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ServiceNow adds generative AI to Now Platform, ties to Azure

ServiceNow launched two generative AI offerings, including a natural language search tool and a connection to Microsoft's Azure OpenAI, with further AI investments to follow.

ServiceNow added generative AI to its Now Platform to improve its workflow automation capabilities. It also expanded its partnership with Microsoft to create a tighter connection between the Now Platform and Azure OpenAI.

The primary role of the company's new Generative AI Controller is to connect ServiceNow instances to both OpenAI APIs and Azure OpenAI large language models. The offering, introduced May 16 at ServiceNow's annual Knowledge 2023 conference, lets users integrate generative AI capabilities ranging from answering questions to adding content directly into ServiceNow's Virtual Agent from one integration point. It can also be used for a number of self-service functions.

The new controller also works with ServiceNow's set of low-code development tools, helping less-technical users apply generative AI capabilities to automate new and existing applications as well as letting apps scale more efficiently.

A new Now Assist for Search tool developed by ServiceNow provides users with natural language responses when they ask questions in ServiceNow's Portal Search, Next Experience and its Virtual Agent tool. Because Now Assist for Search gathers information from within a user's own environment, the security layers being applied to search results will likely improve accuracy.

"We got the hallucination rate from about 20% down to 1% based on the samples we've done," said Jeremy Barnes, vice president of Product Platform AI for ServiceNow. "We feel pretty good about that improvement because it meets our corporate customers' expectations for accuracy and where they feel comfortable using the product for business purposes."

ServiceNow connects to Azure OpenAI

ServiceNow's new connection to Azure OpenAI gives Now Platform users access to generative AI capabilities. Officials from both companies note that ServiceNow and Microsoft have delivered joint applications and integrations for products such as Microsoft 365 and Azure along with versions of Azure for regulated industries.

"The AI Controller is central to our platform strategy because it enables users to connect with other generative AI providers," Barnes said. "There are only a couple now, but there will be more later. [The AI Controller] enables users to use AI in the workflows and improve their search experiences."

While strategic partnerships are crucial to competing successfully in the AI market, Lara Greden, a research director at IDC, cautions that companies also need AI expertise in-house. "You can't rely on partners to make it all happen for you," she said. "You also need the inhouse AI expertise to drive things forward because (AI) technology and issues are changing so rapidly. Take hallucinations, by the time you identify and solve one problem, there are one or two more that jump up to take its place," she said.

ServiceNow's AI roadmap

Laying out a short-term roadmap for capabilities of both the Generative AI Controller and Now Assist for Search, the company said users will be able to prioritize incidents and provide a chat summary in a Service Operations Workspace to resolve issues faster; generate chat responses to help users more quickly by generating knowledge articles automatically when a gap is detected; and help processes, including changes to benefits enrollment or requests for new laptops from their IT departments.

ServiceNow also plans to invest in AI research through its AI Trustworthiness and Governance Lab, which conducts both fundamental and applied research to create safer and more reliable AI-based experiences. The Lab worked with internal ServiceNow developers on both Generative AI Controller and Now Assist's automation features for a number of vertical markets.

Under CEO Bill McDermott, ServiceNow has steadily built AI-based features into the Now Platform the past three years. The company rolled out new AI-based tool sets in the Utah release of its Now Platform last year for process mining and intelligent search. It also acquired Attivio, Element AI and Hitch Works, integrating all three into the Now Platform.

"ServiceNow has made moves the past few years to put AI at the heart of its strategy," Greden said. "But they recognize [that] to be a leader in this market, and with the flood of generative AI announcements recently, they need to accommodate as many diverse use cases as possible through a variety of partnerships."

As Editor At Large with TechTarget's News Group, Ed Scannell is responsible for writing and reporting breaking news, news analysis and features focused on technology issues and trends affecting corporate IT professionals.

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