Knowledge 21 – A Look Back

Hard to believe it’s been two years since Knowledge 19, and it’s been even longer since I’ve written a synopsis of Knowledge. This year though, having just upgraded to Quebec which is the most transformational release I can think of in recent memory, we made a solid point of getting as much as we could out of Knowledge 21.

General Observations

I would’ve liked to have seen access to more labs or IL sessions, but breaking out windows of time across multiple time zones proved to be a bit too challenging this time around.  If there are more virtual conferences on the horizon, I’ll have to press early to maximize the potential value of attending even if it’s not in person.

Although doing this online felt a bit flat, I’m glad to have the opportunity to sit down and look at what other people are doing with ServiceNow and I’m definitely looking forward to next year and (hopefully) being back in person.   Last year’s K20 sprawling over the course of 6 weeks followed by lengthy availability was nice, but it led to a lack of focus and immersion not to mention collaboration.

Now, on to the content…..

Keynote – Knowledge Opening Keynote: Workflow your world – Bill McDermott

I’m used to these being about 90 minutes and being crammed into darkened concert halls with peers through presentations and skits.  Of course, it’s a necessary tradeoff with both K20 and K21 being virtual. All things considered, I’m not going to complain about the tradeoffs when social distancing is a priority and I can watch these sessions from my home office.

Right from the get go the presenters jump right to the COVID elephant in the room and the necessary changes to work processes, tools and habits proceeding from it.  In the last 18 months, the platform features have seen a major focus on emergency response apps and workplace management.  These rapid pivots were instrumental in communicating vaccination information and data to drive outcomes.  When you’re in the middle of a global crisis, being able to rapidly deliver solutions in the medical and global public health spaces cannot be understated.   Managing any kind of workspace in the midst of a global pandemic was a singular challenge and even establishing routine continuity for businesses and organizations has it’s own risks without that kind of a complication.  

Bonus points to the Jellyfish Skit and workflow comparisons within. While it was a bit corny, there was a very nice diving save with the Wonka promo.  Now I’m going to have THAT SONG stuck in my head for the rest of the day.  Points deducted for a missed opportunity for even a tiny (Apache) Jelly joke.

Catalog Builder – Quebec – Jace Benson & Aashish Atrey

Catalog Builder offers an interface for enabling delegate or citizen creators to build catalog items quickly. I got the impression during the section on Catalog Item Templates that the expectation was that these changes might be viewed as configuration data changes being made directly in Production?

This will be something to experiment with in the coming months and I could see how this would allow teams to manage batches of commonly configured items that change on a fairly frequent basis. Given the theme of a lot of these sessions, this might very well be the Year of the Citizen Developer

Speaking of….

Citizen developer program – ‘They CAN have their cake and eat it too’ – Paige Duffey

A case study of lessons learned during implementation of their own Citizen Developer Programs. Quite a bit of these sound familiar as well as sharing a wealth of new ideas in order to be successful.

Considering the vision of ServiceNow as a Low-Code/No-Code solution, I’m sure every implementation has it’s own version of citizen or otherwise delegated development. Establishing firm justifications are recommended such as reducing ‘shadow IT’ (which I despise) and a vision of delegation of work to people closer to the problem being solved.  With proper guidance and empowerment, proficient personnel can solve the problem independently in the time it takes it to explain it to an admin or developer.

Potential pitfalls cited are establishing proper demarcation and governance over production solutions. When something breaks or otherwise needs attention, who is responsible?  Do you have proper communication and governance to know enough about what’s being deployed? More cooks in the kitchen can mean a substantial amount of critical solutions are tightly coupled to individuals. 

Keys to success can include required training, consistent dev peer reviews and (of course) documentation. Who is enforcing this? Who are your process owners and do you have steering committees or process owners for the various modules and features on the platform? Other great takeaways are office hours to manage inputs as well as scheduled frequent clone downs.

Enhance self service with Virtual Agent and IntegrationHub – Alikutty Abdulrazak

One of my earlier experiments with ChatBots in ServiceNow was pre Virtual Agent and the platform has since implemented it’s own solution. This presentation was a case study focused on password resets and showed some interesting captures of user interactions with the chat interface.

Some key takeaways are remembering that users should always have the option to exit and connect with Live Chat support, otherwise your chat solution just becomes another version of ‘voice mail hell’. This means staffing your queues with agents during expected business hours in case the virtual agent isn’t able to guide the user to the proper form or automation. Analysis of outcomes of chat interactions and continuous improvement of your chat library is vital as well

Debugging your apps- Shuvjit Mishra

This presentation covered Script Tracer, a tool that’s new in Quebec. Intended as a replacement or improvement over manually logging inline, this can be used for debugging or general troubleshooting. I would’ve liked a deeper dive rather than an overview, but I’ll have to see if there’s at least documentation or an actual lab/learning session for this.

For the demo itself, it looks like Script Tracer is a modern pop-out (this works like the business rule debugger). Some things to consider with any debugging overhead is if it’s safe or potentially impactful to use in Prod. Still, having access to more tools in the kit is always a plus whether during primary development or Run & Maintain.

Documentation on the actual feature can be found here – Link

What’s new in Creator Workflows: App Engine and IntegrationHub – Tom Freeman

I’m always there for the ‘What’s New?’ sessions. Here’s a summary of topics covered..

Creator Workflows – Intended for low code (Citizen Developers) – A non-trivial amount of my time is spent helping both coders and non-coders create value on the platform. With increased demand for toolsets like these, it’s a worthwhile investment to fully understand it to help others be successful.

App Engine Studio – This is intended for named app development – Low code developers and individuals with an advantage in understanding the business problem.

  • This is an environment to build features for rapid implementation
  • Tiles and ‘snap together’ templates for common tasks and cases
  • Incorporates Flow Designer – The idea is for it to be self contained during primary development
  • Then it’s submitted to ‘the IT team’ – likely the ‘Pro Coders/Admins’ on the platform to review and offer feedback ahead of deployment

Integration Hub –

  • Noticing a tooonnn of new spokes
  • REST API Trigger – Trigger Actions with advanced scripting – This is intended to displace the current REST Message and Scripted REST API frameworks
    • This displaces the various options around Scripted REST Messages + associated libraries and puts everything inside of Integration Hub/Flow Designer
  • Okta SSO Integration for password resets

UI Builder –

  • WSYIWYG tool which replaces native form modification tools such as Form Designer/Layout but the more I watch it makes it seem like an improvement/abstraction over Dashboards.  Variants looks like a replacement for Views. 
  • Content seems to map closely to the HTML markup.  It was important enough to mention, so now I’m curious as to what the link is between CSS and the outcomes being demonstrated
  • Also offers branding and theming (There’s the CSS)

What’s new in Now Platform and Upgrades – Tom Freeman – Victoria Del Mundo Dainas –

Another ‘What’s New?’ session. Here’s a quick rundown..

AI Search

  • Enhancement for native global search, incorporates automatic spellcheck and’Genius Results’ – Can search for people, request submission forms. The demo took place almost entirely on mobile. Relevance of search results is tuned by usage and improves/changes over time.  There’s probably value in analyzing this data under the hood.

Virtual Agent (ChatBot) Enhancements

  • Guided Setup including Topic recommendations

Developer Enhancements

  • Source control for support.  Still tightly coupled to Scoped/Named App development. Another mention of Script Tracer. 

Sessions that I’ve saved for future review!

Accelerate application development with Automated Test Framework

Get started with the Natural Language Understanding (NLU) Workbench


While rewarding, this was a more muted experience for me since it wasn’t in person.  I’ll be taking advantage of the extended availability of content over the next few months as we dive further into Quebec and beyond.  Looking forward to seeing you all in meatspace for K22!

I’d love to hear any feedback on this post, especially if you attended Knowledge 21 and would like to discuss your own experiences.  As always, if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to add them here or address them to