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Investing in a high-quality implementation of ServiceNow® has positive financial impacts, both short- and long-term

Investing in a high-quality implementation of ServiceNow® has positive financial impacts, both short- and long-term – Tobias Schwartz

ServiceNow® is a powerful cloud platform, which provides service management software as a service and helps automate business processes. With specialisms including ServiceNow® IT Service Management, ServiceNow® IT Operations Management and ServiceNow® IT Business Management, ServiceNow® has proven itself able to deliver remarkable returns on investment for clients. The main drivers typically centre on:

  • Risk reduction
  • Cost reduction
  • Revenue uplift
  • Velocity acceleration, or ‘time to value’
  • Experience enhancement

While customers generally realise their anticipated outcomes, significant differences exist in the investment required to achieve these outcomes. Implementation costs for running and expanding a ServiceNow environment are dependent on short- and long-term differences in client approaches to the implementation.

What drives a high quality ServiceNow implementation?

High quality implementations leverage ServiceNow Technical Best Practices and usually require trained, and ServiceNow certified, consultants to perform the work.

The configuration is carefully planned and designed, naming conventions and coding standards are established, and critical and complex configurations are well documented. The code base is regularly improved, and regular code peer reviews are conducted to ensure quality. Through the ServiceNow Automated Test Framework, upgrades and modifications are tested, to safeguard against malfunctions. This minimises the risk of technical debt.

What factors influence a low quality ServiceNow implementation?

Low quality ServiceNow implementations often overlook the impact of technical debt. The focus is to build new features as quickly as possible, with minimal time dedicated to planning and design.   Developers use their personal style of coding and inconsistent naming conventions. All too often, no documentation is prepared, and critical knowledge resides within the heads of a few expert resources.

Testing is ad hoc and manual in low quality implementations. Customisations that impact release upgrades are common. Developers fail to follow ServiceNow Technical Best Practices. Technical debt accumulates over time resulting in unmanageable complexity and a deterioration of structure. This in turn culminates in a higher effort required to build and deliver new features.

Comparing different implementation approaches

The following simplified comparison of two fictitious companies has been developed to help illustrate the relation between cost and quality of implementation:

Company A – Low quality implementation

Runs a low quality ServiceNow implementation and does not leverage ServiceNow Technical Best Practices.

Company B – High quality implementation

Embraces ServiceNow Technical Best Practices and demands a high-quality implementation.

Let’s assume that both companies operate in the same industry and have the same sized ServiceNow implementations, with a DevOps style delivery methodology to continuously deploy new features.

The key metric both companies will be compared against is ‘average cost per configured feature’ (ACCF). A feature can be either a user story or an epic that is made up of multiple user stories. The comparison runs over a period of 12 months.

This hypothetical scenario is based on the assumption that company A (low quality configuration) starts off with $1000 ACCF. By not following best practices, company A saves time and is able to deploy at a higher rate than company B in the first few months. However, the accumulated technical debt in the configuration/code base leads to a steady increase in effort to build new features. We assume a 10% effort increase per month.

Company B on the other hand, emphasises high quality implementations, according to ServiceNow Best Practices. Company B’s initial ACCF of $1500 is therefore higher than company A’s. The ACCF changes slightly over time. However, the constant improvement of the code base, and the leveraging of best practices, results in a stable ACCF of between $1500 – $1600.

After only 12 months, company A’s ACCF is roughly 50% ($1,250) higher than company B’s.

Company B can deploy the same number of features as company A at half the cost, or, company B can deploy 50% more features than company A at the same cost. Company B gains a clear competitive advantage in this example.

While this is a simplified example of two imaginary companies, the quantifiable difference between both approaches to implementation is evident. Low quality implementations quickly and significantly increase ongoing implementation costs.

Note: This article does not emphasise on the myriad further issues, which should be considered when assessing the quality of an implementation, including: release upgrade effort, reliance on key expert resources, tribal knowledge, instance performance, risk of impacted production users and potential outages.

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