How to Build Custom Enterprise Applications on ServiceNow | Infopulse
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Beating the Odds in Building Enterprise Applications on ServiceNow

ServiceNow is a robust, innovative cloud IT platform with a single architecture that helps enterprises modernize the full spectrum of internal business workflows. A trusted partner as per Fortune 500 companies and a “Visionary” product, according to Gartner Magic Quadrant, ServiceNow provides enterprises with paramount capabilities to develop and deploy custom apps.

ServiceNow offers a low-code environment and an array of tools for creating business applications rapidly. The particular draw is that instead of building new products from scratch, your team can leverage out-of-the-box components and reuse code and APIs to deliver scalable, integrated applications faster and at a lower cost.

The Benefits of Developing Apps on ServiceNow

As with other low code app development platforms, the core benefit of ServiceNow is a rapid and intuitive application development toolkit. Using drag & drop interfaces, business users (citizen developers) can assemble basic apps or product prototypes. More advanced enterprise app development, however, will require coding expertise. Albeit, the benefits of speed and cost-effectiveness remain.

According to an IDC survey of enterprise ServiceNow users, on average, organizations will capture $5.63 million worth of IT staff productivity benefits per year or $26,871 per 100 users due to improved visibility, higher automation, and repeatable processes. Furthermore, respondents reported the following benefits of using ServiceNow:

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The ServiceNow platform delivers a strong foundation for building any types of business apps, spanning cross-domain into:

  • Request management
  • Knowledge management and onboarding
  • Collaboration and project management tools
  • Service-level management
  • Reporting and analytics
  • And more.

By adopting ServiceNow, your company can build an array of custom server-side and client-side apps. The latter are connected to a single database, meaning that there are no interoperability issues or informational bottlenecks due to data silos. Furthermore, you can develop custom integrations with other software products and securely integrate them into the ServiceNow platform.

What Types of ServiceNow Custom Applications You Can Build

The particular benefit of ServiceNow is that there’s no limit to what types of applications you can deploy. You can choose to build new products atop of the next platform modules:

Together, such solutions round up to 75 different use cases and a countless combination of specific enterprise apps to meet any need you have.

Below we lined up several examples of enterprise ServiceNow apps other organizations are creating.

Apps for Process Automation

Deploy apps for streamlining the common workflows and automating low-value tasks. Brit Insurance recently created an online service portal for managing employee onboarding and termination. The new solution integrated data, tasks, and processes across IT, HR and Finance functions. As a result, most of the repetitive tasks associated with managing new hires were automated, so both the new workers and HR teams now enjoy greater productivity. Additionally, all relevant data was consolidated in one place.

C.H. Robinson, a leading logistics provider, also used ServiceNow to create custom apps for automating manual processes for about 20,000 tickets per month. As a result, their IT and support teams gained access to new workload management tools that saved them over 2,080 hours per year.

Improved Service Management Solutions

Enhance service provisioning cross-organization, just like CERN did. The institution has 2,400 staff members and hosts an additional 10,000 visiting scientists per year. To streamline service management, the organization migrated to ServiceNow and deployed a robust business multi-module service portal that covers incident management and request fulfillment across IT, finance, HR, safety, facilities, and access management.

Engagement Portals for Customers and Third Parties

Coca Cola leveraged the ServiceNow platform to deliver a better consumer-like experience to their new partners responsible for deploying new Freestyle vending machines internationally. The new app has enabled its IT department to efficiently aggregate and respond to all the user-provisioning, role distribution, and application access demands globally. As well, their partners could use a self-service portal to create new user records and request access to Coca-Cola’s internal applications.

Single-Pane Project Management Dashboards

Equinix CIO and IT leaders needed more comprehensive, real-time insights into all KPIs for their organization. They deployed a new dashboard app on ServiceNow to achieve just that. Within one month after the adoption, the company’s SLA levels improved by 44%. Additionally, they improved and automated the reporting process for the IT teams.

You can review additional examples of ServiceNow apps in this report.

ServiceNow Application Development: Opportunities and Challenges

As the examples above illustrate, ServiceNow is more than an advanced ITSM tool; it’s a strategic cross-domain platform that can enhance a wide array of business functions. The platform itself is developed using advanced standards-based technologies, making it easy to build and deploy new SaaS apps.

Several features, in particular, make ServiceNow development robust and agile:

  • Single data model – simplifies access to a multitude of data sources.
  • Single codebase – you won’t find any ‘foreign code’ or 3rd party integrations inside the platform.
  • Versatile low- and no-code development tools.
  • Well-known coding languages – JavaScript, HTML5, CSS, AngularJS, and Bootstrap.

This, in turn, enables enterprises to accelerate development efforts by as much as 290%, according to Gartner research. Most ServiceNow projects are delivered in 6 months sooner than expected. Thus, the total time-to-value productivity gains by end-users constituted over $20 million over three years among surveyed organizations.

Where’s the challenge then? Well, faster application development requires companies to adopt Agile methodologies and switch to leaner software development life cycles in place of legacy Waterfall approaches – something a lot of recent ServiceNow adopters don’t have much practical experience with. Moreover, some organizations lack enough IT staff to fulfill the number of service requests and new integrations that may be heading their way.

From a technical standpoint, ServiceNow custom application development is a relatively smooth process, but not completely obstacle-free. Specifically, application testing may get complicated.

Most enterprises tend to allocate small development and testing teams for ServiceNow projects. Indeed, due to lower requirements for native coding and an abundance of reusable code and API integrations, more junior-level developers can handle simple app development projects.

To ensure that the final product won’t ‘break’ anything else within your ecosystem, testing must be rigorous. Herein lies the problem: in most cases, your team won’t have well defined automated test cases in place. Regression tests, in particular, may be challenging to execute as you’ll need to ensure complete coverage over the entire platform. Your QA team will need to test for a different combination of data inputs, user roles, and environments.

As ServiceNow uses a solid object model, changes sometimes may lead to unexpected consequences. For instance, if your team decides to change the allowed data input format in one form field within a new app, this change can affect all other forms that have this field.

If later on, your developers decide to change a significant section of the previously working code, the testing will have to be done all over again. The same goes for system upgrades. ServiceNow semi-annually releases new platform versions (the current one in New York). As a client, you can skip only one update. This means that at least once a year your team will need to retest all custom applications and integrations to ensure that they are working properly within the new version.

Thus, while the development itself can be fast and agile, ServiceNow app testing can take more time.

How to Develop Business Apps on ServiceNow

ServiceNow caters to two types of users:

  • Citizen developers (business users) who can use graphic tools to assemble simple apps.
  • Professional developers in charge of building more advanced business applications using supported programming languages.

In this section, we’ll provide best practices for the latter. Before we dig into those, let’s take a look at the main ServiceNow app development tools at your disposal:

  • ServiceNow Studio is an IDE-like environment for building custom applications.
  • Mobile Studio – a newer add-on platform for ServiceNow mobile app development.
  • Team Development provides a collaborative application development environment so that your team can work on multiple, non-production ServiceNow instances in parallel.
  • Automated Test Framework streamlines and automates the testing process for ServiceNow instances. With the Automated Test Framework (ATF), you can create and run automated tests on your ServiceNow instance. When you upgrade or modify an instance, run these tests to confirm that the instance still works as designed.

Moreover, ServiceNow did a great job of providing an extensive library of technical best practices for custom app development. In addition, they offer a paid certification course for developers and give a lot of community support.

Lastly, ServiceNow offers excellent support so that you can always reach out for additional help during your project.

ServiceNow App Development Best Practices for Developers

ServiceNow apps are affordable to develop, but they can easily turn into costly mistakes without a strong business case and clear business requirements.

From our experience, even simple tweaks can end up costing a fortune because they do not meet the original expectations or fully fulfill a need. Thus, before you commission any work, collect detailed product requirements from LOBs and have your development team to assess their feasibility and translate them into a clear development roadmap. Without this initial step, you are risking to receive subpar apps and customizations that bring little-to-no value to your organization.

Now, keeping the point above in mind, let’s move on to the several key practices our ServiceNow consulting team recommends to follow.

Code Quality Best Practices for ServiceNow Developers

ServiceNow encourages developers to follow a straightforward path for adding new applications:

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  • Plan: Based on collected requirements, decide whether you’ll need to deploy a scoped or global application and create an appropriate instance for it.
  • Build: Develop a data model, secure your data, design primary interfaces, determine appropriate communication model and build the application logic.
  • Validate: Perform unit and system testing to ensure that the app works correctly. This could be done through the Automated Test Framework.
  • Deploy: The app is moved to the application repository and configured for deployment.

The entire development process takes place on the ServiceNow platform, and developers don’t need to waste time on switching tools, managing version control, or data syncing as that’s already taken care of. In short, ServiceNow provides developers with the tools they need to do their best work fast and effectively.

However, there are certain pitfalls to account for. ServiceNow lets developers create several types of scripts to enhance different platform features. However, these should always be executed in the right order:

  • Before business rules: Business rule scripts, with an order less than 1,000, must be performed before the database operation.
  • Before engines: Workflow, approval, and other engines.
  • Before business rules: Scripts with an order of 1,000 or higher should be executed before the database operation.
  • Database operation: Insert, update, delete, or query operation.
  • After business rules: Executed scripts with an order of less than 1,000 after the database operation.
  • After engines: Run the text indexing and workflow engines.
  • After business rules: Any scripts that have an order of 1,000 or above should be configured to execute after the database operation.

Another coding best practice is to always opt for small, modular components and creating reusable functions for similar processes. The latter not only boosts development speed but also prevents common mistakes.

ServiceNow places a major emphasis on developing reusable components for business applications that could be shared with other teams and used time and again for developing similar products.


ServiceNow offered a breakthrough in application development. Thanks to platform technical capabilities, businesses no longer need to invest in native-level language development and look for specialists with legacy niche coding skills. Moreover, ServiceNow platforms eliminate the scaling issues and boost development efficiency thanks to an array of low-code tools, pre-built APIs, and reusable code.

However, most enterprise application development projects come with many moving parts. While ServiceNow does provide a great environment for collaboration and enhances data transparency, developers still need to pay close attention to app security, testing, and API programming best practices. Your teams will also need more time to understand all the aspects of ServiceNow development, study associated documentation, and perhaps undertake specific training.

If you need assistance with ServiceNow migration, module, and application creation at shorter notice, get in touch with Infopulse consulting team. Our specialists can help tailor the platform up to your business needs and build custom integrations, applications and modules or deploy full-scale ITSM, CMDB, asset management, or other solutions. Contact us today!

About the Author

A certified expert in delivery management with 10+ years of experience in the IT sector. Runs a dedicated ServiceNow competency center, providing an array of development, implementation, customization, and integration services.

Dmytro Klymenko

Senior ServiceNow Consultant

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