Apr 11 2022

ServiceNow Solutions Ease Agencies’ Ability to Track Data, Customers and More

The tool can link records for better logging and management.

On its face, the idea of having technology custom-made for your federal agency sounds great. One-size-fits-all solutions often do not work well in the federal IT sector; the Smithsonian Institution’s primary mission, for example, does not exactly dovetail with that of the Social Security Administration.

And while agencies do share many functions, such as payroll and human resources, the scale of their IT needs for those departments varies widely. The 12-person Marine Mammal Commission is not the 2.9 million-person Defense Department. Back in the day, it just made sense to have IT applications and equipment made specifically for your agency.

But as agencies began to move their processes into the cloud, which demands a more flexible and nimble IT environment, they found that custom tech was no longer the way to go. On-premises data centers were giving way to cloud storage. Software that needed a rip-and-replace to update it was being supplanted by products that got online upgrades instead.

At the same time, the tech industry itself was morphing and changing, as vendors and manufacturers merged, bought one another or went out of business. Even agencies that still got use out of custom IT found that keeping it up and running became difficult when its developers no longer existed and employees with expertise in the component were scattered across the segment in new jobs.

If you found yourself wanting to update or modify a 20-year-old custom app (and if that sounds extremely old, remember that 2002 is still within the 21st century), you’d have to hunt for someone with expertise in that product, or re-engineer it completely to make any changes.

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ServiceNow Solutions Fit a Variety of Agency IT Needs

This wasn’t necessarily an “aha!” moment for agencies. Most just came to a slow realization over time, as they began to move out of their legacy IT, that basic, commercial-off-the-shelf products were more practical in a more modern age.

COTS products are quicker and simpler to procure, with little extra development and customization needed. Even the intelligence community, rife with classified and sensitive material, began to move in that direction.

What agencies began to realize, however, is that they still needed some customization, and a lot of support, for these newer products. ServiceNow is one of the solutions that can assist agencies in this process.

It’s a solution set written by a systems integrator, one that provides a middle ground — some customization is still necessary, but ServiceNow makes it easier to integrate, update and change. That kind of minor customization takes less effort to re-create.

In addition, the talent available to work on a ServiceNow platform versus a custom application is significantly greater. Agencies can be less dependent on a particular partner now because of the extensive support network that accompanies a ServiceNow platform.

The primary use case for ServiceNow seems to be IT service management. The National Cancer Institute, for instance, implemented a ServiceNow ITSM solution to better track IT activity, whether it be incident reports about buggy email or a full-blown system outage. For NCI, the ITSM solution enabled the agency to cut down the number of incident reports and improve overall efficiency in resolving IT issues.

RELATED: Discover how the National Cancer Institute used ServiceNow to streamline IT operations.

Use ServiceNow to Track Non-IT Cases or Incidents

Usually ServiceNow is used for IT-related matters, but agencies could use a similar ServiceNow solution for any project that involves tracking incidents, cases or events.

Say you’re working in an agency where citizens call regularly for assistance. In that case, the citizen becomes the data point recorded by the solution. When did he call? What did he need? Who did he talk to? Did he need a follow-up appointment?

That data point could also be a patient’s medical record, or a court case, or a piece of legislation — any record that you want to organize in a centralized way that needs to be accessed securely and managed by multiple people. Anything that can be logged can be managed, and agencies are starting to see that benefit.

Each case, however, will be unique. If that basic application is already being done with tools such as spreadsheets or basic databases, transferring that work to a ServiceNow environment will be relatively simple. A project that involves a replacing existing ITSM tools would be more complicated.

In fact, the greatest opportunity for agencies to benefit from an ITSM tool such as ServiceNow may come when they’re dissatisfied with their existing solutions. And again, once that tool expands beyond the IT group, the sky’s the limit for the number of different applications it could be leveraged for.

This article is part of FedTech’s CapITal blog series. Please join the discussion on Twitter by using the #FedIT hashtag.

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