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Six months ago I published a preview of the Jakarta release and the article was well received. Today we will focus next major ServiceNow release, named Kingston, the capital city of Jamaica. This article showcases many of the new features to be excited about in this release. Kingston market launch is currently planned for January 2018 but Early Access will open as soon as mid November.

 

If you are a ServiceNow Partner or Employee, you can learn all about the new features via a series of video presentations and FAQs available in the Kingston resource Page. For everyone else, here is a non exhaustive list the new features included.

 

Anyone can now browse the Kingston release notes, and registered developers can already upgrade their Personal Developer Instance to Kingston's latest release canditate.

 

Now Platform

 

  1. Flow Designer is a completely new interface to create business process flows. This not to be mistaken with the unrelated Process Flow Formater. The Flow Designer is an alternative and future replacement for the Graphical Worklow Editor. The deprecated Workflow Editor will continue to be supported for now, as some use cases are currently not supported in the Flow Designer. Among those, are Service Catalog, Timers, SubFlows, and Repeat Loops.
  2. IntegrationHub is a new codeless interface to manage REST integration flows between your instance and third-party web applications like Slack or Microsoft Teams. This extends the Flow Designer and allows you to synchronize data between external platforms and other ServiceNow instances. The IntegrationHub is part of the Orchestration package that is a separate subscription. In future releases, other Orchestration packs are expected to be moved to the IntegrationHub.
  3. Encrypted fields are now searchable and can be used in condition filter.
  4. Guided Tour Designer improvement: Configurable auto run of guided tours.
  5. Metric base improvements.

 

The flow designer will clearly be the most visible functionality for many ServiceNow administrators. I'm quite a fan of the Graphical Workflow Editor with its flowchart approach, but if the new tool is simpler to use for newcomers, this is a good news.

 

IT Service Management

 

  1. Agent Intelligence automates categorization, prioritization and assignment of tickets using Machine Learning to lower the time to resolution of tasks. I suppose it use the text from the first comment or from the description, and I'm quite sure this will be English only for now. As of Kingston, it can only be used on Incidents, CSM, and custom apps. Agent Intelligence requires an additional subscription, based on the number of predictions, and a large existing dataset of 30'000+ records is required for the training.
  2. Virtual Agent powered by Integration with IBM Watson Conversation Service. While I have never met one useful Chatbot, they are all the rage in the IT. ServiceNow partnered with IBM to provide you the best available Chatbot for your Connect Chat interface, and more use-cases might come in the future. Virtual Agent will be English only for the current release and will require a subscription with IBM Conversation Service. It will be freely available via ServiceNow Share.
  3. Major Incident Management is a new view to resolve incidents with high business impact. It is a single workbench screen (with the recent Angular framework) that helps IT to make informed decisions. It displays related Incidents, impacted CIs, Business Services, and host a meeting framework, similar to the CAB one.
  4. Benchmarks Recommendations: Based on proven practices, the Benchmark feature will now provide recommendations that will vary with the values of the KPI. Customers will get recommendations with guided setups for a step-by-step implementation process.
  5. Service Catalog improvements: Updated interface for  easier navigation on smartphones and tablets; Wishlists; Templates to allow batch ordering; Faster checkouts; Better search results.

 

IT Operation Management

 

  1. Traffic-based discovery for Service Mapping will generate maps of multiple service from your network traffic, using machine learning.
  2. Guided User Experience for easier and faster implementation of Service Mapping.
  3. New KPI for Performance Analytics, to analyze how events and alerts are being managed. This requires the PA subscription.
  4. Application Content Import means faster upgrade cycles, as new service mappings and discovery patterns updates won't have to wait on Platform releases.

 

IT Business Management

 

Project and Portfolio Management (PPM), previously know as  Project Portfolio Suite (PPS), are part of ITBM. Building upon the excellent features from the Istambul and Jakarta releases, here are two new improvements:

  1. Project Workspace is another Angular screen designed for project and portfolio managers. It provides a simple, customizable landing page while reducing the need for multi-screen navigation.
  2. Sprint and Backlog Management have been modernized with a new UI that support drag and drop.

 

I would love if ServiceNow implemented some tools dedicated for Business Analysts in the ITBM solution. Currently the Agile module mostly focuses on Scrum SDLC. Including a graphical tool to do BPML flowcharts, and tools to manage Requirements and their life-cycle (Business, User, Functional and Nonfunctional Requirements as defined in the BABOK guide) would be amazing for non Agile projects!

 

Application Portfolio Management

  1. Capability Based Planning is a new UI to relate your Business Application portfolio to strategic business needs.
  2. Technology Portfolio Management improves risk management through calculating risk and technology debt (IE: old versions) for business applications. This requires the  use of the Software Asset Management

Financial Management

  1. Updated budgeting and forecasting capabilities.
  2. Updated Financial Reporting.
  3. Cost Transparency has been renamed Financial Modeling.

 

Software Asset Management

 

  1. New publisher packs: IBM and VMware licensing.
  2. Office 365 subscriptions can be tracked and managed. Other cloud solution will follow in further releases.
  3. Blacklisted Software Discovery: Software that you want to avoid can now be defined.
  4. Better reporting, with reconciliation by BU, cost center or geographical zone.

 

Performance Analytics

 

  1. Text Analytics is a new tool, using interactive Word Cloud visualization, that allows to use unstructured data from text fields, like descriptions, to find insights and identify associations between keywords.
  2. 3rd party data can now be imported to be analyzed in ServiceNow. Use data from MySQL, Oracle or SQL Server in the same dashboard.
  3. PA, Admin Console has a new tiled UI.

 

Security Operations

 

  1. Configuration Compliance will help you identify and remediate misconfigured software that are vulnerable to attack. This is integrated with popular vulnerability scanner like Nessus. You can sort them by risk score and use Orchestration and workflows to remediate them quickly. This is part of the Enterprise Tier of the GRC subscription, and requires Qualys SCA.
  2. End to End Phishing Response: You can now parse outlook .eml files when creating an incident about phishing email. To allow immediate response, in addition to on-premise Exchange servers, you can now search and delete similar mails directly from within a cloud Office365 Exchange server.

 

Since I'm also an IT Security specialist (CISSP®), I'm very exited by the SecOp solution. I hope to have soon the opportunity to do an implementation of SecOp processes.

 

Governance, Risk and Compliance

 

  1. Continuous Monitoring, using Configuration Compliance, you can now assess, respond, review and monitor negative changes detected by your technical controls for early action. Non compliant configuration changes will appear in your GRC Dashboard, along with non compliant passwords and dynamic risk scores.
  2. Enhanced Risk Management includes a new Heat Map to visualize risks and a consolidated overview of Policy Exceptions for unmitigated risks.
  3. Out-of-the-Box SOX templates, indicators and reports will make it easier for US companies to kick-start their preparation of SOX GRC compliance documents.

 

Customer Service Management

 

  1. Agent Intelligence is also available for CSM, with the same requirements that for Incident Management.

  2. Escalation management will assist agents in escalating cases and accounts using a defined, workflow-driven approval process. This should reduce problematic cases or account to reduce customer frustration. I suppose that future releases could bring this feature to the Platform.

  3. Appointment Booking will allow customers to book field-service self-scheduled appointments with agents via a nice calendar interface. This is quite similar to the on-line reservation interface used in the Apple Stores.

  4. Many improvements for Communities: Gamifications with badges and points, self-registration, private forums with registration process, document and event content types, case creations from unanswered posts.

  5. Many improvements for Knowledge Management: Knowledge content can now be structured by article types, external content searches can now be included, Article Quality Index to measure your contents, and SEO support!

  6. New dashboards for Performance Analytics: Agent dashboard, Manager dashboard, Executive dashboard.

 

HR Service Delivery

 

  1. Message Templates for email communication can be created by HR Admins. They will allow quick and consistent responses to employees.
  2. Mass Email Communication uses those templates for sending personalized mass emails to relevant employee populations, managed in a single place.
  3. Embedded Connect allows chat sessions and questions to be automatically routed to the relevant support queue.

 

I hope that Mass Email Communication will be made available platform wide in a future release, as this feature could be of great value for Service Desks, or any department using ServiceNow for its Service Catalog.

 

A warning against bleeding edges

 

As a ServiceNow customer, there will be some time before you can install Kingston. As with any new release, bugs and regressions might be introduced by the new development. Thus, when the release is available for your instance, I would recommend you to wait at least until Patch 2 before you consider updating your production instance. The second patch is usually available one month after initial release, leaving you enough time to prepare your upgrade plan and test it comfortably on a non-production instance. The whole process is nicely described in this Upgrade Overview Guide that comes with a great Planning Checklist.

Should you have skipped the previous release, you can refer to my article on ServiceNow Jakarta.

 

What's next?

 

For the curious, the next releases two are to be called London and Madrid. London will contains many improvements on the backend UI.

 

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Originally published in servicenow.implementation.blog by Shiva Thomas. Previous articles you might enjoy: