Why Reimplementation is Often Right, and Which Way to Go Next

Why Reimplementation is Often Right, and Which Way to Go Next

Frustrated entrepreneur discussing with his colleague on a business meeting in the office.

Once upon a time, there was a team that had a favorite tool. Everything was hunky-dory. Then one day the team tried to recreate that tool in ServiceNow. Now they’re paying the price. (Literally!)


What a downer, right?! The saddest part is that the tale is told so often.

But it’s easy to understand why: many people face an awkward predicament when trying to explain to management the need to retool their processes, just to better align with the ServiceNow platform and its best practices. After all, you bought the tool to solve “our” problems, didn’t you? 

Unfortunately, people are oftentimes under the impression that the tool, and the tool alone, is the answer. If that was the case, you’d simply accept the ServiceNow tool as-is, straight out of the box, without trying to make it feel like the old tool.

At Cask, we like new tech tools as much as you. But we also believe that your people (not machines and tools) deserve the credit for getting work done—by following a consistent process, using a well-configured tool, and supported by internal management and culture.

The Configuration Decision Saga

In this story, you’re the hero. The plot twist is that tool implementation has been weakened by your configuration of it and the team is forced to pick up the slack. Luckily, we’ve got several strategies to help the hero.

When you first make configuration decisions, you have limited experience with ServiceNow and there’s pressure to implement the platform successfully. Teams get accustomed to working a certain way, so recreating that familiar style in ServiceNow seems like a good idea, given the right price and timeframe.

But change is tough. And changing one’s preferred choice of tool can be tough all by itself, right?

Here’s how the story usually plays out: to minimize change, you keep the same processes and allow your team to work with the new tool the same way they did with the old one. While that decision can minimize training costs and alleviate the impact of change at the time, it becomes apparent later that there are opportunities to improve the process and reduce costs by getting closer to a baseline configuration of ServiceNow.

Getting ServiceNow Implementation Right

Best practices evolve over time. ITIL isn’t dogma—it’s a collection of best practices that are meant to be molded.

Think about it this way: Say your company is in the manufacturing business. Would it be acceptable to keep doing the same thing the same way for years on end—for the same cost? Not likely.

The same holds true for IT Service Management. Your organization made the move to ServiceNow to take advantage of the evolution in service management that the platform makes possible.

No, You Didn’t Do It Wrong

Let’s figure out how to get you closer to baseline ServiceNow and make the tool the rock-solid foundation it can be.

The trick is to make your best business case for “updating,” “refreshing,” “tweaking,” “maintaining,” or “enhancing” your ServiceNow instance to better align with ServiceNow best practices. That’s how to avoid the stigma of a “do-over.”

You didn’t do it wrong the first time—you simply did what was possible at the time with the means available.

Start with a Plan: The ServiceNow Platform Governance Plan

If you have accidentally fallen into this trap, the key is to start with the ServiceNow Platform Architect function in your ServiceNow Platform Governance Plan. Make no mistake, this is not an install-it-once-and-patch-it-occasionally piece of software circa 1996, this is a robust cloud-based platform that can revolutionize how you work. And this doesn’t just pertain to IT but to every place in your organization where structured work exists.

You Need a Governance Team, Standards and a Roadmap

A key element of governance is the ServiceNow Platform Architect function, which sets standards on how you technically govern the platform. Turn to the Platform Architect to learn when to configure and customize, as well as how to determine valid technical reasons for deviating from the tool’s standard configuration. (For more on this topic, see the jointly developed Cask & ServiceNow “Governance, Technical Best Practice” eBook.)

The ServiceNow Platform Architect function can fit into your complete platform-governance structure to help you determine what needs to change and what can stay the same when planning the timing for changes.

Look at the Process Side

Management loves continual service improvement because it leads to measurable results in the mystical triad (Better, Faster, Cheaper).

Your goal should be to remove any process elements that force the tool—or your people—into some sort of unnatural act while trying to work.

Process Owners and/or Application Owner(s) must pull their teams together periodically in order to effectively govern those processes and applications (ServiceNow HR Case & Knowledge Management are examples of non-IT processes). Your process teams need help regarding both a tool’s normal function and industry best practices in that area. Just as you need a ServiceNow platform roadmap to assist in structuring improvements and platform maintenance, you also need a process maturity roadmap for each process.

ServiceNow or a certified ServiceNow implementation partner can help you examine what you need to do to return to a standard configuration and remove the burden from your team.

Choose Your Path

You need to have a roadmap and adhere to it unless conditions change because logical, planned change is the best approach for a successful outcome. As with many things, you’re forced to choose: 
Do I do this as one big bang or as an incremental set of changes?

There are pros and cons with both approaches, from technical, process-improvement, political and cost perspectives

Choice #1: Incremental Approach

If you are going the incremental route, the logical time to make these changes may be as part of a ServiceNow version upgrade. An upgrade requires planning and patience, as you want to time specific efforts to get back closer to standard with the enhancements that ServiceNow makes to those modules. At that point, you need to be in the guts of your instance and testing to some degree, anyway. Those elements add to your business case (see the next section) by reducing the cost of reimplementation under the guise of a budget item you were going to take on regardless. The downside is that, although you meeting the tests of Good and Cheap, you’ll fall short of getting it done Fast on this one. It will likely take 18 months to get back to a standard configuration.

Choice #2: The Big Bang Effect

If your choice is to do it all at once, sort of like ripping off the Band-Aid® or the Big Bang Effect (not to be confused with boiling the ocean approach), this may be reasonably Cheap while also meeting the Good and Fast tests.

You may now be thinking that I am a crazy consultant, but hear me out. You have something now that you didn’t when you first implemented ServiceNow: data and evidence. You have measurements at every step of the work that can be compared to the desired future state. This data allows you to build a business case that can help you convince management to take the Big Bang approach. From a political perspective, Big Bang has the advantages of a “fresh” look.


Making the Business Case

There are ways to leverage your learning following your initial ServiceNow implementation to build that internal business case. After all, evidence-based management makes much more sense than guessing.

Cost considerations when making your business case:

    • Labor management customizations during ServiceNow upgrades
    • Labor savings due to process workflow improvements
    • Cost avoidance because of decreased professional-service costs
    • Improved end-user/customer satisfaction from process improvements
    • Benefits of faster resolution or service delivery times (end-user productivity)

Benefits of better reporting due to better alignment with out-of-box functionality

  • Decreased training time / improved ability to scale due to reduced customization


While some of these are soft costs and, as such, generally discounted by management, they help tell the story. In a large enterprise, hard-cost savings alone can add up quickly.

Remember, the law of large numbers works for you here: If you can shave $1 in labor off of each incident in a 10,000 annual-incident organization, that amounts to $10,000 in labor. That $1 in labor is 1 minute and 54 seconds for a $60,000/year employee at a reasonable burden rate of 1.35x.

Remember also that there will be costs associated with each approach—incremental and Big Bang. Capture and compare all of them to give yourself the best possible business case for your management team.


In managing the change, the business case is integral in determining which approach is best for your organization. But don’t let it get in your way. Make sure you align to the ServiceNow technical and business best practices in your platform configuration.

Develop and implement a roadmap that includes a continual service-improvement cycle for each of your processes and ServiceNow applications.

Reimplementation is a viable option for some customers who tried to recreate (pick your tool) in ServiceNow. Make an informed, mindful decision and don’t hesitate to ask for help and advice from a knowledgeable, experienced ServiceNow partner.

Consider organizational change management in this conversation. Even if you have a platform architect and the organization is not willing to change work styles to align with the ServiceNow baseline or with minimal configuration changes, you will still end up in a “customized” version of the platform.

Get the tools you need to create a solid governance foundation that is scalable and easy to manage. Get the know-how by consulting ServiceNow Governance Best Practices.


Download ServiceNow’s Governance Best Practices

ServiceNow's Governance Best PracticesServiceNow and Cask bring you the latest eBook on best practices for Governance with the ServiceNow tool.  The purpose of this e-book is to provide you with the tools to create a governance foundation that is scalable and easy to manage. In this eBook you will learn:

  • Required baseline processes for success
  • Technical best practices and tips
  • Links to related documents and articles

Fill out the form below to receive access to this eBook. If you are having trouble submitting this form, please contact us at info@caskllc.com.


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