Behind the scenes: Tips from a ServiceNow upgrade expert


Release upgrade: employees collaborating on work in an office

The Now Platform® San Diego release is generally available (GA) with many new enhancements to help people work fast, easier, and more efficiently. I’m excited that GA day is here, knowing my team helped deliver another great release.

In my career as a ServiceNow upgrade program manager, I’ve managed upgrades for 13 releases—three as a customer and 10 within ServiceNow. Generally, on GA day, my team’s work is complete, and we’re already preparing for the next release. A lot of work goes on behind the scenes in the months leading up to GA.

What it means to be customer zero

At ServiceNow, we pride ourselves in using our own products internally, a program we refer to as Now on Now. As customer zero for our products, ServiceNow internal teams—including IT operations, product engineering, cloud operations, and Now Support—upgrade to the new platform release in the sub-production and production environments during the six months prior to GA.

Being customer zero gives our teams the opportunity to provide feedback to the product team during the development process. Our testing includes areas such as performance, reporting, user experience, and upgrade times to help improve the release.

This approach gives the development team time to rectify many of the issues prior to GA so that customers don’t encounter them. The result? Our customers get the best possible experience.

On to the San Diego upgrade

For the San Diego release, two internal instances, Now Support and product engineering, were upgraded in September/October 2021. Four upgrade teams conducted a total of 23 planned upgrades in the past six months. Click the image to see a detailed infographic.

Accessibility note: The infographic is transcribed at the end of this blog.


My team, Now Support, has been running on the San Diego release for six months. We’ve performed more than 11,000 automated tests and completed four rounds of testing, identifying several issues that were fixed prior to GA.

The Now Support upgrade process is 2.5 weeks from build to production. This involves creating the build, testing it in sub-prod, fixing issues, validating the fixes, and upgrading our production instance.

Tips for a better upgrade experience

Having completed 10 upgrade cycles in my tenure at ServiceNow, I’ve learned quite a few lessons to help things go smoothly. Here are a few tips for anyone wanting to improve the upgrade experience.

1. Treat each upgrade as a separate project with a detailed plan that includes resourcing, scheduling, and communications. Be sure to identify any new features you want to implement as part of the upgrade.

2. Reduce testing time by using automated tests. We reward our testers with treats—chocolate and ice cream are favorites on my team.

3. Schedule upgrades for slow traffic times to minimize user impact.

4. Schedule retrospectives after each upgrade to identify and implement process improvements.

5. Seek support if you have questions. There may be a related knowledge base article or community forum discussion on the topic. If not, log a case.

Upgrades can be easy and fun

With an average of three to four pre-GA upgrades per release, my team has successfully completed more than 40 upgrades on Now Support and consumed many boxes of chocolate.

As we celebrate the San Diego GA, we're getting ready to test the Tokyo release, targeted for September GA.

I realize my excitement on GA day isn’t really about the release availability. It’s about knowing we’ve done everything we can to make our customers’ experience better. That alone is worth it.

Get your upgrade kit and other resources.


Transcript of infographic

Now Platform® San Diego release:

Drinking our own champagne to connect people and systems across the company

ServiceNow upgraded to the San Diego release starting in late Q3 2021, before it was available to customers. Our upgrade teams offer ongoing feedback to the product development teams so they can deliver stronger, more reliable product capabilities and enable faster, easier upgrades for our customers and partners.

205 bugs found before general availability1,2,3,4

First upgrade was on Sept. 1 in the engineering sub-prod environment

Days on San Diego release

  • Now Support – 179 sub-prod, 160 production

  • Engineering – 203 sub-prod, 190 production

  • Global Cloud Ops – 75 sub-prod, 0 production

  • IT Ops – 87 sub-prod, 18 production

23 total planned upgrades1,2,3,4

9% faster upgrade time compared to Rome3

~79K automated tests over 25 rounds1,2,3,4

1 Now Support

2 Global Cloud Ops

3 Engineering

4 IT Ops

Learn more about Now on Now at www.servicenow.com/nowonnow

© 2022 ServiceNow, Inc. All rights reserved. ServiceNow, the ServiceNow logo, Now, and other ServiceNow marks are trademarks and/or registered trademarks of ServiceNow, Inc. in the United States and/or other countries. Other company names, product names, and logos may be trademarks of the respective companies with which they are associated.

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