Customization vs. Configuration in ServiceNow


What does customization and configuration mean in ServiceNow?

When it comes to choosing an enterprise software, like ServiceNow, it’s important to understand the difference between customization and configuration.

Let’s start with how they are defined by ServiceNow. A customization is “any change to code that is part of the baseline install of a ServiceNow instance”. In other words, customization changes the code to create functionality that wasn’t available at first. Examples include building new applications or features, changing UI Macros, changing baseline business rules.

A configuration is “tailoring an instance using ServiceNow best practices and API to meet your requirements without making changes to code”. Some examples of configurations include UI policies, plugins, groups, support groups, assignment rules, preferences, inbound and outbound email notifications. This is all done using ServiceNow’s native capabilities to address various business needs.

“Having delivered hundreds of ServiceNow implementations over the years, involving both customization and configuration, here at ABIT Puresoft we recommend that our clients go with the latter“ said Alexandru Banica, CEO of ABIT Puresoft, adding that “Configuration allows for greater flexibility, easier maintenance and faster upgrades”.

Configuration vs Customization

Any configuration can be reverted without affecting the ServiceNow base code. They are also more stable, having undergone regression testing to ensure every functionality works as intended, thus avoiding breaks and discrepancies in the software.

Another advantage of configurations is the upgrade time, which involves considerably less effort and resources compared to customized instances/ solutions. This quick upgrade provides access to the latest features and capabilities of ServiceNow, which, as previously mentioned, might not always be the case for customization. Finally, configuration may not even require developers for implementation and maintenance.

Customizations will delay any future ServiceNow upgrades. They are marked as skipped records in the ServiceNow Upgrade Monitor and each skipped record has to be processed manually to ensure that it was successfully imported to the upgrade. Some new features and applications of ServiceNow could also be unavailable in case of a customization. Moreover, customization requires developers and programmers to maintain the code.

Is configuration the answer to everything?

However, that doesn’t mean that we take customizations automatically off the table. ServiceNow guide advises that businesses “only resort to customization where there is clear business value and no alternative to satisfying demand,” going on to explain that “excess customization can build up technical debt and lengthen your upgrade cycle, inhibiting your ability to take advantage of new features.” ABIT Puresoft shares this view and recommends identifying a clear business need and return for the proposed customization.  

When the client’s needs cannot be met through configuration, we work with them to understand their existing workflows and devise the best customization options. This is usually the case with clients who have complex workflows.

To conclude, carefully consider the implementation, maintenance and upgrade process for configuration and customization before making a choice. If you need further guidance in choosing between the two, we invite you to get in touch with us.


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