Why is ServiceNow Popular?

What are some of the aspects of ServiceNow that makes it popular?  Why and how did it expand so quickly and take over entire markets?

Platform-as-a-service (PAAS)

One Platform, Many Applications

All ServiceNow's applications are under one platform.  There is no need to write integrations between ServiceNow applications, they are already connected when they are installed.

ServiceNow comes with a core set of applications such as Incident, Change, Problem, and Knowledge Management.  However using Plugins, you can install additional applications to expand your ServiceNow instance. I can count over 50+ applications available via plugins and that changes with each release.

All these applications are integrated and part of the same platform once activated.  Not having to write integrations saves a significant amount of time and cost.

In the Cloud

ServiceNow is in the cloud, which is much easier to maintain than on-premises applications.  

I spent a lot of years installing on-premise software.  It was often unappreciated in comparison to the actual software development.  I don't miss on-premise software at all due to that.  By using the cloud, you skip all the on-premise install part of an implementation and can save significant time/costs.

Not to mention the 99.720% total availability.  Installing on-premise software in a customer environment rarely has this reliability, as there are too many changes going on in company infrastructure.

ServiceNow is protected by an enhanced, defense-in-depth framework of firewalls, load balancers and intrusion detection systems (IDS)

For more information about the cloud: Ten Reasons why Cloud Computing is Awesome

Reports, Filters, and Dashboards

Users in ServiceNow have tremendous power compared to other systems.  Admins can allow users in ServiceNow to customize their lists, filters, forms, reports, and dashboards.  I often call this "enabling users".

Other platforms have limitations around this type of freedom.  #1 being the software was not designed to allow it, #2 it is too much of performance concern to enable it.

I often see ServiceNow users taking this power for granted.  They may complain about having to build their own report or that the speed of their 12 report dashboard isn't the best. However it is amazing in itself that they are able to build them at all.  In most other platforms this would not even be allowed.

ServiceNow has made some restrictions in the past years by using export limits, timeouts, list limits, etc. However it is still very open and free to find the data you need.


With other platforms, upgrades are complicated and scary.  You are at the mercy of the application manufacturer to ensure a successful upgrade.  I have many "horror" stories regarding upgrades with other vendors, where I spent days trying to fix bugs or had just general terrible experiences with the upgrade process.

ServiceNow is completely different than other upgrades I've used.  The ServiceNow release cycle is designed to provide optimal stability and quality, with the flexibility to quickly address problems and deliver new features.  You schedule your upgrade, wait until it completes, and then review the upgrade history, to see if you want to make any changes.  Most often you need to do nothing, it upgrades perfectly by itself.

Upgrades are truly awesome with ServiceNow and very stress-free.

Ease of Programming

Creation of the Glide Platform

ServiceNow was originally called Glidesoft, Inc, and was incorporated in California, June 28, 2004.  There are legends of the origins of the "Glide" platform, like Fred Luddy created it in a week with the assistance of one bag of Starbucks French Roast.

Whether that is true or not, it doesn't matter.  He created a revolutionary new platform that millions have used  to customize their ServiceNow instances, make new applications, and skyrocketed ServiceNow's success.

Declarative Functionality

You don't need "scripting" to create ServiceNow applications.  There are many "declarative" or admin functionality that is added that doesn't require it.  There are many creative ways of using this declarative functionality.  I have had programmers working for me not know scripting for 6-12 months after hire.  They just worked around it using declarative functionality instead.  Now this isn't typical, but it does really show much you can do without code.  

Update Sets

In ServiceNow, you can record all your changes to code with Upgrade Sets and then migrate to other instances using Retrieved Update Sets.  It is easy compared to other systems.  In most other systems you need to remember or document that changes you made. 

Glide Record

This GlideRecord java class can be used in JavaScript exactly as if it was a native JavaScript class.  This class you can use most of the time when scripting within ServiceNow.  It is the class that queries the database. It is very helpful and my favorite part of ServiceNow.

One of the most popular articles on this site: Five Different Gliderecord Query Methods

Dot Walking

In 2011, I made the effort to switch to ServiceNow.  As a programmer, the concept of dot-walking was the one of the main reasons I made this life change.  This is one of the concepts of ServiceNow that I was very impressed by.  At the time I made my switch to ServiceNow, I had never seen this feature before.

What is dot-walking?

Dot-walking provides access to fields on related tables from a form, list, or script. If the current table contains a reference to another table, any field on the referenced table can be accessed using dot-walking.

With other applications, I needed to write elaborate nested for loops to pull data from multiple tables into one report or view.  ServiceNow has dot-walking.  Dot-walking references a field by building a chain of field names separated by dots (periods). For instance, references the company of the user assigned to an incident. 

In short, dot-walking makes life much easier for build scripts or reports.  This functionality has saved me hundreds of hours of programming time since switching to ServiceNow.

ServiceNow Share, Community, and Wiki

ServiceNow has a helpful community, open wiki with documentation, Store, and ServiceNow Share.

The combination of these features has made ServiceNow great to learn, implement, and maintain.