In this article

When leveraged correctly, the IT Operations Management (ITOM) Suite within the ServiceNow Platform enables organizations to improve the overall quality, efficiency and experience of IT service delivery for customers and end-users.

ServiceNow's Service Catalog - A sampling of automation in-use at WWT
ServiceNow's Service Catalog: A sampling of automation in-use at WWT

In attempting to turn this vision into reality, IT leaders develop goals aimed at improving upon the ITOM status quo:

  • enable stakeholders to instantly spin-up/down, scale-in/out resources through automation and orchestration;
  • allow engineers to instantly focus on and remediate the root cause of the most pressing issue/outage by eliminating noise; and
  • leverage artificial intelligence/machine learning (AI/ML) to recognize patterns and address issues instantly or (better still) to prevent them from ever occurring.

These goals tend to align with the key performance indicators (KPIs) that we're familiar with today:

  • percentage of closed requests with breached SLAs;
  • average time to fulfill a request;
  • percentage of incidents resolved within SLA; and
  • average time to resolve (MTTR), etc.

Before you begin

It's important to consider that each of the ITOM goals outlined above require operational and strategic data to drive intelligent decision-making. Is accurate and timely data available to answer questions such as:

  • How is this virtual server tied to that customer-facing business service?
  • Which alert (among the hundreds coming in) is the most critically important to address based on the business' priority?
  • Has restarting the XYZ service historically solved this issue on this device?

Within ServiceNow, the Configuration Management Database (CMDB) holds the key information for answering these questions (whether it's an engineer, system administrator or computer-driven AI that's asking them). 

The CMDB is made up of records of an organization's hardware, software, services and—perhaps most importantly—their relationships amongst one another. In practice, these items are referred to as configuration items (CIs) and CI relationships.

Configuration Item Dependency Views within the ServiceNow CMDB
Configuration item dependency views within the ServiceNow CMDB

Each of the processes ServiceNow is known for (Incident, Problem, Change, Knowledge, Service Catalog/Request, Vulnerability Response, Security Operations, etc.) are designed to reference CI records contained within the CMDB. By creating associations between these processes and the related CIs they impact, ServiceNow collects and aggregates the data needed to drive the intelligent decisions made in higher-level automation and orchestration.

Put CMDB guardrails in place

Given the foundational importance of this data for future ITOM efforts, it is vitally important to understand that CMDB/configuration management is an ongoing process and not just a tool to implement. Without proper oversight and governance, the CMDB can become nothing more than a nuisance. A CMDB with poor quality data is just as bad, if not worse, than not having a CMDB at all.

Going into an ITOM implementation with configuration management in mind, IT leaders should add another goal (with associated KPIs) to the roster: to create an accurate representation of the IT estate within the CMDB. The associated KPIs include:

  • percentage of duplicate configuration items;
  • percentage of non-compliant configuration items; and
  • percentage of stale configuration items.
ServiceNow CMDB View Dashboard
ServiceNow CMDB view dashboard: Displaying sample metrics for completeness, compliance and correctness

Regularly monitor the success of the configuration management processes by leveraging the CMDB view dashboard. Once a plan has been established to manage and maintain the CMDB as live data pours in, it's time to begin implementing IT operations management modules.

How to get started with ITOM

Kicking off the ITOM implementation can appear to be an overwhelming prospect at first. Enterprises that follow these best practices are much more likely to succeed.

The three pillars of ServiceNow's ITOM Suite
The three pillars of ServiceNow's ITOM Suite: visibility, health and optimization

1. Start with visibility: Using discovery to populate the CMDB

This might seem obvious, but Discovery is the tool best-suited to populate the CMDB with CI details. Many other tools can be integrated with ServiceNow to populate CI data, but organizations that choose to solely utilize these tools, while excluding Discovery, are positioning themselves poorly for future success. Why should organizations utilize Discovery?

  • Additional ITOM functionality depends on it – Service Mapping and Event Management rely in-part on the Discovery module. Without it, the IT roadmap will have to exclude these items.
  • It's powerful right Out of the Box (OOTB) – There are over five-hundred pre-built Patterns in ServiceNow that can discover Windows, Unix/Linux, AIX, HPUX, IBM, Cloud, Containers, Databases, Firewalls, IoT, Load Balancers, Routers, Storage Devices, Virtualized Resources, and more.
  • It's Lightweight – Discovery is Agentless, it does not require organizations to install software on each device. Instead the MID Server uses a series of patterns, probes, and sensors to identify targeted devices and collect relevant details.

For a hands-on experience with ServiceNow Discovery, visit the ServiceNow ITOM: Intro to Discovery lab.

2. Assemble and engage the appropriate stakeholders

No matter the organization, Discovery implementation requires a group effort—stakeholders from network, security, infrastructure, applications and service desk teams will all likely play a part. 

Building and enabling a cross-functional team that can assess and address business priorities, data center architecture, security considerations, network configuration and more to work alongside your ServiceNow team. This approach has two key benefits:

  • These representatives have a stake in the success of the Discovery implementation, and therefore are more likely to want to see it succeed.
  • Invariably, their support will be needed for implementation activities like creating a service account, modifying a firewall, etc.

3. Narrow the initial focus

Too often Discovery projects are derailed because teams are simply overwhelmed with the sheer volume of data that is pouring in. Don't try to boil the ocean! Taking on too much too quickly will cause the project to fail—ultimately leading to an unchecked and untidy CMDB.

  • Focus initially only on the business services, associated CIs and data that matter most to the enterprise.
  • Limit your Discovery schedules to smaller IP ranges, with higher certainty of what's expected to be discovered there.
  • Validate that the incoming data meets expectations and includes the fields that are most important for future reporting and automations.

This limited initial approach builds confidence in the Discovery product and increases the Discovery administrator's competence in troubleshooting common issues.

4. Activate the store plugins

ServiceNow is regularly testing, developing and improving Discovery for new and existing CI types. Two plugins are available on the ServiceNow Store which enable an instance to improve upon its CMDB and Discovery capabilities, without having to wait for the next major upgrade:

5. Evaluate additional sources to augment discovery data

In every implementation there is one or more CI type(s) where ServiceNow Discovery may not be the tool best-suited for the job due to constraints around security, network, etc. 

Organizations should evaluate the existing toolsets at their disposal and consider pairing ServiceNow Discovery with additional data from these sources. Secondary data sources frequently include:

  • Microsoft SCCM;
  • Microsoft InTune;
  • HP Operations Manager;
  • Jamf;
  • IBM BigFix;
  • Tanium;
  • AppDynamics; and
  • many, many others.

6. Work with an experienced implementation partner

Whether your organization is just beginning to consider ServiceNow, or a longtime customer who is looking to improve processes and/or build new capabilities—we have experienced professionals ready to assist. By combining ServiceNow's technology with our consulting expertise and deep-seated engineering background, we've transformed our customer's Enterprise Service Management capabilities.

Ready to get started? Request a briefing to speak with our experts about your unique requirements.