Earl Duque

8 minute read

In this post, we will provide a walk through on how to create your first and basic playbook in ServiceNow. If you saw Live Coding Happy Hour on August 19, 2021 (part 1) or September 2, 2021 (part 2), this post will go through the same material.

Playbooks provide step-by-step guidance for resolving processes and enable agents to easily manage the lifecycle of cases by guiding them through sequences of tasks. The workflows that are associated with a specific type of case and the activities that need to be completed to resolve cases of this type are detailed in the playbook. Playbooks also help users to visualize the entire lifecycle of a workflow.

In this walkthrough, we are going to create a playbook that

  • Runs when an incident is created/updated with the Category as “Inquiry / Help” and Subcategory as “Internal Application”
  • Instructs the agent on what information to gather
  • Asks the agent to pick a Service offering (this will be our first person to take action on the playbook)
  • Automatically assigns the assignment group to “Admin Group”
  • Applies a checklist template to the incident (this will be our second person/group to take action on the playbook)
  • Tasks a specific person to review the incident and determine the final state of the incident.

Now that we have our requirements, let’s jump into it!

First, make sure you have the Process Automation Designer plugin installed on your instance. Playbooks are created within PAD.


With it installed, let’s launch Process Automation Designer via the app nav under the Process Automation app menu.


In the PAD interface, click on Create a new process


Give the new process a label that is informative to the user. In this walkthrough, since this playbook is specifically for when the incident has a subcategory of Internal Application, I will label it as “Internal Application Playbook”

Click on Select a trigger to continue.

On the next screen, it wants us to select a trigger. If you are creating a playbook that needs to run at the same time as another process that has already been defined, you can actually use the same trigger as the other PAD process. Our trigger for this walkthrough doesn’t exist yet though so let’s select Define your own conditions for when your process runs and for the trigger type, choose Record Create or Update. Note that the trigger type cannot be changed later! Click on Set your trigger conditions to move forward.

On the next screen, it wants us to choose the conditions. Choose incident for the table. Next, we know our requirements for category and subcategory, but let’s also throw in active condition since there isn’t any use in running this if the incident is already inactive. Your conditions should look like this:


Let’s leave Run my trigger as Once for now, but this is where you can change how often should this process activate and if multiple instances of this process can run at the same time for the same record.

We’ll leave Run this trigger on extended tables as false, too. Click Go to designer to complete the setup for this new PAD process.


It’s the Process Automation Designer user interface! Lucky for us, these noow experience interfaces are pretty helpful on what to do next. Click on Add new lane

A new untitled lane will appear on the main part of the interface (the left side) and a Lane Properties column will appear on the right.

In playbooks, lanes are the name of different “stages” of your process. Do not be fooled though, unlike stages elsewhere in the platform, many different stages/lanes can run concurrently.

We have three distinctive groups of people that will touch this incident, so let’s name the lanes according to these three groups.

The first lane, let’s give it the label of Service Offering Identification, leave the When to start option as Immediately because we want this lane to start the moment the playbook is triggered. Click Save to save the lane properties.


Let’s make our other lanes too. Click Add a new lane

  • Label it Fulfillment
  • Note that When to start defaulted to After previous because the interface assumes that each stage happens sequentially for your convenience. Let’s change this to Immediately too just so that multiple groups can work on their section of the playbook concurrently.
  • Save

Now let’s make our last, third lane. Click Add a new lane

  • Label it Review
  • Leave When to start as After previous this time
  • Save

Your process should have three lanes now and look like this:


Based on the three lanes and their When to start options, our “Fulfillment” stage will start immediately and the “Review” stage will only start when “Fulfillment” is complete, and out “Service Offering Identification” stage will start immediately too but can end whenever without affecting the other two stages!

Let’s start adding activities to our lanes.

Underneath each lane, you will see an + Add an activity button, click on the one under the first lane and ou should see the activity picker:


Look for the Instruction activity and click on it to add it to your lane.


If the activity properties did not open automatically, click on the activity tile (or click on the three dots and select Edit activity) to open the Activity Properties column, and let’s fill this form out now:

  • Leave label as Instruction
  • Add a description: Read incident details and cross reference details with cost center to determine the service offering.
  • Leave When to start as Immediately
  • Feel free to pull in other fields to the Message field to make the instructions even more detailed. Otherwise, just leave it as This activity > Description
  • Leave Wait for input as Yes now to force the user to “complete” this instructional activity. You can also set this to No and the playbook will automatically advance past this activity.
  • Save

Let’s add another activity to this lane, click on + Add an activity and select User Form. For this activity’s properties, let’s do:

  • For Table select Incident
  • For Record use the data picker to select Trigger > Incident Record


  • For Form Fields type service_offering (if you want more than just one field to appear to the playbook user, then simply provide a comma separated list of field names here. Eg. number,service_offering). Alternatively, if you have a form view that has the exact fields you want to display, then use the Form Fiew field instead.
  • Leave the rest as is
  • Save

Now that we got a playbook lane completed, it’s a good opportunity to test how it looks! Click the Test button on the top right of the PAD interface


Choose an incident record and click Run test. After the test loads, click on View next to Playbook Review and see how it looks!

Now that you have created lanes and some activities for a lane, let’s do the same for the other two lanes:

Lane 2:

Add an Automated Update Record activity

  • Set Table to Incident
  • Set Record to Trigger > Incident Record (always do record after table; setting table after sometimes clears the record value)
  • Set Fields to Assignment group = Admin Group
  • Leave the rest as is
  • Save

Detour time! Before we make our next lane 2 activity, we need to make a checklist template that we can use in our playbook. If you already have one to use, skip this section and just use an existing one. If you’ve never used checklists before, look up documentation on the feature later and just follow these steps for now.

  1. In the platform view, in the app nav, type checklist_template.do and press enter
  2. For Template copy and paste the following: {"owner":"","name":"","items":[{"name":"Assess needs","order":0},{"name":"Fulfill","order":1},{"name":"Notify customer","order":2}]}
  3. For Name type Internal App Checklist
  4. Submit

Okay, now let’s get back to our playbook in PAD.

Add a Checklist Task activity

  • Set Checklist Template to Internal App Checklist (or any other one you have available)
  • Set Task to Trigger > Incident
  • Leave the rest as is
  • Save

Test it out! (Make sure to say Run another test).


In this playbook, progress now only moves forward after this checklist is fully completed. It uses the out-of-box old-as-chuck checklist feature too so it’s already configured to automatically update work notes on the fly, work on forms that have the checklist formatter included, and work on interfaces that display checklists natively like on Visual Task Boards.

Alright, one more lane! Lane 3:

Add an Instruction activity

  • Set Label to Audit fulfillment
  • Leave the rest as is
  • Save

Add an User Form activity

  • For Table select Incident
  • For Record use the data picker to select Trigger > Incident Record
  • For Form Fields type state,resolution_notes
  • Leave the rest as is
  • Save

Home stretch, let’s trigger this incident in Agent Workspace to see it in action.

But first, let’s click the top-right Activate button!


Launch Agent Workspace, create a new incident (you might need to do this via the lists tab, or create it in the platform view if your agent workspace isn’t configured for incident yet). Then set the Category as Inquiry / Help and the Subcategory as Internal Application and save.

The new playbook should trigger and a “Playbook” tab should appear for you to walk through!


But wait there’s more! Actually quite a lot more. In future blog posts, we’ll show you how to get playbooks to appear in configurable workspaces, how to have playbooks generate records as part of the playbook (without the need of an existing record, via Rome’s Playbook Record Generators), and how to make playbooks the default view instead of details.

Hopefully this walkthrough gives you great ideas on how to help your company’s employees have clear and straight forward processes that leave little chance of user-error. Imagine how fast a new employee can get onboarded into a process with playbooks!