If you are a long-term ServiceNow user, you may already be familiar with the ServiceNow upgrade release cycle. They release an upgrade roughly every six months, each of which contains enhancements to existing modules, bug or defect fixes, and new features. Regularly upgrading your ServiceNow instance at least once a year is an excellent way to stay on top of these features and fixes. We have compiled a list of tips and best practices to help your company with its ServiceNow upgrade.


Reasons to Upgrade

New ServiceNow version releases can mean new features for your users, enhancements to your current modules, and opportunities to improve performance. There are many reasons to keep up with ServiceNow upgrades, including:

  • Upgrades are included in ServiceNow license costs, meaning there is no additional cost associated with upgrading.
  • Your company will benefit from regularly reviewing its current instance health and identify new features to implement.
  • Upgrades include fixes for bugs and defects identified in previous versions.
  • Your company can take advantage of continued ServiceNow support. Support expires for older versions after about 12-18 months, so there may not be fixes available for bugs in older versions.


When to Upgrade?

When is the right time to adopt an upgrade – should you request it right away or wait a few weeks? As with all software, ServiceNow software has bugs and defects. Within the first few weeks of an upgrade, they will release a service pack to correct early user-reported issues and a second pack a couple of weeks after that. Consider waiting for the first or second service pack to minimize the chances of encountering early bugs or issues.


Preparing for an Upgrade

The first step in preparing for a ServiceNow upgrade is to fully understand the way the platform will change and how it will affect your company. There are a few ways you can do this, and it is recommended to do each of them to make sure you are not overlooking any information that may affect you.

Read the ServiceNow Release Notes
Review the ServiceNow Release Notes to make sure you know what will be changing. There may be upgrades to functions you do not currently use, but there also may be new functions that your company will want to roll out to users.

Run a ServiceNow ACE Report
An ACE report provides information about possible problems within a specific instance. This report will help you see where your company has customized an area or not followed ServiceNow’s best practices. An upgrade may remove customizations or cause issues that you will need to address before rolling it out to users.

Identify UI Changes and Training Needs
If the upgrade significantly changes the user interface, you may need to consider training staff and users. ServiceNow allows you to stay on an old UI even after going through an upgrade. You can choose to roll out the new UI at a later date and provide training at that point.

Finish Implementing New Functions and Pause Development Work
Any work in development will be erased after an upgrade, so you want to make sure to finish implementing any completed work. This will also help you focus on the upgrade itself, making sure that anything issues are related to the upgrade itself and not something else introduced to your ServiceNow environment.

Communicate with Users Before, During, and After
Even if you believe the upgrade will be invisible to your users, it is essential to communicate with them about any changes or downtimes. If you believe users will need training following the upgrade, be sure to communicate this as early as possible.

Request a Production Back Up
Request a special back up before implementing an upgrade to reduce possible data loss. Once you apply an upgrade, you cannot reverse it; if you encounter an issue, you would need to restore the system from a previous back up. For this reason, you should request one right before upgrading.


During the Upgrade

During a ServiceNow upgrade, you will want to focus on three of your environments: development, test, and production. These are a few things to keep in mind while executing your upgrade to ensure best results for your users:

Development Environment
When you request the upgrade from ServiceNow and apply it, make sure you will disable any features you do not plan to use. This includes any new features your company has decided not to implement. Perform some basic testing to verify that core functions are working correctly and develop fixes if needed.

Test Environment
Testing can prevent issues on the user side and helps your company practice migration. It is considered a best practice to involve users in your testing phase, as there may be features they use that are critical to their work that may not have migrated with the upgrade.

Production Environment
When you have thoroughly tested the upgrade, bring it into production and verify it before rolling it out to users. Be sure to communicate to users about training, changes, and anything identified during the test phase.


Requesting Assistance with an Upgrade

Upgrading, implementing, and maintaining the ServiceNow platform requires constant planning; with a certified ServiceNow technology partner, your company will have assistance in creating a roadmap of services to find the best fit for you. Whether your company decides to implement a new feature or create a customization around existing features, technology partners can help. Some companies offer services to build custom apps for your company, managing the entire lifecycle from creation to deployment.

Follow these tips and best practices to ensure your ServiceNow upgrade transition goes smoothly. Make sure you are well prepared for the upgrade, fully understand its changes, and are communicating with users. With just a little bit of preparation, your company can confidently upgrade its ServiceNow instance and continue optimizing performance, adopting better service management practices, and improve services.


As a ServiceNow Technology Partner, Infocenter can help. Contact us today to learn more. 

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