Content, IT management, Mergers and Acquisitions

ServiceNow Acquires FriendlyData: Speech-Driven Search for ITSM


Searching for answers via plain text or plain speech is now the standard. People no longer type simple keywords into a Google search bar. They type in full sentences and expect to be shown exactly what they wanted to find. This also translates over to the use of smart assistants like the Google Assistant, Alexa, Siri, and in rare cases Cortana and Bixby. More people are searching for answers by asking questions.

This concept not only applies to finding answers to questions, but it also applies to obtaining customer support. We now expect to interact with support, whether it is a person or an AI-powered chatbot, with plain speech.

I assume as service desks continue to innovate, they will incorporate the ability for users to obtain help automatically, or at least be routed to the correct person, through plain speech instead of wasting the day on a voicemail tree that doesn't even land them in the department that can answer their question.

Speech Recognition & IT Service Management

This trend towards plain speech has even found its way into database queries. FriendlyData has created a platform that allows you to interact with data in plain speech. For example, you can type "How many active customers have we had each year" into the program, and it will scan the database for the answer and present you with the results. This allows more people to be able to generate reports on business data that was previously only available for programmers and experts in database queries.

Understanding this trend towards plain speech searching, FriendlyData has gained momentum in recent months. In September the company announced a funding round from TMT InvestmentsBulba Ventures, GWC Innovator Fund, Digital Future and other investors.

Here Comes ServiceNow

The latest twist: ServiceNow is acquiring FriendlyData and the company's natural language query (NLQ) technology to help users reduce the amount of time spent figuring out how to ask questions technically. NLQ technology will be embedded into the interfaces of the Now Platform and guide users to relevant and related Performance Analytics dashboards and reporting, the companies say.

Pat Casey, senior vice president, development and operations at ServiceNow said in a prepared statement, “With this technical enhancement, our goal is to allow anyone to easily make data-driven decisions, increasing productivity and driving businesses forward faster.”

ServiceNow plans to re-platform FriendlyData’s NLQ technology, extending the Now Platform’s intelligence capabilities by making NLQ interfaces available across ServiceNow applications for IT, Human Resources, Security Operations, Customer Service Management, partner products and for developers.

I could see ServiceNow easily repurposing the NLQ technology and inserting it into their service desk solutions as well as their PSA platforms. As mentioned earlier, these plain speech queries are the future of service desks as they allow users to fix simple solutions on their own.

Many users do not understand technical terms, which makes it difficult to find the correct answers to their questions or issues. Using NLQ technology, users could make queries in plan speech that can extract the correct information from a knowledge base, allowing them to resolve issues without interaction from service desk employees.

I believe we will see more automation in service desks that allow users to feel like they are interacting with a technician, but they are actually resolving their own issues. I don't think service desk employees should be too concerned though, as this will likely free them up for more technical issues and allow them to focus on helping prevent problems instead of constantly putting out fires.