Customizing your ServiceNow instance is key for an easy upgrade

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The benefits of keeping up to date with ServiceNow’s twice-yearly releases are clear: You get all the new features that you are already paying for with your subscription.

Yes, regularly upgrading your ServiceNow instance at least once a year is an excellent way to stay on top of these features and fixes and ensure your integrations are reaching their full potential.

And yet, organizations tend to skip SaaS releases, applying maybe one out of every two. This is done to avoid the effort involved in performing upgrades. An upgrade is straightforward if the ServiceNow instance has a few customizations and mainly is about configuration and OOB (Out-of-the-Box) functionality and customs apps in place. But sometimes developers just change OOB functionality, either because they are not aware they are doing so or perhaps just because changing an existing script (or client script) is the most straightforward way to achieve the desired functionality.

As soon as developers start changing OOB elements such as business rules or workflows, upgrades become trickier and impact system properties as well as end-user experience, which in turn increases technical debt significantly.

The more out-of-the-box records are changed, the more (potentially) skipped records will have to be checked during the upgrade process, using the ServiceNow Upgrade Monitor tool. The upgrade monitor will highlight the records that have been skipped and then, they can either be skipped (the new functionality is not applied) or they are overwritten by the new functionality. If changes are well documented, perhaps it will only be a matter of minutes to decide if the record should be skipped or not. Normally, however, the verification of each record takes a significant amount of time, and a review of the project management documentation to verify the reason for such a change.

Another important factor to consider in the upgrade process is looking at the ServiceNow release notes (or “early leaks” if the release notes are not still available) to identify which new functionality is available in the Now platform and then, do an impact analysis against the changes done in the instance. If for example, new knowledge base functionality is being released, there will be an effort to understand how this will affect the content, as well as any customization that was done in the instance. To understand the potential impact of the new functionality might have on the release.

Once the verification task has been done, the upgrade might be completed. However, there still needs to be a thorough test of all the functionality that has been affected by the upgrade. This means that for each element that was flagged during the upgrade, it should be written down to which application it belongs to design test plans.

Finally, it is always recommended to run a full regression test to ensure the upgrade didn’t have any unexpected side effects, which can impact all manner of functionality such as form fields, form layouts, and color schemes in the app.

ServiceNow customization: What can we do to reduce this effort?

When it comes to your ServiceNow platform upgrades, less is more! The less OOB functionality you change, the easier your upgrade is going to be. What this means is that, even between releases, you should regularly monitor any changes that are happening in your instances. If you are outsourcing the work, you must keep an eye on this since in the next upgrade that team or company might not be there to help you.

Quality Clouds for ServiceNow comes with the upgradability dashboard, a list of all the configuration elements or records that have been changed during the development process. It will tell you the exact date and who made the change. Regular scans will allow you to question the development team about the reason for such a change and to look for alternatives for implementing such functionality. Quality Clouds for ServiceNow can also help in comparing different instances so that you can change whether they are aligned in terms of modifications. This is important in the upgrade process to ensure that we are upgrading all instances under the same conditions.

Another important feature of Quality Clouds for ServiceNow that will ease your upgrades, is identifying elements that have been added to a certain application or functionality. In the example mentioned above, Quality Clouds for ServiceNow can be used to list all the elements added or modified, related to the Knowledge Base. This will help in determining how easy or difficult the upgrades will be as well as in the impact analysis work.

For more information on how Quality Clouds can help you with your ServiceNow instance upgrades, request a demo with us today.

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Jesse Nocon
My goal is to grow communities by continuing to give every individual who wishes the chance for personal success. Software and Sport are engines that drives social change, bringing people together who otherwise would not interact. They promote a shared, positive set of values and principles. Utilizing these tools through solutioning drives me to focus and grind on creating new and exiting opportunities for others and myself. I am committed to opening previously inaccessible opportunities to more individuals, as a solutions consultant, with my hard, smart work ethic and a willingness to learn and adapt. I love creating meaningful technologies and services. I'm always open to discussing my goals and methods.

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