Introduction to Playbooks in ServiceNow

With Jordan Rogus



In this article, we will discuss playbooks within ServiceNow. Before we dive into playbooks, please note that the UI used in this demo is slightly different than what you might be used to with UI16, and that is because this is the next experience UI that is available with the San Diego release of ServiceNow.


So, what are playbooks? Playbooks are a way to visualize a flow in one view to facilitate an easy and intuitive user experience. To help you understand this, let’s walk through an example playbook in the context of customer service management to facilitate the intake fulfillment enclosure of a case.


Getting Started

We are going to do this in the CSM FSM configurable workspace, and once we are here you'll need to go to a list of cases. Once you navigate to the lists, go to cases where you will create a new case with no information populated and submit a case record. Once this is saved you're going to see a new related item that appears next to the details tab, and it'll be called playbook.


This playbook tab (shown in the demo at 2:07) will only appear if there's an active playbook running on the current record. If we go to the playbook tab, we can see that the name of the flow the playbook is visualizing is here, called CSM fulfillment, and there are a couple of sections, including intake, fulfillment, and resolution. These sections are called lanes and help organize the flow. You can expand and collapse to see the specific activities within each lane, where each activity represents a piece of the flow.


Expanding the Intake Lane

Each activity can be configured to show different information on the card, and there are additional customizations that can be done, such as creating buttons on the card to do client actions or to run server scripts. Expanding the intake lane there are four activities, and we are already taken to the second activity. This playbook has recognized the first activity is completed already; by clicking on the completed activity you can see what has been done, showing the traceability of a playbook for previous tasks as well as future tasks that will be occurring in the process. This first automated activity was to initially assign the case to an assignment group.


The next activity pulls up a couple of fields from the form and asks the fulfiller to validate or populate them. We will assign this to Amy, update the priority, leave the assignment group, in this case, and select update. Once submitted, the activity is marked complete, and we move on to a weight condition in the third activity where the process will pause until a specific condition is met.


For this example, that is waiting until the case is assigned to a user. From here, we will go to the case record and assign it to ourselves. It's important to note that the playbook will automatically progress once the assignment is made. You do not need to be on the playbook tab for this update to occur. By going back into the playbook tab, we can see that this activity has been completed, and the following automated mark case as open activity is also completed. We can see that the case record itself has been moved to a state of open. With a checkmark next to the intake lane, we can see that the process has progressed to fulfillment.


Expanding the fulfillment lane, we can see two activities: the first being an automated activity, which is complete that created a task associated with the case for fulfillment, and the second activity being where we are right now, waiting for that fulfillment task to be closed. Let’s go ahead and close that task. If we go to the related lists of tasks, we can see that this task was created via the playbook. We are going to go into it and mark it as closed. Similarly, this will progress the playbook. So let’s go back to the playbook tab, and we have now progressed to the final lane resolution.


Filter Functionality

Before we look at the activities in the resolution lane, let’s look at the filter functionality that playbooks provide that can help you filter down the list of activities. By clicking the card filter icon, you can filter the cards by the status of the cards or even the assignments. In this case, we can filter for all the complete activities, the in-progress activities, and any of the activities assigned to me. Let's go back and look at the one last activity in the resolution line. This is an instruction activity to remind the user to resolve this specific case. We can mark this activity as complete and then go to the case and resolve it to end this process.


Closing the Task

By marking that activity as complete, the entire playbook has now been completed. Let's go back to the case and close it. We will need to set a resolution code, add a note, and then select propose solution. Having a fulfiller follow a playbook can create a consistent fulfillment process to support your service teams. There's much more you can do with playbooks, from showing KB articles within them to having only certain activities appear at certain times based on conditions. From the fulfiller perspective, the benefits of leveraging playbooks include providing fulfillers more transparency with the process by allowing them to see what future steps they might need to take to complete their task. Note that playbooks are only configured to run using workspace; however, they can be configured to run in either a base workspace such as agent workspace or a now experienced workspace, such as the CSM FSM configurable workspace, as shown in the demo.


ServiceNow Process Automation Designer (PAD)

Playbooks are the visualization of a process. The way to develop the process is with ServiceNow Process Automation Designer (PAD). Process Automation Designer is another way to configure a flow in ServiceNow, such as Workflow Editor or Flow Designer. The difference is that only a flow configured in Process Automation Designer can be visualized via a playbook.


Process Automation Designer is really a collection of activities that make up a flow. Learn more about Process Automation Designer via the ServiceNow documentation. The flow is triggered similarly to Flow Designer. For this example, the trigger is set to run only for when the case was created. The lanes in PAD across this automation designer help organize your flow and provide visual separation within the playbook.


We can also see intake fulfillment and resolution here. You can also add more and condition these lanes to run at different points. The activities that make up these lanes can either be out-of-the-box activities that ServiceNow provides, some interactive or non-interactive activities, or you can create new activities, which in essence use actions or subflows created in Flow Designer to tell the activity what to do. Once the PAD flow is configured you can test it and then activate it. Once activated, the flow will run when triggered.


Please note that if running the PAD for Customer Service Management, it should already be configured to visualize the playbook in workspace, granted the appropriate playbook for CSM plugin is activated. note that this plugin might come with a fee. If running PAD on a separate application, please check if a plugin is available. If there's no plugin available or you're trying to run it for a custom application, additional configuration might be required. This will allow the playbook tab to appear within workspace.




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