Knowledge19 - ARM tackles ServiceNow upgrade challenges with automated testing
To deliver on the CIO’s mission of ‘invisible IT’, the microprocessor tech giant has reduced the time and cost associated with implementing the latest ServiceNow features
At Cambridge, UK-based microprocessor technology company ARM, CIO Andy Smith has set a clear agenda for his team - to make IT invisible to its 6,000-strong workforce. At this week’s ServiceNow Knowledge19 event in Las Vegas, he explained his approach for attendees, saying:
CIOs may be impatient, they may be difficult… but they’re actually really interested in the things that matter to the business.
Invisible IT is a big part of that picture, and fits well with ARM’s overall vision to deliver ‘technology that invisibly enables opportunities for a globally connected population’. Smith said:
It seems to me that this is a pretty good motto for a CIO, too. If that’s what you’re able to do for your enterprise, if the technology you deliver is invisible in the right places and only visible where you need it to be, then you’re really doing your job.
This rule applies to all of the strategic platforms that ARM relies on to run its business, of which ServiceNow is one. The company is best-known for designing the microchips in mobile phones laptops, desktops, tablets and smart TVs and its vast potential to provide the intelligence needed to power the devices that will make up the Internet of Things (IoT) was the main reason behind the company’s £24 billion acquisition in 2016 by Japanese investment giant Softbank.
Where ARM has encountered some challenges with its ServiceNow implementation is in keeping up with the provider’s six-monthly release cycle, according to ARM’s product owner for enterprise service management, Tim Stacey. There’s not a great deal of customization in ARM’s ServiceNow implementation, although still more than he’d like, he concedes.
Either way, the company’s 2017 upgrade from the Fuji release to Helsinki (skipping the Geneva release along the way), took two months, a good deal of pain and a further month of work after go live to fix issues. Likewise, its February 2018 upgrade from Helsinki to Jakarta (the company skipped Istanbul) involved a team of 15 testers working for 3 weeks and devoting 225 employee days in total to the task. It was successful, but costly, he said.
In other words, the delays and costs involved were not in keeping with the goal of keeping IT invisible. Automated testing, it was decided, might provide a way to tackle the issues and help ARM to remain at least n-1 on its ServiceNow platform - that is to say, just one release back from the most recent release.
To help it meet that goal, ARM turned to Autotestpro, a London-based ServiceNow partner that provides automated testing, with the goal of helping clients reduce upgrade costs by 80%.
Autotestpro holds a repository of a ServiceNow user’s actual business scenarios, and then its test automation engine automatically validates these against a new release. It handles defect management by automatically creating defect records when a verification fails and automates the creation of documentation such as user guides to the new release.
This has worked well for ARM, said Stacey, and automated testing is an excellent fit with achieving ARM’s overall DevOps vision. In the short term, he adds, it means ARM’s workforce will get new ServiceNow features and functions faster.
The key thing was giving us the confidence that we had the ability to upgrade when we wanted to and to keep doing that. We weren’t necessarily needing to always be on the latest release, although clearly that’s an important goal. We wanted to enable ourselves to look at new modules as they came out, to have the ability to jump to those where they made sense for us. And clearly, we had that goal of invisible IT - we wanted new releases to work seamlessly for us and not have the problems we’d seen in the past.
The results speak for themselves, he said. In release terms, ARM was able to jump from Jakarta to Kingston to London during 2018 and also to implement the ServiceNow Service Portal. Testing now involves 3 testers working for around two weeks - an 86% reduction in resource days, Stacey calculates, and an annual £100,000 in savings, based on performing two upgrades per year. CIO Andy Smith is understandably pretty pleased, too:
I feel like the team have made fantastic progress over the course of the year. When I think about themes that matter to me, it’s very much pace over perfection. Are we delivering new things to our users quickly? It’s great that we can move to the next release of ServiceNow and it’s not a big deal, it’s pretty invisible to the organization, with no big blips.
We’re moving more of our business processes onto ServiceNow. It’s a platform that has credibility and stability [within ARM] and I think the business is excited about some of the user experience features of the latest releases. So catching up has been really helpful to me and my team in terms of how the business sees us.