ServiceNow Implementations Done Right Part 4: Culture or Bust

7.26.17 By John Duchock


Implementing ServiceNow is as simple as setting up and pushing "go." Except it's not. Cultural adoption, training, and workshops are necessary, and you shouldn't have to go about it alone. Rely on your implementation partner to provide them.


My name is John. I'm here to help you make better choices when implementing ServiceNow. Because when you plan for months, and reallocate your IT budget around a new ITSM cloud system - it better work.

In part one, we discussed what I wish I knew from the start about implementing ServiceNow, framed around a question: How can we be certain that we're building the right instance for our business? We explored the CAB, establishing critical success factors (CSFs), how to avoid snowflakes, and what to expect from an implementation partner. Check out part one here.

In part two, we discussed the power of co-authorship, and aligning your instance to the business via CMDB. Employees need to have a say in building your instance in order for them to embrace it. Through co-authorship, you get cultural buy-in, and reduce onboarding friction.


In the last post, we identified agenda champions to push your agenda forward, explaining how SMEs and a SPOC are important for your CAB and cultural agenda.

But it might still not be enough to win over your team and truly invite onboarding. For that, we need to spend time on culture.


A Good Partner is Hard to Find

I’ve never seen a customer enter a ServiceNow implementation knowing exactly what they want.

They always approach a partner and say, “help us understand what we want.

Be wary of an implementation partner who pushes something that’s not needed. Get a partner who can wear multiple hats and who has experience in change, configuration, asset, incident, and request fulfillment management. They should know:

  • The roles that go into any instance
  • What’s required at each stage of the implementation
  • The audits you’re subject to
  • Questions that your executive committee is going to ask

How do I know this?

Because I’ve been there, and those questions have been asked of me for years.

At 4th Source, we’ve sat on the other side of the table. We’ve had poor solutions thrust upon us (and, like you, had to figure out how to make them work for our business).



Implementation partners MUST plug into the customer’s culture, no matter what it is. From highly liberal cultures such as Southwest Airlines and Zappos to the more conservative IBM and US Army environments.

Yet adoption is one of the most overlooked elements of ServiceNow.

And a lack of adoption is one of the main culprits of failed implementations.

When your teams aren't on board, or users don't buy into the platform, it's game over before you can customize your first dashboard.

That adoption, or relationship, becomes more complicated when working with a ServiceNow partner outside the organization. 

As much as we'd like to snap our fingers and bring everyone up to speed, it sadly doesn't happen that way, but while adoption might not be automatic, there are ways to get the full value of your investment by being aware and asking the right questions. It starts with your ServiceNow partner.

ServiceNow implementation partners must work within the cultural environment of the customer, no matter what that is. During your first meeting, before you've signed off on any work, ask them what their adoption and onboarding strategy is - or at least how they've fit in with past customers.

Some cultures are more fun and quirky than others, such as Zappos and Southwest Airlines. Walk down the cubicle hall at Southwest and there’s one guy who has seven beanbag chairs in his cubicle. He wears bunny slippers and pajama pants to work every day.

But within that fun culture, he writes fantastic code.

That’s not to say that environment is for everybody. The US Army uses ServiceNow as well. If you’re implementing for the US Army, then you’re following chain of command, dotting i’s, and crossing t’s. That’s the way it must be for that customer. It’s easy in the first meeting or two to identify culture. 



There are many layers of communication. Weekly update calls won't cut it for a ServiceNow implementation.

It's too crucial to IT and business functions.

While the CAB will steer communication and keep the project on track, the best partners will integrate with your teams. They’ll hang out after hours and become part of the family.

Something as simple as a unique project name can elevate the culture and create intrigue.

At Southwest Airlines, it was project Dash. A current project is named Ice Castles. We named one failed ServiceNow implementation project Phoenix, because we were bringing something back from the dead.

There are all kinds of things your ServiceNow partner can do to adapt to your culture, and through that effort, barriers are being broken down and communication is elevated. Is your ServiceNow partner on the same wavelength as your team?

A good communication plan will include announcements from senior leadership, engagement with the company culture, unique project names, and other rallying points. 


Workshops & Training

Training is critical to the overall success of an implementation and an area where many people try to cut costs. If you don’t include some people, then you don’t get the buy-in you need. If you include too many people, then there are more chances of folks in attendance wanting a snowflake built specifically for them.

“Well, my group does it this way,” one group says. “Well,” says another group, “98% of the rest of the company doesn’t. Why are you doing it differently than everybody else?”

You iron out your processes through workshops, and, with the guidance of your implementation partner, determine who should be involved with ServiceNow.

Many implementation partners charge extra for training.

That is a huge red flag.

If you have any chance of running your own ServiceNow instance, training needs to be part of the engagement, not an add-on. The last thing we want is for users to not be properly trained, and then blame the tool when the project fails. 

Expect training materials and workshops to be provided by your implementation partner.

There is no successful ServiceNow implementation without cultural buy in. Drive onboarding with SMEs and your CAB, and make sure your partner is fully involved in your mission and fits in with your teams.


In the next and final post, we will discuss why you're using ServiceNow in the first place, and what goes into quantifying your instance.


Don't want to wait? Grab a free copy of the full guide now:

How to Build (or Fix) a ServiceNow Instance That's Right for Your Business 

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