Anyone who works in and around the ServiceNow ecosystem can't have failed to notice that the latest Rome release is a real bumper release for new features on the Now platform.
I've been looking at the changes in the Now Intelligence modules (Virtual agent, NLU, etc.) and have to say, there are some nice new enhancements.
The whole VA toolset is great for taking pressure off the Service Desk by allowing customers and employees to help themselves by providing them with automated bot conversations which can drive them to the right solutions – be that raising of an incident/request or direction to a knowledge article with the answers they seek.
Some of the great features in Rome in this area provide for a far richer experience for these users with new topic blocks which can be added into conversations. These include blocks to present YouTube video content directly in the conversation, or present data in a tabular format, along with other blocks to geolocate users - great for those accessing chat via a mobile device who may need routing towards their nearest service point for example. Link unfurling is another new feature that allows content-rich previews for links - which can include text, images, and videos – to be presented directly in a conversation when a supported link is shared with the user.
Furthermore, some basic functions which were only possible before by adding a script block to your VA conversations have now been implemented as droppable content blocks – such as the ability to pause a conversation for a time, thus pushing even greater functionality down into the Citizen Developer space. New Flow Designer triggers now allow conversations to be triggered as a result of flow execution which opens new possibilities for feedback – for example, triggering a conversation to the user within their Microsoft Teams client when an incident has been closed or a request fulfilled to ensure they have instant feedback, and can also respond as to whether they have further issues or needs.
Another enhancement that has been long-awaited is the ability to have asynchronous conversations. In previous releases, both the agent and user were tied to the chat window whilst the conversation was active. This is fine if you're in a dialogue that can be over and done within a single session (e.g.: catch and dispatch for an incident, surfacing a common request of knowledge article) but terrible if the conversation relies on the agent having to go perform some research, or wait for a response from another team or vendor.
Now, agents can maintain multiple active conversations, and pick them up and put them down as necessary. When the user comes back to their chat client, they can review the unread posts and continue the conversation from before, so neither is now tied to their computer for the duration. This naturally enhances the ability for the user to respond to messaging at their convenience and removes the necessity to only converse via chat during customer support hours.
New developments in the Natural Language space include a new NLU workbench that allows for the grouping of utterances by language. Coupled with the addition of automated translation tools to this now means that VA conversations can be automatically translated without having to recode them for each language you need to support as was the case previously. This alone should prove a massive timesaver for multinational enterprises struggling to cater to a userbase spread across the globe. This release also sees many more languages supported with dynamic translation within both VA dialogs and in live agent chat.
Performance Analytics also receives some love in the UI builder space. Introduced in the Quebec release, UI builder provides a drag and drop mechanism to allow building rich user interfaces using the new Now Experience UI. In the Rome release, apart from UI Builder receiving a host of other updates and features, PA now has capability parity in UI Builder and the traditional UI16 interface, so all the PA widgets you’ve come to know and love in UI16, and the Service Portal are now available to Citizen Developers in UIB.
Yes indeed, this is looking like a bumper release all around. There are many, many more new features and applications in the Rome release than have been covered here – ServiceNow seems to be using this release as laying the groundwork for the next major iteration of the platform, with upcoming UI feature changes looking to be as significant as the transition from Fuji to Geneva.
Rome and likely next year’s San Diego releases look to be exciting times to be involved in the ServiceNow space.
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