How to travel light with ServiceNow

ServiceNow customisation baggage | Scarce IT Services

Customisation. The ability to tailor anything to our specific needs. It feels instinctively positive. To fellow ITSM implementation consultants who have witnessed its crippling effects however, customisation is a dirty word.

How does customisation differ from configuration and what is the business impact of each? Is customisation ever justified? And what are our options if our organisation’s instance is already heavily customised?

Like many, I have preached the “configure don’t customise” best practice rhetoric to new ServiceNow customers. And with good reason. With ServiceNow the opportunities to customise or configure an instance are virtually endless. Without control it is easy to weigh yourself down with customisation baggage that reduces your agility. The question is not whether we can, but whether we should.

First, let’s look at the ServiceNow definitions.

Customisation – “Any change to code that is part of the baseline install of a ServiceNow instance”. Configuration – “Tailoring an instance using ServiceNow best practices and API to meet your requirements without making changes to code that is part of the baseline installation of an instance”.

What does that mean to the customer?

In practice, ServiceNow will not support customisations. You can raise a support ticket, but if they deem customisation to be root cause then expect to be advised to “revert to the base code”. Customers are responsible for supporting, maintaining and upgrading customised code, so any costly specialist resources or managed services capable of maintaining those components must be retained.

Aside from the support cost impact to this, there is a tendency for organisations to stick on versions rather than face the perceived complexity of upgrading, rendering them trapped on decreasingly supportable versions and denying them opportunities to leverage benefit from the latest platform innovations. In short, they get left behind.

Let’s realty check. Some customisation may be necessary. Sticking purely to configuration doesn’t eliminate all future upgrade problems.

In this article Shane Brazeal (Fruition Partners) explores some of the grey lines between customisation and configuration and presents a credible argument for customisation in situations where business value is sufficiently high to warrant the cost/support overhead. Shane also presents an interesting example of where remaining out of the box is not always the silver bullet of future cost avoidance.

For many mature ServiceNow customers however, that level of business value scrutiny may never have been applied. Equally, future releases of ServiceNow may include functionality that negates the need for your legacy customisation.

In summary, many customers are now carrying unnecessary customisation baggage that impacts the cost of their support, their service performance and service capability. The key therefore is to reduce your baggage to essential items only.

ServiceNow customisation baggage car | Scarce IT Services

If this chimes with you and you are wondering what your options are, the good news is that ServiceNow is beginning to recognise the impact on customer retention levels caused by client customisation baggage. The potential for customers facing these issues to seek alternatives is high. Alternatives that don’t let them customise themselves into a hole. As such, they are keen to support customers with a “return to base” initiative. Base product customers are easier and less expensive to support, easier to upgrade and easier to retain.

A fresh review of your business cases is likely to reveal base product functionality or examples of insufficient business value that if rectified will allow you to regain the agility, supportability and richness of the platform.
Scarce IT Services can undertake an independent review of your platform. Using an ACE (Automated Configuration Evaluator) report to identify all divergent areas, we can build you a plan for the realignment of the latest ServiceNow platform to your business requirements.

Our experience will enable us to quickly assess and advise whether the customised components should be either maintained, replaced or retired. Our assessment will provide you with a series of recommended changes that will reduce your operational management over-heads, increase efficiency and achieve costs savings without compromising operational services.

Contact me for more information via Twitter @SCARCe_ITSM, LinkedIn or via our contact page.