Preparing for a ServiceNow Upgrade

Preparing for a ServiceNow Upgrade

Exciting news, the Madrid release upgrade is now available! We’ve compiled some best practice tips for upgrading your instance, taking advantage of new functionality, and ensuring success. Check them out below.

After several upgrades with no negative impact, it’s easy to start thinking you don’t need to do any testing or preparation. But it’s still important to prepare no matter how many smooth upgrades you’ve had. You never know when you’ll have one that sidelines you when you least expect it.

Here’s a great example of this: We were leading an upgrade event and the vendor scheduled the upgrade with less than two weeks between upgrading the test environment and the production environment. During the testing window, we discovered a critical issue with a business process the customer depended on. Fortunately, we were able to make the business case and the vendor agreed to delay the upgrade until the defect was fixed.

When preparing for an upgrade, we often think back to that event. What would have happened if we had been complacent and not tested ahead of time (especially since we had so many successful upgrades with that vendor)?

One advantage with ServiceNow is the ability to schedule upgrades when it works best for you. The vendor doesn’t set the schedule, you do. Preparing well is another advantage, which is also in your control.

To prepare for your next upgrade, plan to upgrade your test instance(s) first. Allow for an adequate testing period and then upgrade the production instance. To help with the planning, we recommend using an internal upgrade checklist. Once you have a checklist created it can be reused with small modifications for each subsequent upgrade.

A checklist should include: the task, a status, the person responsible for the task, the planned dates to start and end each task and the actual completion dates. Determine the dates by counting backward from the date you plan to upgrade the production instance.

The following are suggested items to include in your ServiceNow upgrade checklist.

Review Release Notes and Known Errors

  • Review the upgrade documentation and webinars provided by the vendor. These are invaluable resources.
  • Make note of any enhancements or known issues that may affect the features your company uses.
  • Download the ServiceNow Official Upgrade Checklist. This should be integrated into your overall checklist.
  • Make note of any new features you think would benefit your business.
  • Share the information with the business stakeholders and subject matter experts.
  • For new features you want to implement, prioritize the list and add them to your roadmap for post-upgrade projects.

Update Test Scripts

  • Have regression test scripts ready. These can be created once and reused with small modification for every upgrade.
  • Test scripts should cover the business processes and any integrations.
  • If you can, use automated test scripts. These can be a huge time saver.
  • If there are new features, create or modify the existing test scripts to include these. You’ll want to know what the impact is for your business.

Testing Window

  • Schedule the testing window well ahead of the planned upgrade.
  • Typically, the testing is performed by your company in a test environment.
  • Involve subject matter experts, power users, governance, change process resources and the Change Advisor Board.

Communications Plan

  • Sending an upgrade announcement to internal users a week ahead of the scheduled event is helpful. Include details about enhancements identified during testing that users should be aware of. This will reduce user questions and tickets to IT post-upgrade.
  • It’s also a good idea to include who to contact or where to submit a ticket if there are issues after the production upgrade.
  • It is a good practice to send a reminder the last working day before an upgrade.
  • If you have external facing users or integration partners, communicate your planned maintenance event to them.

Commit or Backup

  • For any in-progress development or configuration work, either get it committed in your production instance or complete exports before the upgrade. This way work is backed up just in case.

Scheduling the Upgrade

  • Schedule the production upgrade during non-business hours with enough time for “smoke testing” afterward.
  • Smoke testing is not the full regression testing, but a high-level check that everything is working as expected.

Post-Upgrade Retrospective and Lessons Learned

  • Have a post upgrade meeting to discuss lessons learned and ways to improve the next upgrade.
  • Create new testing scripts that address any issues found after upgrade.
  • Update process documentation with new features and incorporate any relevant retrospective outcomes.

To learn more about upgrading ServiceNow, check out our webinar: What to Expect When You’re Upgrading. You’ll learn more tips and get in-depth advice from our ServiceNow experts. Have a question on upgrading? Reach out directly to our team of experts at


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