• Luigi Iacobellis

A Guide to ServiceNow’s Low-Code No-Code Application Development Platform

Updated: Sep 25, 2020

This article is the third in a series that will serve as the ultimate guide to low-code no-code application development platforms. If you're new to low-code no-code technology, I highly recommend that you review the first article which is a primer to help you understand what low-code no-code application development platforms are, what components they consist of, the benefits of using them and generally how they are priced. This article will outline everything you need to know about ServiceNow’s Now Platform App Engine low-code application development platform.

What is ServiceNow Now Platform App Engine?

While ServiceNow is most prominently known for its enterprise grade IT service management platform, it has been gaining popularity for other uses over the past several years. ServiceNow's Now platform can actually be utilized to automate digital processes related to customer service and human resource management and more importantly, it also features robust low-code no-code application development and integration capabilities. ServiceNow’s low-code application development platform is called the Now Platform App Engine and it enables organizations to build custom desktop and mobile applications that can be used to automate and digitize workflows. Let’s take a deeper look at ServiceNow’s app engine.

What are the Different Components of ServiceNow Now Platform App Engine?

Develop Apps in ServiceNow App Engine Studio

The first component of the Now Platform App Engine low-code no-code application development platform is the application Studio. The Studio is an integrated development environment where application components and files are stored and accessed.

ServiceNow App Engine Studio

When creating an application in Studio, developers are introduced to the Guided App Creator. Guided App Creator is a wizard that can be used to easily create apps by completing a few simple steps. To create an app using Guided App Creator, users are asked first to give the app a name and define the scope for the app. Scope determines whether the data and files associated with an app should reside in a protected repository or whether they should be available globally in the platform.

ServiceNow App Engine Guided App Creator

Next, users are asked to select existing roles for the app or to create new roles. Roles are used to extend access to groups of users who will be using the app with the specific permissions needed to carry out their function.

ServiceNow App Engine Guided App Creator Role Creation

Guided App Creator then asks users to select the type of user experience that you'd like to create in the app. Apps built with the Workspace experience are modern and intuitive and allow developers to embed multiple tools and widgets in the app. The Mobile experience allows developers to build apps that are optimized for mobile devices while the Classic experience provides a traditional form and list approach to your app user-interface. Note that you can create multiple experiences for one app.

ServiceNow App Engine Guided App Creator App Types

Lastly, users are asked to create the data tables required to store the data to be retrieved, updated or consumed by the app. Guided App Creator allows users to create the app data tables through importing one or more spreadsheets. When using the import function, the columns in your spreadsheet will be added to the data table as columns and the data type will be set based on the values included in your spreadsheet. Users can also choose whether the app table can be extended or not.

ServiceNow App Engine Guided App Creator Table Creation

When working in the Studio, ServiceNow makes it easy to view and access at a glance all of the different application elements including underlying data tables, user roles, views, forms, and much more. This is done via the visual repository known as the Application Explorer.

ServiceNow App Engine Studio Application Explorer

Adding elements such as forms, views, data tables and more to apps is very easy through the Create Application File menu. This provides users with a list of app elements grouped by type that can be added to apps.

One of my favorite parts of the studio module is the ability to open app elements in tabs. The tab approach allows users to quickly jump between elements such as app forms, tables, roles etc.

ServiceNow Studio App Engine Tabs

Implement Workflow in ServiceNow App Engine Studio Through Flow Designer

The next component of ServiceNow App Engine low-code no-code application development platform is the Flow Designer. Flow Designer is the visual workflow builder that allows users to incorporate workflow into apps. Users start by defining the trigger of the workflow which can be based on the creation or update of a record, based on a schedule or based on an event occurring within an app in ServiceNow. The Flow Designer interface makes creating and tracing the steps of a workflow very easy. Each action in your flow is hierarchically laid out and assigned a number and level making it super easy to understand the nature of the workflow. Another awesome feature of the Flow Designer interface is the way in which you add data and variables into your work flow. Data and variables are embedded into flows by simply dragging and dropping Data Pills from the data pane on the right hand side of the interface into your workflow. Users can also easily drag data pills into custom code that you incorporate into your flow.

ServiceNow App Engine Flow Designer

Flow designer features a myriad of workflow actions available out of the box and also allows users to add workflow logic & sub-flows very easily.

ServiceNow App Engine Flow Designer Workflow Actions

Integrate Third Party Apps & Services & External Data Using ServiceNow Integration Hub

Like many other low-code no-code application development platforms, ServiceNow’s App Engine allows you to extend the workflows and capabilities of your applications by integrating them with third party apps and services through Integration Hub. Integration Hub enables users to implement codeless integrations using pre-configured out-of-the-box Spokes (ServiceNow’s name for connections to other apps or services) or custom Spokes which allow you to connect to apps and services not available available out-of-the-box. Every out of the box Spoke features a set of Spoke Actions which are pre-configured functions that can be added to apps and workflows to be invoked or executed. For example, using the out-of-the-box Google Calendar spoke, a user could develop an app that creates a calendar event in a specified calendar when a record is submitted through an app developed in App Engine. To view a full list of available spokes and spoke actions, check out this article.

ServiceNow Integration Hub Spokes

ServiceNow's Integration Hub is available for purchase as an add-on to App Engine or other ServiceNow components and tier-based meaning that the higher the tier purchased, the more Spokes that you will have access to.

Overview of the ServiceNow App Engine Pricing Structure

ServiceNow App Engine is a subscription based low-code no-code application development platform that requires users to have a licence in order to use it. ServiceNow App Engine's licencing structure is somewhat different than most conventional software-as-a-service or platform-as-a-service solutions in that user licences provide entitlements or rights to interact with custom data tables that store the data to be created, updated or retrieved by apps developed. A user has rights to access a custom data table if the user has the ability to create, read, update and/or delete any records from that table. ​Users can access applications that they have been granted access to as long as the number of tables for that user does not exceed the limit associated with their licence.

ServiceNow App Engine Licence Types

The following is a list of the different types of licences available for ServiceNow App Engine:

  • Starter licence entitles a user to access up to 10 custom data tables

  • Starter + licence entitles a user to access up to 25 custom data tables

  • Standard licence entitles a user to access up to 50 custom data tables

  • Professional licence entitles a user to access up to 200 custom data tables

  • Enterprise licence entitles a user to access up to 4000 custom data tables

Example Scenario of ServiceNow Licencing

To help illustrate how the ServiceNow App Engine low-code no-code development platform licencing model works consider the following example. You have built four apps and the list below outlines how many users have access to each app and how many custom tables each app uses.

  • App A consists of 5 custom data tables & has 3 users

  • App B consists of 7 custom data tables & has 1500 users

  • App C consists of 51 custom data tables & has 3 users

  • App D consists of 20 custom data tables & has 1000 users

  • Assume that App B & App D have 500 users in common

ServiceNow App Engine Licence Type Example

How Much Does ServiceNow App Engine Cost?

Unlike other low-code no-code application development platform vendors, ServiceNow does not publish their licence costs. Instead, ServiceNow provides customers with bespoke packages that meet their requirements and budgetary constraints.

What are the Strengths and Weaknesses of ServiceNow App Engine?

ServiceNow App Engine Strengths

  • Flow Designer: ServiceNow App Engine's workflow designer is one of the best workflow builders available in the market. Workflows are easy to decipher, incorporating data and integrating with other apps and services is incredibly easy thanks to the well designed Flow Designer interface.

  • Price: While ServiceNow does not make available list prices for the App Engine licences, it is generally much more economical than some of the other enterprise grade platforms.

ServiceNow App Engine Weaknesses

  • Limited App Experiences: While you can develop desktop and mobile apps using ServiceNow App Engine, the user experiences of apps are generally pretty similar and rather limited. Most apps represent simple forms or widgets combining multiple forms and summary charts. There are limited opportunities to create unique user-interfaces or user experiences.

Where Can I Get More Information About ServiceNow App Engine?

The best source of information as it pertains to ServiceNow App Engine, is ServiceNow's website.


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