Posted: 17 Nov. 2022 8 min. read

Choosing the right instance strategy for ServiceNow HRSD

A blog post by Shannon Thomas, senior manager, Deloitte Consulting LLP and Scott Warwick senior manager, Deloitte Consulting LLP

As companies realize the advantages of delivering HR and IT services to employees and customers via ServiceNow, they naturally begin to consider ServiceNow’s HR Service Delivery (HRSD) module to manage employee demand for HR services and information. The overall benefits of HRSD are clear: a more responsive and streamlined employee experience, functional cost savings, and simplified maintenance. Typically, company leaders are less clear about how to make the key decisions involved in the transition to HRSD, and these decisions can have far-reaching implications in terms of the benefits that their companies will ultimately realize.

The one decision for which our clients invariably seek advice is whether they should choose a shared or separate instance for HRSD. This is a fundamental choice because it determines the instance that employees will log into, as well as the other ServiceNow modules that they will be able to access. In a shared instance, HRSD is fully integrated with the other modules and employees gain access to all the services available to them whenever they log into ServiceNow. For instance, when employees log in to complete the onboarding process or register a change of home address, they would be able to access a request or incident they had previously opened in the IT service management (ITSM) module and vice versa.

In a separate instance, the HRSD module is a silo on the ServiceNow platform. When employees log in, they only have access to the services available to them within HRSD, not services provided in other modules, forcing them to log in to different links and systems. In this instance, when employees open a case in HRSD, they would not be able to directly access a request or incident they had previously opened in the ITSM module.

While many executives find that a shared instance works best in their company, this is not the case for all companies. There are pros and cons to both, and you need to consider them before choosing which instance is best for your company. These considerations affect many things, including case management, mobile access, integrations, platform ownership and maintenance, SSO (single sign-on), and security.

The pros and cons of shared instances

The shared instance offers a number of advantages in terms of employee experience and platform management. Employees only need a SSO and one set of applications to access all the services on the platform. Their ability to access the information they need is simplified as search is standardized and integrated across the platform.

Generally speaking, a shared instance lowers the total cost of ownership and the effort involved in platform management. It only requires a single set of integrations, which reduces maintenance and the software development life cycle process. The shared knowledge base leverages the costs involved in cross-platform publishing and retiring workflows. In addition, updates are synchronized, and global objects (such as locations and departments) are shared, as are system administration costs.

Shared instances also have some drawbacks. They require a higher level of coordination and governance across modules because they will share certain characteristics, such as language strategy, user profiles, knowledge-based settings, and notifications. Making a change in one module is a change in all modules. Security, too, is impacted—because access and data are shared across modules, not siloed.

The pros and cons of separate instances

A separate instance, on the other hand, comes with its own set of benefits and drawbacks. One of the benefits is the greater security offered by siloed access and data. Case management is more secure as cases are unique to each instance and have a higher level of view restrictions than in a shared instance.

Another benefit of separate instances is greater control, customization, and responsiveness. HR works independently; it controls administration and can respond to employee needs more quickly with tailored solutions. Since HR is in its own instance, there also is a lower probability of instances where there is a high volume of transactions, and thus, less concern regarding performance-related issues.

Separate instances have some drawbacks. The siloed approach adds complexity and friction to the user experience: Employees must have multiple profiles and log in and open cases separately in the different modules, which reduces the opportunity for cross-operational cases and workflow. This all translates into more employee time and frustration.

Total cost of ownership for the ServiceNow platform is higher, too. Separate portals are needed for the different modules. There also is duplicative maintenance, additional cost for production instance and resourcing to maintain the instance, and more instances and integrations to manage.

The way in which you weigh the pros and cons should be tailored to your company’s needs and context. Generally, we see organizations choose shared instances with strong centralized governance to manage, maintain, and evolve. No matter which you choose, the higher-level benefits of adding HRSD to your ServiceNow platform remain the same. It can help improve productivity and your return on investment by streamlining the delivery of HR services via intelligent workflows and anytime, anywhere access—an especially relevant benefit in this era of remote and hybrid jobs. HRSD can enhance the performance of HR itself by creating a more responsive, consumer-like experience for employees, increasing the function’s productivity, efficiency, and consistency—a winning combination. 

Interested in exploring more on cloud?

Get in touch

David Linthicum

David Linthicum

Managing Director | Chief Cloud Strategy Officer

As the chief cloud strategy officer for Deloitte Consulting LLP, David is responsible for building innovative technologies that help clients operate more efficiently while delivering strategies that enable them to disrupt their markets. David is widely respected as a visionary in cloud computing—he was recently named the number one cloud influencer in a report by Apollo Research. For more than 20 years, he has inspired corporations and start-ups to innovate and use resources more productively. As the author of more than 13 books and 5,000 articles, David’s thought leadership has appeared in InfoWorld, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, NPR, Gigaom, and Prior to joining Deloitte, David served as senior vice president at Cloud Technology Partners, where he grew the practice into a major force in the cloud computing market. Previously, he led Blue Mountain Labs, helping organizations find value in cloud and other emerging technologies. He is a graduate of George Mason University.