What is an IT service catalog?

The IT service catalog is a list of the IT services that an organization offers to its employees or customers. It is often positioned as a subset of a more generic enterprise service catalog that includes services provided by other business functions within the company (such as HR, Legal, and finance services). The purpose of having an IT service catalog is to provide a common place that your users can go to and learn about the IT services available to them along with any supporting information about costs, features, terms of use and provisioning policies. Your IT service catalog may include services provided internally by your IT department, approved services from external suppliers and composite services with different components bundled together.

The difference between a service portfolio and service catalog

A service portfolio is the list of all the services that exist within an organization along with their status and history. While a service catalog only contains those services that are currently available to be provisioned and consumed, the service portfolio also contains information about services that are being developed (but are not yet released) and services that are retired and no longer available. When a new version of a service is made available, it is displayed in the service catalog and old versions of that service are removed. Users only need to see those things that they can order, but IT staff need visibility to services throughout their lifecycle.

Multiple views of the service catalog

One way to think about an IT service catalog is a “curated view” of the service portfolio. It only contains those services that the IT department has approved and published as available to order/consume. Some of these services may be pass-throughs to 3rd party catalog offerings (such as SaaS subscriptions) In large organizations, even this curated IT service catalog can be quite large and contain a lot of service offering – becoming overwhelming for users. Many companies address this by creating filtered sub-views of their IT service catalog, tailored to specific audiences. For example in a retail business, there may be one IT service catalog for back office staff and another for store associates. There may also be different catalog views with services available in a certain region or services in different languages. These views are all considered part of the overall IT service catalog.

Finished offerings vs. components in the service catalog

IT services offered to users in the service catalog may be comprised of basic service components as well as other IT services. Looking at this another way, an IT service may be consumed directly by the end user, or the service may be used as a component in building another IT or business service. Because components and finished services have different uses, many companies have elected to create separate views of the IT service catalog for IT professionals (makers) and business users (consumers). This approach can be helpful in providing the IT professionals with a complete and accurate list of available parts to build services from without confusing end-users who wouldn’t have a need to consume these things.

Key service catalog metrics

It is tempting for many companies to either not define service catalog metrics at all or confuse service catalog metrics with metrics about the services themselves. When defining service catalog metrics, there are 2 areas which need to be addressed:

Metrics about the catalog itself
Metrics about the services offered within the catalog

Service catalog software

An IT service catalog is really just a set of data. Depending on the size and scale of your organization and your IT strategy for providing services, it can be a simple/compact list, or it may be quite large. Service catalog software is an essential tool for most organizations in managing what offerings are made available to users (the curation process) and for providing an efficient experience for searching and requesting services from the catalog. IT service catalogs may be managed as part of an enterprise service catalog (along with non-IT services) but more often (due to the unique technical nature of the services and the rate of change) IT service catalog capabilities are provided as part of a broader IT Service Management (ITSM) solution.

Most modern IT organizations don’t produce and operate all their services in-house, they leverage components and ready-to-use services from 3rd parties. When this happens, the IT organization plays the role of a service broker and will often integrate some or all their supplier’s offerings into the IT service catalog that they offer to company employees and customers. A curated service catalog with 3rd party offerings provides the ability for IT organizations to offer a much broader set of service offerings to users – making business leaders happy and avoiding the “shadow IT” situation where end-users engage with suppliers directly without the IT department’s involvement.

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