ServiceNow adds automation engine to low-code platform

ServiceNow's AEMC adds automation to citizen DevOps. Analysts agree this simplifies development and could result in cost savings.

ServiceNow has rolled out the App Engine Management Center for its cloud-based, low-code application platform, enabling users to automate the development pipeline.

ServiceNow's platform has undergone a series of makeovers since its inception in 2004 as a cloud-based workflow system. App Engine Studio, introduced in March 2021, is a database for spreadsheets that enables low-code developers to build apps. AEMC adds streamlined automation to the product and negates the need for certification, making it easier -- and potentially cheaper -- for coders of all skill levels to build apps.

The entire so-called citizen DevOps process is now automated, said Marcus Torres, general manager and vice president of App Engine at ServiceNow, in an interview with SearchSoftwareQuality. The new addition gives low-code developers the ability to automatically move code from development to production and beyond, Torres said.

"Now that it is in production, who's using [the app]? How are we optimizing it? How are we maintaining this over time? App Engine management does all of that," he said.

Automation engine simplifies dev process

Analysts welcome the move toward automation.

The AEMC is a simplification layer, said Will McKeon-White, an analyst at Forrester Research. Developers who want to work on AEMC will no longer need a certification, which makes it more accessible to knowledge workers like business analysts, he said, adding that the platform will likely be cheaper because companies won't have to pay for certification.

Using the AEMC automation engine simplifies the process of building apps in ServiceNow, said analyst Stephen Elliot, group vice president at IDC. Companies with hundreds of separate pieces in their data puzzle can now put blocks together in a more automated fashion and more easily identify patterns, he said.

"It almost becomes like a Lego set where customers say, 'Oh, wait a minute, that piece of data, I need that for my analysis. Let me grab that. Boom! I'll bring it in,'" Elliot said.

Opening up the platform

Although the platform automates the development process, that doesn't mean the AEMC will work out of the box.

"The solutions are there," said Elliot, "but companies must consider what data they have collected, what the company culture is and who their citizen developers are."

Where the AEMC shows promise, he said, is with vertical work, such as workforce productivity, employee onboarding or customer experience management. And although the AEMC allows hundreds of employees of all skill levels to use the platform at the same time, this doesn't create a problem for control.

"There's all these different, interesting use cases that come from the business or come from citizen developers like line-of-business managers," Elliot said. With the AEMC, these use cases will be given a level of security governance.

One example is in managing the different tasks within a city government. Joseph Cevetello, CIO for the city of Santa Monica, Calif., plans to adopt the AEMC for the hundreds of city staff who manage various departments, including staff who organize the city's farmers market. The smooth running of the market has many moving parts, including vetting vendors for the market's three locations. Once he hands the AEMC shell to the staff, "we're going to have many more flowers blooming," Cevetello said.

When you have hundreds of citizen developers, control becomes critical to maintain a level of stability with regards to security and compliance, IDC's Elliot said.

The AEMC adds guard rails on top of the existing platform, he said. "And that's the secret sauce here."

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