Improving ServiceNow DevOps Flow Metrics: Mean Lead Time

Scott Willson

In the world of DevOps, speed is paramount. The faster you can deliver a piece of code from initial commit to production deployment, the better. This end-to-end velocity is measured by a key metric called mean lead time. The lower your lead time, the more effectively your teams can meet C-suite demands and expectations. This post will explore tips for shrinking lead time and how xtype can accelerate your ServiceNow delivery lifecycle.

What is Mean Lead Time?

Mean lead time tracks the average time new code takes to travel through the development, testing, and deployment phases to reach production readiness. It measures more than build and test time – it encompasses the entire journey from code commit to release. In ServiceNow terms, this can mean when an update set is marked as "Complete." The goal is to shorten this cycle time as much as possible without sacrificing quality. Top-performing engineering teams achieve lead times of under an hour or a day.

One of the biggest frustrations ServiceNow teams face is a growing backlog. The backlog of requests (from c-suite or business owners) grows because of prolonged lead times, among other factors. ServiceNow developers will mark an update set as "Complete" (or when a developer submits an application in App Engine Studio), and then it can be weeks or months before that change is released to production.

Optimization Strategies

There are several strategies to reduce lead time within your systems:

  • Automate tests and deployments - Manual hand-offs incur delays and errors. Use xtype zero-touch deployments to accelerate.
  • Small, frequent code changes – Large collections of changes incur more issues and delays. Reduce what goes in update sets and the number of update sets you release. 
  • Fix quality issues immediately - Don't allow defects to accrue technical debt. Build in quality from the start.
  • Cross-train staff - Eliminate specialty silos and bottlenecks. Leverage flexible, full-stack engineers.
  • Prioritize MVP feature sets – Release the minimum viable product faster, then iterate. Avoid feature bloat.
  • Standardize environments – Ensure all your ServiceNow instances are production-like so features and apps propagate easily between them. Use xtype's bi-directional synchronization to ensure your instances are as close to production as possible.
  • Instrument Everything – Collect data on build duration, test coverage, and deployment frequency. Optimize weak points.

Accelerating with xtype Synchronization

A significant bottleneck is propagating code, configuration, and data across the multiple instances needed to progress features and apps from development through testing and staging to production. xtype provides automated, bi-directional synchronization that replicates changes across all your entire ServiceNow landscape with the click of a button, an approval, a trigger, or automatically.

xtype establishes a "single source of truth," eliminating time-consuming cloning and providing real-time multi-environment visibility of all your scoped apps, store apps, features, and the ServiceNow versions of each instance. xtype's bidirectional synchronization keeps all instances in sync without needing to clone as frequently. This allows developers to fix defects and integrate changes when they write code rather than days, weeks, or months later. xtype can include ATF executions, ensuring testing cycles and compliance/approval gates are included with every migration up or downstream.

With multi-environment visibility and bidirectional synchronization, developers can focus on innovating while xtype handles consistent environment migration. Lead time shrinks from weeks to hours. Zurich Insurance achieved 80% faster delivery by leveraging xtype's controlled synchronization.

Additional xtype Benefits:

  • Shrink cloning readiness lead times
  • Reduce the need for cloning
  • Visualize differences across all instances in your landscape 
  • Auto migration of update sets (including batches) and apps
  • Enforce promotion standards, including approvals, scans, ATF, compliance gates, and change management integration.


In today's world, delivering software faster provides a competitive advantage, reduces backlog, and allows ServiceNow pros to keep up with C-suite demands. ServiceNow teams can dramatically improve their lead time metrics by combining DevOps principles with xtype. This means higher quality applications and features are delivered more frequently to customers. The outcome is accelerated innovation.

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