Tactical vs. Strategic ServiceNow Solutions Illustrated by Closet Design

These days, most of us are working from home. If you’re anything like me that means a backdrop of setting up gardens, baking sourdough bread, and doing laundry throughout the day instead of late at night after a long commute. Laundry is one of those essential but aggravating tasks. Not that we don’t like clean clothes, but there is always at least one step along the way that we hate more than all the rest. For some people it’s sorting dirty laundry, for others, it’s folding clothes out of the dryer. Personally, I dread the last step of putting clothes away. To understand why I fall short, I watched numerous videos and shows on the closet organization from Niecy Nash’s clean house to Marie Kondo hoping they would give me some magical key to unlock my laundry impasse.

But, of all the places, I found my answer in ServiceNow.

What? Does ServiceNow understand closet organization? Well, maybe not pants and sweaters, but it does understand data management and architecture with the Common Service Data Model and CMDB. The Common Service Data Model creates a place for everything and how they relate so you can put CI and Service information in its place. Think of it as a great closet design. 

That’s great, but once everything is in the closet, how do you keep it neat past day one? Just like laundry baskets consistently pile up with clothes, the same happens with CMDB. We talk to dozens of clients that set up CMDB but three years later find they are back to the drawing board because the CMDB is filled with duplicates and incomprehensible information.

More often than not, we find clients are missing process and governance. Establishing a clear process is important to set ground rules on what happens to clothes or CIs at every stage. 

  • What happens when you have a new service or bought new clothes? 
  • What should your CMDB administrator do when your metrics have gone astray? 
  • How do you get back on track? 

Governance is about who is responsible for executing the processes or making decisions. 

  • Who is in charge of putting away the clothes: is there one person or is each person responsible for putting away their own clothes?
  • Do you have a CMDB and/or Discovery administrator? 
  • Who decides where a new service (new clothes) goes or what do you do with orphan CIs (old clothes)?

Finally, in order to make sure you’re on track, you need to measure KPIs. 

  • What percentage of CIs are orphaned (clothes have not been used) or are rarely used in ITSM processes (out of date or wrong size clothes)?
  • How many people are not following the process (laundry baskets of clean laundry piling up)?
  • How easy is it to find the CIs in the right class (are shirts in the place you expect them to be)

Understanding the difference between tactical ServiceNow solutions vs strategic ServiceNow solutions

Often our first reaction to fixing the CMDB is a tactical one: Let’s automate using Discovery (Use a laundry service)! Let’s set up more CI Classes (buy more storage for clothes)! This is simple enough early on when you have one data center and most things are on-prem. But most of us are navigating multiple data centers, multiple cloud providers, and IT service providers. As babies, our clothes fit into a simple dresser, but as we grow the volume and purpose of your clothes grows as well. There are school clothes, nice clothes, play clothes, wear-it-for-one-picture gift clothes. Tactical thinking alone doesn’t define the purpose of having these clothes/CIs in the first place nor how to manage them.

Strategic CMDB thinking aligns CMDB with your organizational goals. Here are a few examples:

  • We want to measure and reduce software spend. We need SAMPro and to know who has what. In order to align to those goals, governance helps define who will make decisions: how should data be integrated into ServiceNow, who needs access to this data, what kind of metrics do we need to monitor and ITAM utilizing the CMDB data to align those metrics?
  • My son is starting football next year. We’ll need a place for the equipment and workout clothes: what clothes need to be purchased, where should they go, and who needs to take care of them. The developing process ensures we make grow and mature smoothly. 

As I looked at the baskets of clean and folded clothes, I realized I didn’t identify the right classes and spaces to organize the clothes. Once I created space to put the clothes, I had decisions to make about whether I would keep all the clothes or increase the capacity of the closet. Did I have orphaned or unused clothes? Will I ever need my “office work” clothes? Do I have enough tops for zoom meetings? Did I gain Covid-19 pounds that prevented me from using some clothes? Was my plan to buy new clothes or get on a program to lose weight? If so, how and when will I check in to ensure I am on track with my personal goals?