Service Catalog

Service Catalog is the single source of information about services offered, delivered and supported.

In my last article, I explained why it becomes necessary to have your organizations’ own catalog of IT services; a case where the IT management goes back-foot to get their budgets sanctioned and an endeavor to please the user community not yielding expected results.

Incredible is the fact that it is not actually difficult to manage the situation and set things right. To begin with let your users and customers know what you are providing them, what is on the shelf and what is being provisioned for. You have to simply apprise them of ‘what to expect’ and then build service assurance features around it to live up-to their expectations.

Certainly we can come up with a bunch of factors that can be listed as critical success factors, but I am going to highlight the ones that need most attention when coming up with a catalog

1. Start right, start with business 

The catalog is made up of two parts, one for the users (service experience) and the other for the providers (service assurance). User needs are driven by business requirements and requirements in turn are driven by business services and goals. To fulfill these user needs (supposedly the prime job of IT), IT has to first recognize the business, its goals, principles, processes and services. In short, a clear understanding has to be acquired on business patterns and activities. Then such business activities need to be mapped with the IT services that have direct realization, thereby positioning these IT Services to become part of customer facing catalog without which your users will not understand you.

To start with business discussions would be the right path simply because of 2 reasons:

  • There will not be any unrelated or non-correlated services left after the exercise and if there is, then those probably are non value adding. This method will be more accurate and efforts saving than if you were to begin with the IT side.
  • During the discussions and reviews, you will come across intricate details that will allow capturing into service levels requirements and the effort will be valued by customers when they see a clear and complete mapping of their needs with the technology. 

2. Talk the language of business

Your primary users of the catalog are from the business side and using IT jargons would only confuse them. Imagine going to a restaurant, ordering from the menu full of kitchen jargons; it gives the same feeling to business users when they hear something like “Web Server”, “Thin Client”, “ABAP” and other techno-geek stuff.

Carefully selected words that align to common knowledge or vocabulary of business will gain more acceptance and better response and if not then your catalog will be shelved aside

3. Classify and Categorize 

Every organization has a group of persons with special requirements. These requirements are different from the rest of the organization and they cannot be ignored either. One size doesn’t fit all. For instance, during one of the advising sessions for a major realty development company, the CIO was referring to a group of users who respond to tenders and that management had very clear instructions, there should be no disruption in network during the processing of tender documents. Though the tendering activity is not regular or preset in nature, the process is well defined and managed. In fact, tendering process was supposed to be a secretive operation and that IT is expected to provide high availability, high capacity network during the activity in a less notice period while rest of the times it didn’t matter if network availability was inconsistent.

Expectations like the one stated above will have to be treated in catalog by classifying them as levels, such as the ones commonly adopted by vendors as ‘Gold’, ’Silver’, ‘Bronze’. Classifying and categorizing allows the service provider to provision the infrastructure and resources for the levels of service demanded. Another advantage of clear classification would be for budgeting and chargeback purposes. You will know the extent to which you need to plan and prepare for providing the services. You can budget based on the service levels demanded by business and if organization allows, you can chargeback appropriately for the levels of services utilized.

4. Setup relationships 

Once you have the list of services ready, do not forget to relate them. The definition has to be clear such that it reveals the impact and dependence of services on each other. While doing this, you will also realize the different layers required to relate these individual services, i.e. Application, Support Services, Enabling services, End User Computing (EUC) Services and others that seem fit to be categorized. You might also create abstract layers just to group similar services. These layers can be used to represent the service types, capability or functions existing in the organization, thereby allowing creation of meaningful service levels and designs. Look at an example below.
Service Catalog Structure
Figure 1: Example of Service Map

5. Communicate and receive feedback 

The ultimate success factor when it comes to service catalog is customer adoption. Publishing is one of the primary activities in Catalog building, but the important aspect of this activity is to ensure right content is published to right group of persons. Knowing this, none within the business and service provider community should be missed out in the communication of the published catalog. Effort should be put in to publish the right piece of information to the right set of users. For instance, the HR team would be more interested in Payroll application services; the Sales team should be informed about the support system for Sales & Pipeline management application. Design a feedback mechanism to allow free flow of information from users to the Catalog Management team for making amendments during service review.

Last, make sure to keep your catalog updated and current by scheduling reviews, assessments and audits.

By attempting to make the catalog acceptable to the customers, you will pave the way to success. Service catalog being the single source of information to all in the organization, it has proved to be a dependable tool for internalization of services. It sets expectations, improves delivery focus, brings clarity, creates awareness and allows users of service to channelize their feedback.

What is your best tip for building the Service Catalog?

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Author: Francis D’Souza (All Rights Reserved by the author).
Source: Original text (based upon first hand knowledge).
Image: © BONNINSTUDIO – photodune.net
Help us to improve it: how-to, discussion.

Francis D'Souza is a Service Management and Governance Trainer, Mentor & Counselor. His specialties are: Strategic Change, Operational efficiencies & Compliance Management backed by extensive experience in varied domains and industries. He is focussed on Transitioning, Compliance, Improvements and setting up competencies. He is Certified Prince2, ITIL V3 Expert, CoBIT and ISO Auditor. He can be reached on LinkedIn.