Since ServiceNow has adopted an n-1 model for their users to stay current on upgrades and releases, organizations have needed to make their ServiceNow upgrades a priority. This means planning at least 1 upgrade per year. 

While this may seem like a strain on resources and adding to the total cost of ownership (TCO) to the tool, each release brings numerous additional functionalities that will bring digital transformation to your team. These new functionalities and enhancements were requested straight from ServiceNow’s customers and users can leverage the best support possible by keeping their instance up-to-date.


With ServiceNow upgrades come extensive planning, dedicated resources, and ongoing support to help make sure the entire process goes smoothly. This is where finding the right partner can help tremendously. 

ServiceNow Elite Partner, Infocenter have domain experts that have implemented ServiceNow across the platform (ITxm, AppEngine, HRSD, CSM, Legal, Marketing, Finance, Security) and developed deep partnerships with top companies in and outside of the U.S. With our extensive experience implementing ServiceNow in all industries and across the platform, Infocenter experts have compiled our top ten tips to make your next upgrade as successful as possible.


1. Coordinate with Everyone Using the Platform, not just IT

Depending on the size of your organization, IT may be the only group using the ServiceNow platform to fulfill requests and track problems and incidents. For those organizations, IT will be conducting most of the testing, sign off, and upgrade. 

However, for true success, you’d benefit from having a few power-user end users. These individuals are those that submit requests frequently, either for themselves or on behalf of others–to review things they interact with frequently, like the Portal or Knowledge Base. 

For organizations where there are many departments and groups using ServiceNow; such as HR, Security, Facilities, and Legal; engaging them early on will be critical for the success of the upgrade. 

To boost confidence with the upgrade and planning, those groups will need to sign off prior to the go-live. We recommend 1-2 users to act as delegates for the department to take care of the testing and approval. Not only will this help bolster trust between IT and other departments, it will help speed up the upgrade since those delegates know what to look out for.


2. Communicate Often and Early on

Similar to coordinating with all users of ServiceNow, communication is key to the success of your upgrade. Regardless of the size of the change, letting people know changes are coming and what to expect helps them feel more comfortable with alterations. 

Even if the timeline for the upgrade is shifted, either due to an internal constraint or external, communication is the pillar of success to any upgrade. In your communications, make sure to answer the questions your end users and fulfillers may have:

  • Who does this impact?
  • What should we expect?
  • When is it happening?
  • Why is the upgrade important?
  • Why does it matter to me?

Furthermore, keep that same communication channel throughout the upgrade process and afterward to answer any questions that may come up throughout the process.


3. Review the Release Notes & Decide what Features Your Organization Wants to Adopt Immediately

Reviewing the release notes is not only helpful in the overall upgrading process, but also in adjusting or starting your ServiceNow Roadmap. While IT or the upgrade project team may not have the resources to immediately implement some of the new functionalities, it can be helpful having your ServiceNow administrator, Managed Services Provider, or upgrade project team review the upgrade release notes and then give a summary of the changes available. 

By doing this, all ServiceNow stakeholders know what is coming, both now and in the future, and if there is something they want immediately they can partner with IT after the upgrade to take advantage of the new functionalities.


4. Push All Current ServiceNow Development Releases Before Cloning & Upgrading

This tip is geared much more heavily to the development side of the upgrade process. However, it’s a development best practice to keep your lower environment as close to production as possible and the same goes for an upgrade. 

If there are current enhancements in development, make sure they make it to your Production environment first. Validate everything is working as expected, then clone Production down to your lowest environment, and upgrade the lowest environment. While reviewing the skips (see next tip below) it will be as close to production as possible and will help with any remediations needed from the upgrade.


5. Deciding Who Needs to Review the Skipped Changes & What to do with Them

ServiceNow does not overwrite or change the code you’ve put into your environment, so if something changes through an upgrade it’s categorized as a “skip”. Going through each of the skips can be a painstaking process, as some organizations can have up to 500 or more skips in a single upgrade! 

Deciding on who will review the skips, both for decision-making and for technical action items, will speed up the resolution of those skips. Having a small group of people deciding on the strategy for each skip will keep the upgrading moving and give the technical team a direction to work. Also, keeping any meeting minutes or documentation from the decisions on the skips will help in future upgrades. 


6. Create a Testing & Sign Off Strategy

Outside of reviewing the skips for your organization, creating a testing and sign-off strategy is the next most time-consuming part of the process. If possible, leverage ServiceNow’s Automated Testing Framework (ATF) as much as you can. 

The automated testing scripts will run without a person monitoring and documenting the differences found, freeing up resources for the more manual testing. For anything else not covered through ATF, work with the stakeholders within the platform to create and run test scripts. Those test scripts can be used to outline anything that may have changed during the upgrade as well as serving as a basis for sign-off and acceptance of the new, upgraded environment. 


7. Document Everything

With upgrades happening more frequently, documenting key decisions (focusing mainly on the skips and testing scripts) will help make future upgrades even easier, especially as you add and expand your ServiceNow platform. 

This also prevents a loss of knowledge if someone from the previous upgrade project team switches roles or leaves your organization. And the documentation can be housed in your internal Knowledge Base, making it easy to find and follow in the future.


8. Make Your Team Available After the Upgrade

Another way to make your upgrade as successful as possible is to make the upgrade project team available multiple times after the upgrade has gone live. Not only will this build additional trust and accountability with your IT organization, but some reports and functions only happen monthly and will need to be verified when they happen.

Easy ways to accomplish this is having a digital drop-in session hosted by 1-2 members of the project team consistently and keeping a mailbox open for any questions from end users.


9. Conduct a Post-Mortem Once the Upgrade has been Completed

Just like with any project, conducting a post-mortem or “lessons learned” after an upgrade is a best practice. This will help your team figure out where the successes were, as well as things that could be improved upon for future upgrades.

Also, the “lessons learned” session should not be held in a vacuum, invite the stakeholders and other groups involved in the upgrade for their feedback as well, which will provide valuable insight that IT may have never thought of.


10. Design a Playbook for Future Upgrades

Take all of the information from all the insight gathered between documenting decisions, communications sent to everyone involved in the upgrade, and the post-mortem session, and create a playbook for future upgrades. At a minimum, your organization will be upgrading once a year to maintain compliance with ServiceNow. And don’t forget, Infocenter can upgrade for you! 

A playbook will continue to help refine and perfect the upgrade process within your organization, and can even be passed off to your Managed Service Provider or ServiceNow Partner so your internal administrators don’t have to worry about the upgrade. 


Upgrades can be a Breeze

ServiceNow upgrades are happening more frequently with the n-1 support model, which means organizations need to make their upgrades as streamlined as possible to keep the TCO low and get new features faster. By following our ServiceNow upgrade checklist and working with an experienced partner like Infocenter, upgrades can be a breeze from here on out. 



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