From House to Home

From House to Home

Balancing Configuration and Customization for Optimal Solutions

ServiceNow, a robust platform designed to streamline enterprise operations, is often described as a powerful tool that can automate and optimize various business processes. But have you ever imagined ServiceNow as something even more relatable? Imagine ServiceNow as a house – a structure with implicit functionality that can be enhanced and personalized to serve your unique needs. In this blog post, we dive into this intriguing analogy crafted by Alexandru Aluchi, one of our senior technical architects at Devhd and we'll explore the distinction between ServiceNow configuration and customization. Lastly, we'll provide practical guidelines to strike the right balance between these two approaches, ensuring an optimized ServiceNow experience. 

From House to Home 

Just as a house provides shelter, ServiceNow offers a framework to streamline business operations. However, like a house, the platform's real value is unlocked when it's personalized to suit specific needs. Here's how Alexandru describes it: 

"We all rely on ServiceNow to bring value and improve the way our business works but what is ServiceNow really, how can we relate to it so we can understand its capability and optimize it to our needs? 

Well, ServiceNow is like a house. And a house is a box that has a shape like other boxes and a structure like other structures, but it’s your box, and it’s a place where you keep your stuff. 

You can use this house as it was designed, and that is just fine, but then it won't make you feel at home, and it will not work to complement your needs. 

So, you will paint it, put furniture in it, hang pictures, and sometimes add a new window or maybe even tear down a wall as long as it's not a structural one. 

Wouldn’t you prefer a house that is aligned with your needs and makes your life easier, rather than just a big house full of things? That would truly feel more like a home. 

When we look at our business, we know it needs flow, systems to integrate with minimal intervention, simplicity, and efficiency, to remove as much clutter as possible. 

Like a home, ServiceNow should be a place of comfort that is aligned with business needs and makes life easier. 

To achieve that, out-of-the-box & configuration is desired and should be the first option as long as it serves the needs of the business. But you shouldn't be afraid to bring down those walls. Customization can make a difference and make a tool become an experience. We just need to correctly assess risks and make sure we don't bring down those structural walls. 

To concentrate this in thought, Joel Spolsky said, 'Design adds value faster than it adds costs.' 

Embark on a self-discovery journey and make ServiceNow a lovely home for your organization. With Devhd you can make ServiceNow a fulfilling experience tailored to your needs. We sell you the house, but we also help make it into your home. Make it simple but significant."  

Configuration versus customization 

ServiceNow distinguishes between configuration and customization to guide users in effectively optimizing the platform: 

Configuration: is the process of tailoring an instance using ServiceNow's best practices and APIs. It involves leveraging ServiceNow's built-in tools and capabilities to adapt the system to the existing needs. This includes changing field names, adjusting behavior, and modifying preferences within the platform. Configurations should be data-driven and reversible without altering the core codebase and utilize native tools within the platform to modify behavior or features. 

Customization: involves making changes to the baseline install of a ServiceNow instance. It requires custom coding or implementation outside the platform's out-of-the-box (OOTB) context. This involves creating new features to modify existing core elements such as UI actions, scripts, ACLs, and business rules. While customization offers flexibility, it may impact future upgrades and requires careful consideration.

Let's explore the differences through two examples: 

  • Example of a configuration: Before an incident is submitted, the resolution code must be a mandatory field. If it is not completed, the record should not be updated. A UI Policy can be used to meet this requirement which is one of the many tools within the platform that are used to tailor specific functionality to meet specific requirements.   
  • Example of customization: You are in the process of implementing the Service Catalog and have a requirement to add additional fields to gather data on the catalog checkout page. The catalog checkout page is a UI Macro that is part of the baseline installation of an instance. A change to this code would be considered a customization. Someone builds a new "custom" feature into the product (e.g. custom applications, 3rd party widgets, etc.). ServiceNow support will provide troubleshooting guidance, but the customer is responsible for ownership of maintaining and fixing the feature. 

Considerations and implications 

When it comes to balancing configuration and customization in ServiceNow, our team at Devhd recommends keeping in mind and carefully examining important considerations and implications. These factors directly influence the long-term success and sustainability of your ServiceNow instance. 

  • One critical aspect to keep in mind is the maintenance and upgrade aspect of customizations. Customizations, while offering valuable flexibility, come with responsibilities. After each upgrade, it's crucial to ensure that your custom code remains functional. Neglecting this maintenance can lead to compatibility issues that could disrupt your business operations. 
  • Support is another significant consideration. While customizations can be supported, it's essential to be aware that if an issue arises, support might recommend reverting to the baseline code to troubleshoot. Striking the right balance between leveraging custom features and maintaining a stable environment is crucial. 
  • Moreover, the integrity of the ServiceNow framework is paramount for consistency in development and support. Excessive customizations may compromise this integrity, leading to a more complex and challenging environment to manage. It's important to assess the overall framework integrity when considering customizations. 

By thoughtfully considering these implications, we are helping customers ensure that their customizations align with the business goals and that they can manage them effectively. 

Guidelines for effective customization 

In the world of ServiceNow, customization provides a powerful tool to align the platform with specific business requirements. However, to ensure the best outcomes for our valued customers, we follow certain guidelines: 

  • The first rule of thumb is to prioritize configuration over customization whenever possible. Configuration leverages ServiceNow's built-in tools and capabilities, allowing us to adapt the system to customer needs without altering the core codebase. This approach simplifies maintenance, ensures compatibility during upgrades, and reduces the risk of technical debt. 
  • Before making any customizations, it's essential to back up the original records. This step acts as a safety net, allowing us to restore the original state if needed. 
  • Evaluating the value and risk of customization is crucial. Consider the impact on upgrades, performance, and user experience. Engage with stakeholders to ensure that the changes align with business needs and goals. 
  • Maintaining a record of the customizations made and their impact is also essential. This tracking helps streamline future assessments, making decisions about customization more informed and efficient. 

We, at Devhd, adopted a pragmatic approach to customization, as recommended by ServiceNow, meaning that instead of focusing solely on whether an action falls into one category or the other, we shifted the approach to asking the right questions:  

  • What are the risk and impacts of updating a particular element? 
  • What is the value of the change? 
  • What is the technical debt associated with the customization? 

With business-smart customization, the decisions about customization always start with a value perspective: Does the business value promised by customization outweigh the risk it presents, in terms of technical debt and upgradeability? Customers who adopt this approach can take better advantage of the Now Platform’s powerful capabilities while maintaining a healthy and well-managed instance. 


ServiceNow offers a dynamic platform that can be tailored to meet diverse business needs. Alexandru's analogy of ServiceNow as a house resonates with the idea that customization when done thoughtfully, can transform a tool into a seamless experience. Striking the balance between configuration and customization requires considering value, risk, and technical debt. We guide customers to understand these concepts and following recommended guidelines, businesses that work with us can effectively leverage ServiceNow to optimize their organization's operations.

About Devhd  

Devhd, founded in 2016, is a pure-play ServiceNow professional services company, specializing in delivering custom, practical, and sustainable digital workflow solutions. Our key focus is on enterprise application development and integration, and we are proud to be the first Romanian company committed to delivering enterprise digital transformation through the ServiceNow platform.  

Devhd is a Premier ServiceNow Partner, we have successfully completed more than 120 ServiceNow projects and developed 40+ applications, all delivered on time and within budget. With offices in Romania and Germany, we are well-equipped to deliver first-class ServiceNow solutions. Our commitment to great results has earned us a 4.67/5 CSAT (Customer Satisfaction) from both local and international enterprises. 

As a ServiceNow Partner on all three modules – Resale, Consulting & Implementation, and Build – at Devhd, we cover the entire cycle of adopting the ServiceNow platform and its powerful capabilities. This means we offer end-to-end professional services including licensing, consulting, and implementation services, and building custom apps that are published on the ServiceNow store. If you want to learn more about our services for ServiceNow solutions, contact us at 

For more information about ServiceNow configuration and customization, here are some useful resources*:

What Where to find Description
Instance Customization FAQ & Guidelines ServiceNow Support Portal  Important aspects of Customizations given by ServiceNow
Business-smart customization ServiceNow website  When you complete the steps in this workbook, you’ll have:
• Clearly defined governance measures that limit
customization to clear business needs
• An application development strategy that allows
you to scale development in support of new customization that also keeps your keep technical debt and complexity to a minimum
• A portfolio management strategy that keeps customization limited to current business need and that eliminates any unnecessary customization
“Business-smart” customization YouTube This video provides an overview of how to balance value and risk with platform customizations.
What are the best practices for customization? ServiceNow website  • What criteria should I use to determine whether to customize?
• If I do decide to customize, what technical best practices should I follow?
• What best practices should I follow for custom integration requirements?
• How do I deal with customizations when I upgrade?
ServiceNow Definition of Customization and Configuration ServiceNow Community Portal Article by pierrondi:
“When considering enterprise software of any type, it is important to understand the difference between configuration and customization as well personalization in the right context.”
Customization - a thing one should not be afraid of !! ServiceNow Community Portal Article by Dhruv Gupta
Configuration vs. Customization? - Wrong Question! ServiceNow Developer Portal  Article by Chuck Tomasi

* Table from “Knowledge Sources to Go”, Author Maik Skoddow, April 2022 

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