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What’s on the menu?!

Well this is how I used to picture an IT service catalog in my early years of understanding ITIL – a menu card at a restaurant.

All the services that are being offered listed in a simple concise way, so that the customer can understand it, while giving just enough information about the ingredients & how the dish was made.

But creating one is not so simple as reading it or ogling at the photos of the dishes.(c’mon, we all ogle!) It is a difficult, time consuming & frustrating process to say the least.

And that goes for an IT Service catalog as well.

So why create one?, why do we need it? – I mean we should not spend our time & money on creating something, just because the ITIL Gurus say so.. Hell No!

Thankfully there are a lot of logical/practical reasons why every organization should create one.  Below are a few.

Provides a Complete Picture –  A catalog will not only describes each service but it also links them to components & business goals.

Better Service Delivery –  It provides an insight to better allocate your resources – people & technology

Cost vs Profit – Greater insight into how much services cost, as well as the returns they deliver

Promotes Transparency – Gives the users a channel to know what they can expect from IT

Boost IT Productivity – Helps IT teams eliminate inefficiencies and redundancies in the services being offered. (Can lead to a Shared service model as well)

Sales! Sales! Sales! –  A Service catalog acts as an insight to the customer on what services a vendor can provide & how!

So since we got the “why” out of the way, let’s look at the “How” , shall we?

Sure, but before you begin this journey, do get a buy-in from your executive management.

With out that I am not sure if you would be able to gather ample support/information which Is required to build a Service catalog.

While you are getting a buy in, also try and get a few resources with good knowledge about the infrastructure on your side.  This little help will go a long way, as you will realize when you read through the article.


Step 1: Prepare for Battle!

“Service catalog is just a list of all the services which an organization delivers to it’s customers” – This is the answer I got when I asked my peer about what he thinks of Service catalog. Which is right at it’s surface but mind you, the word “just” is a loaded one.

Especially when you consider that many organization’s have never actually gone through the process of clearly defining the services that IT should deliver to the business,  & some have taken years to get it right.

This could be because of many reasons, the most common ones can be –

  • Not understanding what the business requirements are
  • Not able  to define a service
  • Not able to figure out who owns the service
  • Cost implications of a service
  • Information about components underpinning the service
  • Etc etc!

I am not trying to scare you all, (may be a little!). But you have to take all these factors in mind when you are taking up this initiative.

A good way is to limit the scope of the 1st initiative to a single or couple of customers. This will enable you to showcase a proof of concept to the management, to gain their confience & will also allow you to break the cultural barrier piece by piece.


Step 2: Talk to the Business

IT organizations exist because some business organization out there needs some one to take care of their IT, so that they can leverage the same to gain a competitive advantage in the market.

If that’s true then it is really important to understand the link between business services & how an IT organization is supporting those services. Basically to strike a proper alignment between business needs & IT services.

To accomplish this you will probably have to get IT & Business representatives in a room & wrestle out (some times literally!) the details of which services the business requires, how important they are and how they support the business.  While you are at it try to reach a consensus on what the priorities are among the services, the required service levels and availability requirements.


Step 3: Define the services

This is a pretty complicated step, and mostly where IT organizations go wrong.  But thank fully there are some ways to get it done.

Take the list of services which you got from the customer/business (step 2) , & identify the IT service(s) that support the delivery of this product to end-users.

Eg – If Email service is required by the customer,  the corresponding IT Service would be Exchange services, Network services, application services etc etc.

This will take time, so be patient with it.  Take all the support you can from the technical operations teams & Service Level  Managers.

Since you are doing the hard work any way, try and get the information about the IT Services from an availability stand point as well :). This will be helpful in comparing the availability  the business requires for it’s services & how we are delivering the same from an IT standpoint.

Making a note of the personnel accountable & responsible for these services is also important. If no one is currently accountable, talk to your senior management to have a resource assigned as the owner.


Phew! This is going to a big article & pretty much a dry read I guess. And this how most of the Catalog initiatives fail.  It get’s dull/mundane & sometimes you would wonder if all this hard work is ever going to deliver results… But hang in there mate, because if done well the service catalog will give you an amazing advantage over other IT organizations.

The advantage to know the bigger picture, to have information about your services & it’s attributes at your beck & call.

Enough of the pep talk, now let’s just get to finishing the catalog we started.


Step 4: Link IT Services to Devices

So step 4 is all about devices. And since we are all ITIL savvy here , let’s call the devices as CI’s (Configuration Items)

During this step you have undertake the painstaking effort to link the IT services to related configuration items . Eg – Exchange services – Exchange server, data center rack etc etc. Please do leverage the existing configuration management database (if any) to get this done.

In case you don’t have a configuration management process/system.. Well this step will take a bit more time 🙂

And like we did in step 3, make a note of the teams/personnel accountable & responsible for maintaining these CI’s.


Step 5: Publish the Catalog V1

Now since you’ve got an amazing gamut of information, now is the time to showcase your work!  Arrange all the info in an excel or any application of your choosing & share it with your executive management.

Schedule a meeting, have a presentation made,  showcase what you did, & what your plans are further on Service catalog. Remember this is a cultural change rather than just an IT one, so be patient & accommodating with the responses & feed back which you will receive (even at times, when you don’t even need one)

And hey do not forget to mention a note of thanks for the people who helped you along the way.


Step 6: Keep the momentum going

This was an humongous effort!!  Pat yourself on the back! Break into a amazingly choreographed victory dance!

And once you are done with all that, get back to work 🙂

the beauty of ITIL is that it’s evolving,  starting from the very high level to each & every concept, & so should your catalog.

At this stage chart a plan to make your catalog more stronger, transparent & knowledgeable.  Plan out improvement phases, add financial information to the mix,

Assign policies to govern the catalog, host it at a centralized location, create user profiles with access levels & hey , also assign a team to manage it & keep it upto date.


Creating an IT Service catalog is a complicated task to say the least, & I hope the above steps gave you an idea of what all it might entail.

For more information or help on the topic, just drop me a note. Will be glad to help out as always! 🙂

At the end, i hope you do enjoy the article & please don’t hesitate if you have any comments on the same!