Proactive work when customizing your ServiceNow instance is key for an easy upgrade
Learn how to save up to 50% of upgrade related costs
Reading time: 5-10 min
Audience: ServiceNow platform owners, administrators, developers and architects
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 yet, organisations 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 straight forward if our ServiceNow instance has got a few customizations and mainly is about configuration and OOB (Out-of-theBox) functionality and customs apps. But sometimes developers just change OOB functionality, either because they are not really aware they were doing so or perhaps just because changing an existing script is the most straightforward way to achieve the desired functionality.
But as soon as developers start changing OOB elements such as business rules or workflows, upgrades become trickier. And our technical debt will significantly increase.
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 really 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. But normally, the verification of each record will take 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 comes with it and then, do a 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 our content as well as any customization which was done in the instance to understand the potential impact of the new functionality might have to our release.
Once we have done the verification task it might appear that our upgrade is completed. But we still need to thoroughly test all the functionality that has been affected by the upgrade. This means that for each element that was flagged during the upgrade, we should write down to which application it belongs in order to design our test plans.
Finally, it is always recommended running a full regression test to ensure the upgrade didn’t have any unexpected side effect.
What can we do to reduce this effort?
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 to OOB functionality which are happening in your instances. If you are outsourcing the work, it is very important you keep an eye on this since in the next upgrade that team or company might not be there to help you.
QC 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 did the change. Regular scans will allow you to question the development team about the reason of such a change and to look for alternatives of implementing such a functionality. QC 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 also in the upgrade process to ensure that we are upgrading all instances under the same conditions.
Another important feature of QC for ServiceNow that will ease your upgrades is by identifying those elements that have been added to a certain application or functionality. In the example mentioned above, QC 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.
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