Welcome to the first installment of the Co-Existence Blog Series. The focus of this series is to provide you with ideas on how to create a harmonious software ecosystem where Atlassian products, and those with the same/overlapping functionality, can live together. Although we here at Isos technology have vast experience across many technology stacks, we in no way claim to know it all and love to facilitate collaboration. Or as Tadashi Hamada told his little brother Hiro, "Look for a new angle."
So let's jump right into it: Jira and ServiceNow. For those not familiar with ServiceNow, it is an integrated cloud software platform predominately focused on 5 solutions: ITSM, Security, HR Service Delivery, Customer Service, and Business Applications. The most common overlap I have seen, and where conflict usually arises, is around Jira Service Desk (JSD). For example, a company has implemented--or is implementing--ServiceNow, and development team(s) are using Jira. At some point, a discussion happens within the Jira-based teams about implementing JSD and suddenly the office starts to resemble a chapter from Lord of the Flies. Tribes form, silos become fortified, and everyone is on the defensive. Also note that in most of the use cases I have dealt with, the teams responsible for these two tools have different leadership chains that don't come together for a few layers. This creates additional challenges.
So what are you to do? Odds are a significant amount of time and money have already gone into the ServiceNow implementation, so there is likely not an appetite to replace it. At the same time, the development teams have been extremely successful and productive with Jira, so they will also be resistant to change. That being said, harmony is possible and the following points should help you in getting to that point:
1. CLEAR GOVERNANCE. Right out of the gate, the leaders of each tribe need to sit and have an open and honest discussion. These leaders might not be the ultimate decision authority, but they are the ones in the tools daily and the ones trying to look out for their customers best interests. Don't forget, your customers are likely the same people, so find the solution that works best for them. Keep it simple and draw three columns: ServiceNow, Jira, and TBD, and list who gets what. I'll help you get started:
ServiceNow = Incident Management and the front door for the customer
Jira = Development Activities and behind the door work.
There is nothing more frustrating as a customer than trying to figure out where to go to report an issue, and it be completely different depending on the product incident type. By making ServiceNow the front door. you have taken away one of the biggest concerns for that team and that is creating a divide within the company on where to go for help. You're now ready to focus on the next step.
2. DEFINE THE KEY METRICS. No matter which tool you use, one of the biggest benefits is the reporting that comes from it. Those reports help you key in on repeat issues, identify areas that show growth/slowdown, and numerous other metrics that allow you to be proactive in decision making. Both teams need to identify what data points are most important to them. Easy ones are root cause, action taken, priority/urgency. Find all the key fields you agree on, then review your value for those fields. The best thing to do for the company is make those values match. Having different values between the tools, or just the company in general, is a nightmare. Does Priority "High" in Jira mean the issue impacts 50% of the customers, but Urgency "High" in ServiceNow means 90%? For the sake of the next step and really the sanity of your company, align terminology across the company. This seems like a no-brainer, but I wouldn't be bringing it up if I hadn't seen this issue repeatedly.
3. INTEGRATE. Yes, there are open APIs and numerous options available in the marketplace. But, I will focus on the few I have the most experience with and which I have been lucky enough to work with their top resources on creating integrations. Depending on the size of your organization and the number of different tools in use, you may already have some of these laying around. Note the order of these tools is simply the order in which I have used them. Nothing diabolical going on here.
- TASKTOP - My first foray into a world of integration. Their integration hub, released a few years ago, is highly polished and from my experience the easiest to do the field mappings with, although the initial setup on the ServiceNow side was a little painful for the ServiceNow administrator (this was mid-2018 and easy for me because I let him do it). Once it was up and running, it did what it was supposed to. Value stream mapping/flow metrics are some of the latest highlights of the tool. Large organizations with many tools to integrate can benefit from this product outside of just Jira to ServiceNow integration. Mik and his team are great so feel free to check them out.
- CONNECT ALL - My second foray into a world of integration. A similar approach to integration as Tasktop (you can do your own internet sleuthing to find out why). Although not as good of a UI experience on setting up the field mappings, the ServiceNow connection was "super easy," according to the ServiceNow admin. A connector download and a few parameters being entered and we were good to go (early 2019). They are also focused on the Value stream, and just like Tasktop, can connect a plethora of tools together. Lance and the rest of the team are also very good, and this may be the right solution if you have a technology stack with many tools that could benefit from integration.
- EXALATE - Full disclosure, I have not yet used their ServiceNow Integration for Jira, but likely will in the near future. I have, however, just finished building a Jira-to-Jira Service Desk integration and the process is similar. Also, for a small organization or or a team just doing limited integrations, this may be a more cost effective option. Be warned though, this isn't a simple point and click like the two above options. This requires inserting Groovy code into the interface. They do have lots of examples so if you are even slightly comfortable with code, you can get a lot done with cut and pasting. In addition, they have recently started an online community forum for users to share information. Most importantly though, and the real reason they earned their place in this blog, is the work of their support team, namely André and Juan. I've been using a demo version to set up the aforementioned JSD to Jira sync prior to initiating purchase. I am by no means a script kiddy, but can follow simple directions. Over the course of two days, they were extremely responsive in helping me create a connection that had suddenly stopped working (SPOILER ALERT: A few changes between Jira 7.13 and 8.5 caused some trouble). That left a good impression on me, and is a good sign for our future interactions.
So there you go. Some initial steps you can take to create an ecosystem where Jira and ServiceNow can peacefully co exist. Let me know your thoughts and/or experiences, and keep an eye out for our next entry in this series: Confluence and Sharepoint.