(This article was originally written in May 2019 and was udpated in May 2021)

Is your foundation in a perfect shape? Is it really?

It doesn’t have to be perfect, of course, but keeping your foundation data in good shape will ensure that other things can work as planned.

What do I mean by Foundation Data? Many IT Service Management systems such as ServiceNow refer to common data tables which are shared between multiple applications, processes or use cases as foundation data. Usually, this refers to users, organizational structures, cost centers, locations and, groups , etc.

ServiceNow added Foundation Data into their Common Service Data Model (version 3.0) in later 2020. In the 4.0 version of CSDM, the Foundation data is shown below the other domains. And ServiceNow describes these as “Core data tables” in the platform.

Learn more about CSDM 4.0 version from our CSDM 4.0 webinar companion page. 

Foundation domain in the CSDM 4.0 conceptual data model by ServiceNow.

According to the term itself, Foundation data can create a foundation for good service automation and management. Without a strong foundation, you can not really get the most out of your investment on the ServiceNow platform.

Without a strong foundation, you can not expect to get the most out of your investment on the ServiceNow Platform.

In this article, I will show you a simple data model for user data and give examples of different use cases that could fail due to issues in foundation data. In the end, I will also tell you what you can do to prevent such issues.

Example Foundation Data Model for Users

Foundation Data Model

Simple User data model with organizational structures, location, groups, and managers.

The example data model above is still rather simple but includes lots of important and useful information about the user and its relationships to organizational structures, locations, groups, and managers.

Foundation Data Matters – Example Use Cases


Foundation data is often used for approvals. Small purchases or orders can be approved by the line manager. Above a certain level, an upper-level approval is required from the Department head, for example. 

Line Manager Approval

Line Manager Approval

Manager information on User records can be invalid in many ways. Maybe it’s simply missing or the selected Manager is no longer in the house and has been deactivated.

Department Head Level Approvals

Department Head Level Approvals

The same issues apply to higher level approval requests. Now there are just more details that can be wrong, starting from the link between a User and a Department, or a Cost Center.


Probably the most important reason for having consistent and up-to-date foundation data is to enable proper reporting. Most, if not all activities managed within the ServiceNow platform are referencing Users as Customers, Assignees, and Managers. Being able to report tasks, assets and other key information based on various organizational aspects is crucial to proper management and decision making.

Organizational Structures

Organizational Structures are often used in Reporting

I could bring up so many examples related to reporting, but let’s leave it to this one for now and move on.

My other favorite reporting related data model is Service Portfolio and how a CMDB should be connected to services. Let’s talk about that in another story.

Service Subscriptions

ServiceNow, similar to some other “Workflow Engines”, has excellent capabilities related to managing which users are using or subscribing different services. This may not be used that much but it should be. Especially at (IT) Service Provider organizations.

Service Subscriptions

Users can subscribe to the services via many different routes.

When you try to create a common Service Portal to all your customers and end users, the Service subscriptions can play a major role in how the portal works and which services and catalog items are available to the current user in the portal.

Roles and Permissions

It is recommended to use Groups to manage roles and permissions to different users in ServiceNow. This way group memberships can also impact licensing.

Making sure that users belong to the right groups may not be simple. However, some easy controls can be established to make sure that certain users belong to at least some groups which are still active and connected to different roles.

Permissions Via Group Memberships

Users often get their permissions via group memberships

From the use cases above (and many more that were not listed here) we can easily sum up that foundation data is important.

I think that organizations should put more focus and effort into keeping their Foundation Data up-to-date. In fact, talking to our customers, we’re seeing increased interest towards this. I suspect it is largely to do with the inclusion of Foundation Data into CSDM 3.0.

Please take a look at our CSDM 3.0 Webinar Series or the CSDM 4.0 webinar companion page if you’re not already familiar with it.

Data Content Manager Helps Ensure You Have Quality Data

With Data Content Manager, you can easily draw a Blueprint that matches with the data models shown above. You can then run an audit against that Blueprint to check how accurate and up-to-date your current foundation data is.

The audit results can be used to understand the current situation and make informed decisions on how to improve the quality of your foundation data. Audit results can also be used to automatically create tasks when deviations occur and assign them to responsible persons or groups. This way, your foundation data will not degradate over time.

Please get in touch with me if you want to know more about Data Content Manager, or view our online demo by filling in your details below. (we will send you a private link)

There’s also an interesting article related to this in the ServiceNow Community: Operationalizing CSDM – approaching CSDM & foundation data considerations

Thanks for reading!

Take Control of Your Foundation Data

Foundation Data is crucially important regardless of your maturity, the state of your CMDB, or your CSDM ambitions. Book a meeting with us and we will show you how you can improve it with Data Content Manager. 


Mikko Juola

Chief Product Officer at Qualdatrix


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