ServiceNow 101: Workflows & Upgrade Cycles

  • July 26, 2021
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This blog features an excerpt from NTT DATA’s ServiceNow Primer eBook. The following chapters provide an overview on the platform’s workflows and six-month upgrade cycle.

ServiceNow’s Big Picture: IT, employee, and customer workflows

The marketing (and the underlying structure) of the ServiceNow Platform has evolved in a big way over the years, but perhaps none is as noticeable as the shift from individual products such as HR, ITSM, ITOM, SecOps, and CSM, to more overarching groups: IT Workflows, Employee Workflows, and Customer Workflows.

While each of these groups contains the same existing platform products and modules, they are now organized by something even smaller and more basic: individual workflows. While the IT Workflows group contains ITSM, ITOM, ITBM, Asset, DevOps, SecOps, and GRC, what ties them all together are individual, automated, multi-step processes (ie. workflows).

A ServiceNow workflow is any part of the platform that automates a multistep process. For example, when hiring a new employee, HR has to send them onboarding forms, IT has to get them a computer, and the new hire may be required to complete some sort of company training – ServiceNow makes it possible to automate and streamline each of these tasks into a workflows so that it’s easy to track the progress of the new hire’s onboarding process.

Let’s break it down

To break it down even further, a workflow is a series of activities that follow execution paths. Now, an activity is a set of instructions or a unit of work that can include script, logging, approvals, record processing, timers, wait time, etc. They can process inputs from other Activities and conversely can provide output for other activities to process. This processing continues if an activity can determine which execution path to follow upon completing its work. Because workflows are made up of different sets of activities (which each handle their own set of instructions), workflows are a major win for automation on the ServiceNow platform: They are reusable and can even call other workflows (subflows) to expand their capabilities.

This type of automation is an expansion of self-service capabilities on the platform and serves as a standardization of processes, not only across a single company but across entire industries and economies.

ServiceNow’s Six-Month Upgrade Cycle

Of course, the world of business is constantly evolving, and so should your enterprise platforms. To combat constant business motion, ServiceNow has adopted a six-month upgrade cycle, which means they release a new version of the platform twice a year. Each one, named after a city in alphabetical order, provides innovative new features, greater stability, and increased performance for customers.

The very first platform update, Aspen, brought an emphasis on ensuring a robust, scalable system. This update offered new project templates, and first introduced workflow timelines as new features. Now we’re in the middle of the alphabet (no, we don’t know what will happen when they run out of letters), and here are some of the most recent platform updates:

  • ServiceNow Orlando marked the transition into a new era for ServiceNow. As the first release of the new decade and the first release with Bill McDermott at the helm, the Enterprise company did not disappoint in their upgrade. With Orlando, ServiceNow lives up to their “platform of platforms” strategy, continuing to develop their mobile capabilities and apps that deliver the consumer-like experiences the platform has become synonymous with.
  • ServiceNow Paris was released at a time when business, home, and technology have merged into a blended space for many, due to COVID-19. In some ways, the Paris release represents a different kind of product update for ServiceNow, as there were several code releases in the months prior to keep up with the demands of the pandemic.
  • ServiceNow Quebec enhances and builds upon some of ServiceNow’s off-cycle releases from 2020. It includes new additions in mobile functionality to not only access your instance from anywhere and everywhere but enhance productivity when you do.

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