ServiceNow Insights: Six top tips for a stress free instance upgrade


ServiceNow offers new upgrades for your instance on a regular basis, like for example the Calgary and Dublin. There are several reasons why you should not miss upgrading your instance:

  • Upgrading provides stability in your instances; it fixes problems found by different customers and adds new features to your customizations.
  • To make the most of your ServiceNow instance make sure that you use all available features and that everything is running smoothly. That is why it is important that you apply at least every second upgrade to your instance.
  • And finally you have to do it!! (you should never be more than a couple of  releases behind)

After carrying out several upgrades I want to share my experience with the upgrading process with you. The initial process is automatically executed by ServiceNow when submitting a request in HI (The ServiceNow Customer Service System). Nevertheless, after the automatic upgrade there is some analysis and manual actions that needs to be executed to ensure that you follow the programming best practices. This is a very delicate process during which you should consider seeking assistance from an experienced ServiceNow administrator.

Once the new release has been applied in your instance, there are 6 essential steps that you should follow to guarantee a successful upgrade:

  1. Starting point: First of all you should analyse the components that you have configured in your instance. That helps you to identify key areas and to understand which are the most critical for your business. This will help you to later clearly identify where you should apply more testing activities.
  2. Use development and test environments: Before applying the new version in the production environment, it is very important to follow a normal IT process as if this would be a new service in your system. Based on your configuration in the system, the new functionalities might override some changes or might not work as expected. The list created in step 1. and the logs generated in the system (see point 4) can help you to identify the conflictive elements. If you identify any conflictive element, you will most likely need to modify some elements to make the instance work consistently.
  3. Check available patches: Certain patches should be applied if some bugs appear with the specific version. System administrators are sometimes not able to fix issues due to the fact that ServiceNow uses files to define an instance which cannot be accessed or modified.  On the ServiceNow wiki page you can find an overview of all available patches and hot fixes including the fixes they contain. They must be applied as soon as these bugs are detected, but it is very important to try to do it at the beginning of the process. Some developments could have been added to adapt the instance to the new functionality provided by the new Release, and Patches can contain some fixes that could interact with the new development.
ServiceNow release Cycle
ServiceNow release Cycle Source: wiki.servicenow.com

  1. Analyze logs: The upgrade process generates a list of logs which shows the state of the new or modified implementations in your system. By analyzing those logs once the upgrade process has been finished we can get a list of elements whose functionality needs to be checked. It is very important to know the new features added and modified and their possible repercussion in the customized features of the instance, especially on UI pages and UI macros. These are the typical elements that ServiceNow modifies between different versions to improve some functionalities. This is one of the reasons why ServiceNow recommends not modifying them if you do not have a good knowledge of XML and Jelly script. By applying an upgrade we often find some inconsistencies based on the modifications applied on those pages and macros.
  2. Execute regression tests: Some of the problems that can appear in a ServiceNow instance cannot be detected in the logs, such as performance issues or browser errors. Therefore, it is very important to execute some tests after applying a new version which covers the main features of the system.
  3. Execute tests in several browsers: Due to the possible browser errors mentioned earlier, it is crucial to run all the test cases generated for the process in all browsers used across all versions of those browsers. For example, in one of the projects GFT worked on, an error message appeared for Internet Explorer IE8 and previous versions. The same functionality was tested with other browsers such as Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox or IE9 but no error message appeared. The reason for that problem was that IE needed a lot of time to execute the javascript functions and the corresponding configurations to react of the browser when executing scripts that require a lot of time to execute.

Once these points have been checked and all the groups involved in the process given the nod to apply the specific version in production, point 4 must be executed again to compare the results with those obtained in the other environments. After doing so the update sets created can be applied in the process with the customizations added to fix the issues raised due to the upgrade. Before giving the users again access to the system it is recommended to execute all the test cases again to make sure the main functionalities are correctly working.

After that you are ready to take advantage of new features and to improve your business processes. So “UpgradeNow” and reap the rewards of the latest ServiceNow versions.

GFT is sponsoring Knowledge14 running from 27th April – 1st May 2014 in San Francisco. At Knowledge14 more than 6,000 ServiceNow customers will gather together for the learning and networking experience for service-centric IT professionals.

If you’d like to know more about what GFT can do to make the most of ServiceNow in your organization, please contact Albert.Franquesa@gft.com to find out more or to schedule a meeting at Knowledge14 you can contact Marina.Schmid@gft.com.