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Establish clear dependency mapping


  • The benefit of automating depends on the
    quality and availability of the underlying
    incident and change management data required.
  • Establish maturity in configuration management before you automate.

Before you begin an automation program for incident and change management, you first need to understand:

  • How hardware and software assets are connected to deliver IT and business services
  • How asset‑level failures impact service delivery

To establish this foundational understanding, first ensure you have a mature approach to configuration management, supported by an effective discovery process. 

Configuration management 

If you’re using the ServiceNow Configuration Management Database (CMDB), you should have a single system of record for infrastructure, application, and service data. The effectiveness of your CMDB depends on how you approach planning and data model design. 

ServiceNow recommends keeping CI classes and attributes simple and aligned to use cases and goals for configuration management. For example, if your goal is to gain accuracy in infrastructure configuration mapping so your team can understand change impact, align your CIs with that goal. 

As a general rule, start using the out‑of‑the‑box CI classes on the Now Platform™, which contain all of the attributes that are typically required to support incident and change management automation.

For more insight on effective configuration management practices, see our guide, Plan your successful CMDB deployment.


ServiceNow Discovery is an integrated and agentless means to populate CI data in the CMDB. Discovery automatically identifies the type of CI it interacts with and launches additional probes and sensors to gather further information and attributes. The CMDB automatically checks the data for errors, normalizes and transforms it, and then loads it to ensure the most recent and accurate profile of that CI.

For more insight on effective discovery practices, see our guide, Populate and maintain your CMDB with ServiceNow Discovery.

Service mapping

ServiceNow Service Mapping overlays service maps onto existing configuration data to connect CIs that underlie a given service, identifying both dependencies among CIs and the service impact of failures at the CI level. Figure 1 shows an example of dependency mapping for a specific CI.

Figure 1: Discovery and dependency map for a specified CI

To get to clear dependency mapping—where your organization can understand the relationship between CIs and specific business outcomes—you must define your organization’s business services in Service Mapping. A business service is an abstraction of CIs grouped together in a specific way or for a specific reason to deliver a business outcome. Services can be mapped in one of three ways:

  • Discovered business services – At a minimum, this requires the organization to define both a name for the business service as well as an entry point—that is, how a business service is consumed by an end user, such as through a URL. The CMDB and Discovery map the interrelated CIs automatically, including an impact tree to show the CI properties, active or related alerts, and outage severity.
  • Manual business services – Alternatively, you can manually select CIs to include in a business service.
  • Technical services – Discover dynamic groupings of CIs based on some common criteria, such as the location of all assets of a particular type.

Clear dependency mapping provides the ability to guide effective incident and change management within a service, but not necessarily across services. This requires the organization to identify the relative criticality of services based on the degree they’re essential to business operations. If you don’t have a well‑defined business service taxonomy, you can use your existing disaster recovery and business continuity planning frameworks to understand relative criticality across systems, as defined by recovery tiers.

Expert Tip


Scope the detail you put in your CMDB to what’s essential for effective incident and change management automation.
Look at historical incident and change data and consult with SMEs to discover the details you need to know about specific configuration items to resolve an incident or understand change                             risk.

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