by Sarah K. White

6 steps to a successful ServiceNow implementation

Mar 29, 2019
Enterprise ApplicationsIT StrategyITSM

ServiceNow is a robust ITSM suite that offers organizations popular services on a single-platform. But it’s not as easy as deploying any tool or service – here’s six tips on how to embark on a successful ServiceNow implementation.

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ServiceNow is an increasingly popular tool for IT services management (ITSM), especially for companies undertaking digital transformations. The solution’s appeal is largely its comprehensiveness, enabling businesses to use a single platform for their ITSM needs.

A smooth ServiceNow implementation can help support organization-wide digital transformation, help shift resources and budget toward innovation, and improve an organization’s ability to respond to industry shifts. But to get the most from ServiceNow you need to think of the implementation process as more than simply “implementing a tool, but rather as launching a program to digitize, automate and optimize your back office to ultimately drive efficiencies throughout your entire organization,” says Donna Naomi Woodruff, enterprise service enablement leader at Cox Automotive.

The following six steps will help you take control of ITSM in your business when implementing ServiceNow.

Build a plan that considers the future

ServiceNow isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution that tells you exactly how to approach ITSM. But the platform does allow organizations to create some standardization around ITSM, rather than having to go at it alone.

“The architecture of the platform allows companies to subscribe to a standard way of doing things, versus having to reinvent the wheel. This allows for streamlined implementation, while also giving you the flexibility and extensibility to adapt the platform to your unique company and the needs of your employees/customers,” says Woodruff.

To truly get the most from ServiceNow, you have to establish a solid implementation plan, especially when it comes to embracing automation. Here, ServiceNow CIO Chris Bedi recommends building a plan that is focused “business outcomes and includes measurable KPIs.”

“Get your ServiceNow foundation right. Invest in creating the right scalable foundation as you leverage ServiceNow for digital transformation across the enterprise,” Bedi says.

You want your plan to be scalable so that it can grow with the company and change as your organization’s technology use changes. You’ll also want to consider whether you should roll the implementation out all at once or in different stages, Bedi says. Either way, you want to plan for both the future of the IT department and for technology used across other departments like customer support, HR and security.

Follow best practices

ServiceNow is designed to be flexible, but with flexibility comes complexity. To help facilitate smooth implementations, the ServiceNow community has focused effort on establishing best practices or parameters for companies to follow depending on their implementation needs. That push towards a more standardized approach to ServiceNow implementation has increased in the past four or five years, says Link Alander, vice chancellor of college services and CIO at Lone Star College.

“The focus has really been around ‘best practices.’ Follow these and don’t try to reinvent the wheel each time because it allows you to get through the process easier,” says Alander.

While you’ll find flexibility and adaptability in ServiceNow’s offerings, the best practices are there for a reason. They’re designed to help you avoid mistakes, overcome obstacles and avoid disrupting your business.

When establishing your implementation plan, it’s important to research and document best practices your organization wants to follow, both in support of external and internal facing services. It’s also important to continue analyzing internal business processes to see how they can be modified to best leverage the platform.

If you’re not sure where to start, you can look to other companies to see what they’ve done with ServiceNow. It’s a popular service among Fortune 500 companies and “there are a ton of best practices and case studies you can turn to help with your own implementation and ensure you’re getting the most value from the platform,” says Woodruff.

ServiceNow, for example, offers a Success Playbook that you can download for free on its website. Inside you’ll find tips and best practices to follow during implementation. You can also find case studies that outline other organization’s experiences with ServiceNow implementation. Case studies from companies like Cognizant, AIM Consulting, Trianz and Siemens will give you a better sense of how to make the most of your ServiceNow adoption and what might work or not work with your implementation strategy .

Consider new hires or contract workers

At Lone Star College, the IT department started looking at ITIL initiatives in 2004, but the “focus at that time was really just around trying to run IT better, especially around change management and problem management,” says Alander.

In 2009, the college outsourced its service desk, which is when Lone Star College first became familiar with ServiceNow. By 2011, as reliance on technology grew across campus, the third-party services that the college had enlisted weren’t as functional for students and employees, so Lone Star College brought its service desk back in-house.

The college still relies on third parties to help implement new modules and functionality, which amounts to two or three new modules or functionalities each year to improve IT processes, Alander says. But, internally, Lone Star now has enterprise management service professionals across HR, legal, analytics, web services and various offices across campus to handle the bulk of the work.

If you want your ServiceNow implementation to run smoothly and stay well-maintained, you might consider hiring or reallocating employees to focus solely on ITSM and ServiceNow initiatives. This is especially true if you are planning on ServiceNow as a long-term solution.

“Outsourcing the right proportion is acceptable as long as it’s being carefully led from within the organization. It’s more than a ticketing system – you can digitize anything. It’s truly an enterprise platform. As such, don’t hide it away under the service desk, technology operations centers, or some obscure group supporting a bunch of applications. It should be the strategic platform powering all your IT activity/applications,” says Woodruff.

Be transparent and train workers

Adoption is a key element of a successful implementation of any software service. And you can encourage adoption by being transparent with workers.

“It is absolutely essential that companies communicate with employees across the organization of the change and how it will impact their work. IT teams must understand how the implementation will change their day-to-day work, and they must feel comfortable with the technology and empowered to work autonomously,” says ServiceNow’s Bedi.

Consider training your staff and any employees on relevant ServiceNow tools or ITSM frameworks. “Your adoption rate will be much higher if you arm your employees with the assets and information they need to immediately take advantage of the platform,” says Woodruff.

You will also want to educate staff on popular ITSM frameworks that relate to ServiceNow, like ITIL 4. For example, at Lone Star College, every one of Alander’s staff members goes through the ITIL Foundation certification course and it’s offered to all new employees to anyone in IT.

While you might hear some “grumbling,” Alander says that once Lone Star College staff members “were immersed in it and saw the advantage,” it “didn’t take them long to embrace the change and to see the value [ServiceNow] brought us.”

Focused automation

One of the biggest perks of ServiceNow is the ability to automate manual processes, freeing up workers to work on more complex projects. This can also improve process consistency by reducing the potential for human error in repetitive, mundane tasks. But it’s important to be mindful of what you’re automating and to understand how that automation is supported by the business process in question, says Woodruff.

Find tasks to automate that will have the most impact and that can improve other process inefficiencies or errors. You want everything to run smoothly, but some tasks will still need more of a human-hand than others, so it’s important to determine which processes will benefit the most from automation.

Be ready to grow

Once your ServiceNow implementation is complete, you want to make sure you’re set up for continual support internally or through outside service providers. Keep an eye on future services that might benefit various departments or IT and continue evaluating processes to find inefficiencies or redundancies that can be fixed. It’s also likely that once your implementation has shown measurable results, the demand for automation and services will increase in the organization. 

“Make sure you have a roadmap of capabilities to keep you marching forward and guide your expansion. Many stakeholders will soon see the value of getting work done in a digital or automated way, but that also creates a lot of demand, so be ready to invest in the platform’s growth. One of the many benefits of ServiceNow is its extensibility, so chances are you’ll start your work with ITSM, but as the benefits are reaped and you show strong ROI, you can start to spiderweb out the implementation to the entire enterprise,” says Woodruff.