How to set up SMS communication in the ServiceNow client environment

Setting up SMS communication within the client environment where SMS notifications are necessary to use, seems to be a straightforward process to establish. Still, in fact, you can encounter issues while working on this task. ServiceNow documentation is helpful for some steps but doesn’t provide all answers.


What is SMS communication and Why Does it Matter?

SMS communication is used in companies that prefer in some circumstances to send SMS messages instead of sending standard email notifications. 

While the standard email notifications process is established and configured out-of-the-box, for SMS one, additional effort needs to be taken to set it up correctly. 

How to establish SMS communication 

I will provide step-by-step instructions on how to establish SMS communication to be ready for use in the client environment

1. SMS Creation provider

The first step is to create a standard notification record but filling in one more field.

Navigate to the ‘System Notification -> Notification’ module to create a new notification record and in the ‘What it will contain’ tab provide relevant information in the ‘SMS alternate’ field.

Note: if the ‘SMS alternate’ field is not visible on the form, switch to ‘Advanced view’ under the ‘Related Links’ section.

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2. SMS service provider creation

A service provider record is necessary to create. It will be used by the user's device to send an email notification from the ServiceNow platform to the mobile provider gateway used to send it later as an SMS message.

Open the ‘cmn_notif_service_provider’ table and create a new record.

Make sure the ‘Type’ is ‘SMS’ and the ‘Active box is checked.

The most important thing to provide is the ‘SMS Provider Email Suffix’ field. This information needs to be obtained from the client’s mobile vendor company.

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3. SMS device for a specific user creation.

When any specific user is chosen to receive the SMS notification then it is necessary to create an SMS device for this user if there is no one on the instance.

When creating a new SMS device, open the ‘cmn_notif_device’ table and make sure the following information is provided:

  • Name: not mandatory but it’s worth providing i.e. ‘Mobile’ value,
  • Type: SMS,
  • Phone number: the phone number to receive the SMS notification. In the majority of cases, the country prefix needs to be added in the front,
  • User: sys_user record which is being selected as the recipient for the SMS notification,
  • Service provider: service provider record created in the previous step,
  • Active: true.

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4. SMS device and the SMS Notification in User Notification Preference enabling.

Ensure the SMS device is enabled in the Notification Preference for the recipient user. In this screenshot, the ‘Mobile’ SMS device is enabled:

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Above is the general setting to allow SMS communication at all.

Below, must be also enabled to allow SMS communication for a specific notification (created in the first step):

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5. Actions to be performed on the client’s mobile provider side

This is the trickiest part of the whole process. Above you can find in various ServiceNow documents, but always you will end up with the process not working because some actions need to be requested\performed at the client’s mobile provider company side.

First, the mobile provider must create a relevant account that will act as a kind of gateway to receive emails from the ServiceNow instance.

This account needs to be linked to the ServiceNow instance outbound email address.

Finally, the display name of the account should be provided – it will act as the contact name on the user’s mobile phone.

Below you can see a sample real-life setup on the provider’s side:

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6. Final notification & SMS message

When everything is set up correctly and created notification conditions are met, as the result, standard notification record will be created in the ‘sys_email’ table where the ‘Recipients’ field will contain the receiver's mobile phone number with the provider’s suffix and ‘Subject’ field will contain the whole message that will be sent to a mobile phone number (‘Body’ field is empty in this case).

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# Tips and Reminders for SMS setup

  • If the user has also an Email notification device associated with his user record (which is true in most cases as it’s created automatically while the user is created), both, standard email notification and SMS notification to a mobile device will be sent to the user.

  • If the email notification can be triggered successfully then the system will always create an SMS notification record in the ‘sys_email’ table, just like an email record. This will prove email notification has no wrong configuration and the issue is related to the SMS service provider. If not, then it is easy to know something wrong must be in the email notification configuration. 

  • SMS will be sent to the address with format <phone number>@<SMS Provider Email Suffix>.

  • There is an out-of-the-box character limit for SMS messages that is related to the ‘sys_email’ table ‘subject’ dictionary entry max length that is set to 160. Although it could be changed in the dictionary level and mobile provider setup, it’s not recommended.

  • Notification Preferences module accessing and configuring depends on the ServiceNow instance version.


Thank you for reading my article, hope it will be helpful for you. To sum up, instead of standard email communication, SMS is not configured out-of-the-box and needs some effort to establish. What’s most importantly, you also need to cooperate with the customer’s mobile vendor company, which takes a lot of time. Fortunately, once it’s well configured, further use is not so hard to maintain.

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