he Service-now Winter 2011 release started hitting customer instances a few days ago (February 4). I’ve been meaning to do a quick writeup on this release and some of the cool features that it includes. Chances are you’ve already heard about some of them…namely the Chat and Live feed functionality that compose what Service-now is calling ‘Social IT’. Overall, I think this release provides much more functionality that will be useful to the majority of Service-now customers than the previous one.

The Winter 2011 release is contains the following new or improved functionality (some of which has been introduced in preceding Fall 2010 stable releases).

  • Chat
  • Live Feed
  • Collision Detection
  • Software License Management
  • Field Normalization
  • IT Governance, Risk & Compliance
  • ODBC Driver
  • Performance Improvements
  • Verizon eBonding Integration
  • Project Management Costs
  • Service Portfolio Improvements
  • Wizard-Driven Survey Creation
  • Runbook – PowerShell Process Pack
  • Content Management Improvements

As always, the release will include a number of other minor changes and bug fixes.
Here are my highlights:

-Chat: This one probably isn’t news to anyone who has been following Service-now over the past several months. In my mind, this is a HUGE new application that will benefit a lot of Service-now customers. I’ve seen this asked for so many times over the past couple of years and it’s finally here. It has actually been in Service-now in a very rough form for a while, but it’s finally had the polish put on it to really make it useful. The big challenge I see with using this app (or any chat application where users can contact a Servicedesk directly) is how how manage your existing support agreements in terms of SLAs, etc. How do you ensure that you are always working on the most high-priority items when you’ve got a wide open channel of potential interruption like this? In any case, that’s a process issue really. At least now the tool provides the capability.

-Live Feed: Very cool functionality that brings the power of a Twitter or Facebook-like interface and communication mechanism to Service-now. This functionality is really just getting off the ground. I think we’ve yet to see the full power of this in the IT space. For now, it’s really just a single feed per instance, but over the next few months as additional grouping and security concepts are introduced, I think it will become much more useful. The thing I really like about this feature is that it treats all of the records in the system like live feed users as well. An incident or change can be set up to post to the live feed automatically for certain triggers so that people are notified about events. We may very well be witnessing the eventual death of our trusty friend the news scroller :(.

-Field Normalization: We saw this demoed a few weeks ago at a training on some of the new release features. This piece was built by the same people who have brought us all of the cool discovery functionality in Service-now. Field Normalization is not just for discovery however. It can be used throughout the tool to handle any cases where you’ve got abnormal data that you need to have coalesced into a single, identifiable value. This is especially important when you’re bringing data into Service-now from external systems and that data might record the same piece of information in different ways. This functionality will be a huge help in cleaning up some of those existing problems, and keeping any further imports into your system clean.

-ODBC Driver: I saw a post on the Service-now forums recently where a user pointed out that there really aren’t any notable reporting updates in this release. While it’s true that there isn’t a lot of new reporting functionality, Service-now did introduce the concept of Report Table Security (which, as of this writing still has a few bugs to be worked out) and an ODBC interface to connect to your Service-now instance database from an external reporting tool like Crystal Reports. What this means is that if you can’t produce the necessary report in Service-now, you can still connect with the reporting tool of your choice and use that to generate the report.

Full release notes can be found here on the Service-now.com documentation wiki.

Winter 2011 Release Webinar Videos
Winter 2011 Release Q&A Part 1
Winter 2011 Release Q&A Part 2