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By David Noel, GuideVision ServiceNow Technical Consultant

The ServiceNow Alignment Planner Workspace was introduced in the San Diego release. The Alignment Planner Workspace was designed to address a common problem many companies face: Stakeholders struggle with outcome-driven planning because strategy and work delivery often reside in their own silos. That’s why organizations cannot consistently achieve the desired business outcomes across the enterprise.

To be successful, managers need to enter their goals or objectives, prioritize work based on those goals and create high-level plans by sequencing agile and traditional work across the enterprise. They also need to track the progress of work to make adjustments when priorities shift.

In ServiceNow, the Alignment Planner Workspace provides a single platform for goals and targets. It enables users to prioritize all work based on those goals, and create roadmaps and align work to ensure those goals are achieved. The APW allows you to plan, deliver, and track value across different methodologies. It has seen significant improvements in each release since it first appeared in the Quebec release.

The APW now integrates with records from Project Portfolio Management, Agile 2.0 and SAFe. It combines the Demands, Projects and Epics from these methodologies into a roadmap view.

Key terms for the ServiceNow Alignment Planner Workspace

In order to better understand the way the Alignment Planner Workspace functions in ServiceNow, it’s a good idea to become acquainted with some of its key terms.

Planning hierarchy is a configurable framework of levels used to organize business processes. In a company, it’s a structure that represents the flow and planning processes. Using the planning hierarchy, organizations can perform top-down planning and ensure that everyone is aligned to the same strategy and goals. This alignment provides insight into the entire flow of work from top to bottom, and allows management to effectively track the value that is being generated. 

Planning nodes indicate the different planning levels of your organization, and are defined at each level of the planning hierarchy. Each node is a combination of a planning organization and its corresponding planning items.

Planning organizations are responsible for planning activities at distinct levels in your organization - enterprise, portfolios, business units, departments and divisions. 

Planning items refer to the type of work item that different planning organizations use. For example, enterprise-level planning can use initiatives as planning items, and project-level planning can use a project as a planning item. Other examples include demands or scrums as a planning item. You can use more than one type of planning item for a planning organization.

What’s nice about the APW is that these terms and concepts are brought into clear view in the workspace. 

ServiceNow Alignment Planner Workspace - Goals Framework

The Goals Framework in the Alignment Planner Workspace enables EPMOs and business owners to enter their goals and target cascades across the organization, and to align the work to ensure goals are achieved. It accommodates various framework types such as objectives and key results to let your organization strategize in a way that fits them best. 

The key components in Goal Management include Goals, which are objectives you want to reach based on your strategic plans. Goals are typically qualitative by nature but should be ambitious to challenge and motivate your team. An example is ‘Use renewable energy by the end of 2022,’ or ‘Increase diversity in the workspace by 50%.’ 

Goals can also have sub-goals. You can associate work, which is planning items, to a goal so that you can track who is responsible for fulfilling the goal. You can associate planning items like demands and projects, as an example, to the work being done. 

Targets for goals enable you to track and measure the progress on the goals. As an example, with a goal of ‘Increase diversity in the workplace by 50%,’ the target can be to hire a 30% diverse workforce by Q1 2022. 

ServiceNow APW backlog for planners

You can review and prioritize your work using the backlog that APW provides. This helps you to determine the right work to invest in before scheduling the roadmap for your organization. It’s helpful to first know the existing and upcoming workloads. Having all the work items such as projects, epics and demands listed in one place helps you to understand the overall backlog, so you can easily review and decide which items need to be prioritized. 

With the backlog planner management feature in the Alignment Planner Workspace, you can review the new and existing work created for your organization. To help you review the workload efficiently, the backlog page provides information for each work item, such as the associated goal, planned cost and planned benefits. 

ServiceNow APW roadmap planning

ServiceNow’s APW’s roadmap planning view provides a graphical overview of work items. It offers an interactive user interface to display and group plans based on any criteria. You can connect the entire enterprise, ensuring everyone in the organization is aligned to deliver shared outcomes and adjust work on the fly. You can also plan agile, traditional and hybrid work in a single roadmap. 

The Alignment Planner Workspace’s roadmap planning functionality enables you to create a roadmap based on work items such as projects, epics or demands. Using the roadmap planning functionality, you can connect your work to your strategy by cascading plans from the top down. It enables you to plan traditional and agile work in a single roadmap.

APW Planning item dependencies

While planning, it’s essential to know how your planning items are connected to each other. Unless you know the dependencies of one item upon another, you might miss prioritizing time-critical projects or demands. This lack of information might also put you at risk of scheduling the right work for the right time period. Dependencies in the roadmap help you to visualize the relationship between planning items so that you can adjust their scheduling accordingly.

The APW enables you to create simple or hybrid dependencies. For example, you can establish dependencies between two projects, or between a project and an epic. Also, planning items can have dependencies on items within the same planning organization or an item from a different planning organization. As an example, a project from a sales organization could have a dependency on a project or a demand from a product organization. This facilitates teamwork and enhances decision-making throughout the planning process.

Executing work from APW plans in other applications

Planning personnel such as portfolio managers or product owners can use the Alignment Planner Workspace to align the plan to business objectives. They can provide flexibility to enable the execution team to decide how they deliver their work, and teams can choose the methodology that is most effective for them and decide on the execution system that best fits their needs. They can use applications such as ServiceNow Project Portfolio Management (PPM), Agile Development 2.0 or Microsoft Azure DevOps to execute the work plans given to them by their managers.

With this flexible approach to delivering work, teams are empowered to deliver more value. They are able to fund, manage and monitor all work from a single workspace. 

Creating flexibility and delivering value

Enterprises using different delivery methodologies and tools will benefit the most from using the APW. It grants a holistic view across all delivery streams in real time that would otherwise not be possible. Even for organizations that use only one delivery method, the Alignment Planner Workspace is a powerful tool for communicating an organization’s key goals, underpinning business unit goals and the initiatives that are either planned or in action that serve to meet those goals.

This article is based on a talk given by David Noel at GuideVision’s RADAR 44. RADAR is an all-hands internal knowledge-sharing event that helps to keep the team up to date on the latest developments in the world of ServiceNow and beyond. RADAR is just one of the ways we work to maintain and build our team’s knowledge and skills. For more on our approach to career development, visit our website at www.guidevision.eu/career.

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