. All of that comes inherently in all of our solutions now, with AI built into all of these experiences.”

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