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Is ServiceNow custom application development right for you?

ServiceNow offers robust application development, allowing developers to quickly create powerful applications. However, there’s still a sense of mystery surrounding custom application development in the platform: Many know it’s crucial and powerful for businesses to use but don’t know exactly how to get started, which applications to target, and how to align digital strategies to business. You get the most benefit from custom application development when you follow best practices.

In a recent interview on The Distillery podcast, Angi Williams broke down application development in ServiceNow, diving into details like overcoming technical debt and finding a balance between custom development and optimizing ServiceNow use. While customization has long had a negative connotation among ServiceNow users, Angi asserts that “custom should be embraced as long as it is done the correct way.”

Angi started her career as an application developer before continuing to grow her knowledge by receiving her Master of Science in IT from the University of Virginia. Now, she is an ITIL 4 Strategic Leader with more than 20 years of experience in consulting in the federal government and commercial spaces.

Drawing from her experience with ServiceNow and business development, Angi offered essential advice for any organization determining whether custom application development is right for them. Let’s dive into what she had to say.

Why consider custom application development?

According to Angi, custom development is a great fit in a few specific use cases. First, if your company is unique and doesn’t fit well within an existing SaaS or PaaS product, custom app development can meet organizations where they need extra support. Similarly, if your business requires innovative solutions that don’t exist in the marketplace, custom app development is the perfect route to take.

Customizing your applications also has the benefit of taking a unique case and developing a solution that makes it easy to use. However, too much customization can easily create a platform that’s too bloated, making it too difficult to maintain, enhance, or scale.

For example, there may be situations where you feel the need to over-customize an application, causing you to “paint yourself into a corner.” When you are creating an application, make sure to plan ahead—otherwise, you may find yourself needing to redo work. Take the extra time up front with your consultant to consider what’s best for you.


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What’s the best place for custom application development?

As Angi says, there are a few key things to consider when deciding whether ServiceNow is the best place for custom application development. “First of all, for a rapid time to value, with a high degree of flexibility, [ServiceNow is a good fit],” says Angi. “If you want to have a scalable solution across all lines of business as well, you will want to look at ServiceNow.”

Along those lines, organizations that have already invested in ServiceNow and want to maximize the value of their investment will want to consider ServiceNow’s automation engine to innovate. “I would [also] recommend looking at ServiceNow for app development if you see that there is an existing ServiceNow product and you’d like to leverage some of the functionality for your custom application. That’s another wonderful opportunity to leverage ServiceNow App Engine.”

Within ServiceNow, you can develop custom applications using either ServiceNow App Engine or ServiceNow OOB products like ITSM. Angi recommends relying on your consultant to decide which to use based on your specific use case. It may be that you use a combination of ServiceNow products to develop the application you need. For example, Angi has worked with many companies that have used App Engine alongside additional products in the ServiceNow line. “One of the most popular applications that we’ve done . . . for many different clients . . . is reservation scheduling. . . . That is something that is not a direct out-of-the-box functionality in ServiceNow.”

Beyond ServiceNow’s core capabilities, utilizing custom application development can empower organizations to tune into the areas they most need it. For example, they can use ServiceNow App Engine to develop more robust accessibility for those who need it without sacrificing the functionality of the platform.

Is custom application development worth it for your company?

When it comes to deciding whether or not to invest in custom application development in ServiceNow, Angi asserts it comes down to five key considerations. Here’s what you need to think about before moving forward:

    1. Business challenge and audience: What challenges are you solving for, and what does success look like? Visualize the future state you’re striving for and determine a gap analysis so you can fill them later.
    2. Estimated time to value: If you need quick app development and implementation, App Engine can help you rapidly develop a solution that meets any federal regulations or mandates. Using ServiceNow can expedite time to value by empowering you to develop the application more quickly than other tools.
    3. Current use and success: What do you already own in ServiceNow, and what is it offering you? Are there any products that aren’t meeting your needs? By reviewing what you’ve already invested in and its performance, you can ensure all upgrades help you leverage full functionality.
    4. Tradeoffs based on the ServiceNow roadmap: ServiceNow offers a complete roadmap that breaks down upcoming versions and new products, empowering you to consider the cost and benefit of addressing technical debt. For example, if ServiceNow will be offering a new product in the near future that addresses your needs, you need to consider whether you still need to use App Engine now. What innovation will you miss if you develop something that may come in a future upgrade?
    5. Technical debt: Legacy platforms are difficult and expensive to maintain, to say the least. With ServiceNow App Engine, you can accelerate outcomes that reduce—or remove—that debt.

At the end of the day, ServiceNow is an innovation engine that is built to meet every organization’s unique needs. “ServiceNow is meant to be configured in or customized using best practices and value scores to decide whether to pursue proposed customizations,” says Angi. “Just be cautious when customizing the ServiceNow products by using the value scores that ServiceNow has provided.”

As you develop custom applications for your organization, don’t forget to involve people from across your business—especially beyond IT. Determining who will be using your application most and understanding what their needs are is essential to gaining the knowledge of what will make your application great.

We’re with you for what comes next

You're working in a rapidly shifting environment.

Global dynamics, AI advancements, heavy competition–the only certainty is change.

We get it. And we’re here to help you harness the full potential of ServiceNow to simplify transformation.

Let's navigate the future together.


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We’re with you for what comes next

You're working in a rapidly shifting environment.

Global dynamics, AI advancements, heavy competition–the only certainty is change.

We get it. And we’re here to help you harness the full potential of ServiceNow to simplify transformation.

Let's navigate the future together.


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