Go wide or go deep: the ServiceNow conundrum

I watched a recent Live Coding Happy Hour video from the ServiceNow Dev Program team - Building an app in 2007 - Live Coding Happy Hour - where they tried to build an app on an instance that was running the Fall 2007 release. (Back then they tried to do three or four releases a year and naming them after cities was still five years in the future.)

My key takeaway was even though there has been huge evolution in applications, capabilities, and user interface in the period between now and then, essentially you still had the core building blocks you needed to create applications like you do today. Tables, forms, lists, business rules, client scripts, navigation, imports, transforms, approval and web services were all there. This just highlights that ServiceNow has always been a platform on which applications can be built.

This leads to a question which I have seen posted a few times on the ServiceNow community and LinkedIn: “if I’m new to ServiceNow should I try and learn a little about everything (go wide), or should I focus on a few key applications and really understand them to a detailed level (go deep)?”.

At this point I believe it’s impossible to know everything about ServiceNow, and I’d question anyone who says they do. ServiceNow is a platform, so I would recommend you go as deep as you can in understanding the capabilities it provides. This includes Mobile, Now intelligence and App Engine. In doing so you will not only gain an understanding of how the sum of these parts are used to create ServiceNow applications like Change, CIM and Project, but when someone in your organisation wants to digitise a manual or inefficient process you know what’s available and what you need to consider.

As for the applications in the product suites such as ITSM, ITBM, IRM then this is where I would say focus on where your organisation has experience and specialism and then bring in the expertise where needed. Most of the applications in these products are extremely mature and often align to existing standards or have been enhanced over numerous versions. So it becomes less about tailoring them to meet your needs and more about using them as they are. If this is not your area then you may end up changing something that shouldn’t really, or is not designed to be changed.

SAM is a great example in that it is about plugging your licence data into ServiceNow and letting it do the complex reconciliation. There is very limited configuration involved, but the key is knowing about the software licenses you have and understanding software and license management. I know of a number of GRC, Demand and Change projects having to go back to an out of the box configuration due to a lack of understanding of the capabilities of the original application.

As a ServiceNow Elite partner we are by nature a bit of both. We pride ourselves on foremost understanding the ServiceNow platform, and then we have specialists across our team to cover the various products. This gives our customers confidence that we will deliver architecturally sound solutions regardless of if the application has been built by ServiceNow or is custom one unique to them. Our managed services customers can also tap into our expertise at anytime to ensure they are getting the most out of their ServiceNow investment.

But where you don’t have all the skills inhouse my advice is to go deep on the platform and in the applications where you have expertise, then work with specialists in those that you don’t so you can learn along the way.

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