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Streamline future upgrades

You can future‑proof your upgrades when you understand the cost of customizations. By following the technical best practices and checking for vulnerabilities before your upgrade, you can reduce the number of issues to remediate.

Key insights

  • Avoid customization to reduce time and costs with future upgrades.
  • Use the published technical best practices to avoid issues with upgrades, performance, scalability, and user experience.
  • Consider purchasing a configuration review to be audited against bad practices to reduce upgrade risks.


Configuration Item

A CI is one of the most important components of your CMDB. It’s simply an application, infrastructure, or service component you’re managing. It can be a physical server, an app running on a virtual server, or a business service.

Assess and understand the true cost of customizations

“If only I knew then what I know now” is a fairly common customer refrain when it comes to customization. In the effort to fulfill requirements or close out stories, developers aren’t thinking of the true cost of a feature—the cost of implementation plus the cost of maintenance, which includes testing and validation during upgrades.

“We drive a culture of ‘out of the box’ throughout the organization and place a high cost on customizations.” – Robyn C. Sah, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana

How do you determine the true cost of a customization? Rely on experienced ServiceNow implementers to vet out which requirements involve customizations and which can be done with simple configurations.

In general, customizations require scripting, take longer to implement, and often involve more in‑depth testing. The following table provides some examples of customizations versus configurations based on customer feedback.

Note: Your definitions may vary on some items.



Add a new field to a form

Modify the Service Catalog UI page

Create a no-code business rule

Create an advanced business rule

Change the value of a system property

Create a new workflow

Place service portal widgets on a page

Create new service portal widgets

Add a reference qualifier using the condition builder

Add an advanced reference qualifier using script

Table 1: Configuration and customization examples

Keep your instance as close to the baseline, or out‑of‑the‑box, configuration as possible. When you use configuration changes, you keep implementation, testing, and upgrade costs down.

Observe technical best practices while developing

As some have said, “The great thing about ServiceNow is that you can do anything, and the bad thing about ServiceNow is that you can do anything!” We recognize that customers may have unique requirements and may need to extend an existing application or even create a whole new application to address a business process. That’s great—it’s part of the reason the Now Platform is architected the way it is.

So make customizations if you must—but make them safely. As with many software platforms, there is often more than one way to solve any given problem using ServiceNow. Over the years, we have collected and documented these technical best practices to help protect you against common (and some not so common) issues.

Figure 9: Technical Best Practices page

Learning and practicing the methods documented in the technical best practices can reduce the risk of performance, scalability, manageability, and even usability issues over time. For example, Automated Test Framework may indicate that a particular business rule is functioning properly by responding to the proper trigger and producing the proper result, but when you get it in to UAT and a tester discovers it takes six seconds to run (an eternity if the person can’t do anything else in their browser), you may have some bad practices at work. This is where the technical best practices can help future‑proof your implementations.

Time estimate to complete: There is no fixed time for this step. It is a cultural methodology you adopt in to your development process.

Conduct a configuration review

Something else that may be extremely helpful in spotting potential issues is a ServiceNow Configuration Review (aka, Config Review). This is a fixed‑fee service available from ServiceNow.

The Config Review is performed by a ServiceNow certified professional services consultant and addresses challenges around upgradability, manageability, scalability, and performance during or after the implementation of ServiceNow applications and the Now Platform. The Config Review provides recommendations to align your configurations and customizations with ServiceNow best practices.

The results of the Config Review is a PDF report with an overall score for each category. The report also details findings, corrective actions, priorities, and links to the specific records on your instance to help you quickly remediate any potential issues.

Work with your ServiceNow account team to schedule a Config Review. For best results, conduct a Config Review before your next upgrade to get in front of any potential issues. The money spent could save you countless hours of testing and remediation!

Time estimate to complete: Up to 40 hours to conduct the review. Remediation depends on how many findings were reported.

Tools and resources

Explore additional phases


You want to be sure everything is in place for a smooth, successful deployment.


You want to be sure you’re following best practices during implementation.


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