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The know hows of everything about IT service catalog
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IT environments are getting more complex every day. Your IT department needs an effective mechanism for controlling what comes into the environment; users need to know what IT services are available to them and your finance team needs to be able to effectively manage technology costs (through things like consistent procurement processes). The IT service catalog addresses these issues by providing a complete listing of what services are currently available for use.
The IT service catalog and provisioning records that are created when someone requests something out of the catalog provide an important linkage between your business operations and the IT services that your company operates (either directly or through 3rd parties). Your CMDB contains data about what assets you have, the IT service catalog provides a view into the asset’s intended use and the provisioning records (or service installed-base) shows how services are actually used. The combined information provides valuable insight for operations teams assessing the impact of an incident or problem and for leaders making decisions about future service offerings.
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.
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.
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.
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:
# of people accessing the catalog - What you are really trying to understand with this metric is whether your users know about the catalog and whether it is meeting their needs. If they don’t know the catalog is there or it doesn’t offer the things they need, they will seek out IT services through another source
% of requests fulfilled automatically from the catalog - One of the key benefits of having a service catalog is being able to rationalize, approve and fulfill service requests automatically without the need for a lot of manual processing
% of available IT services offered through the catalog - for many companies, the goal will be 100% for this metric, but others will choose to have some services not published in the catalog as a way of limiting access due to cost, restricted use, or other reasons
Time/Clicks needed to find and request a service - This is a usability metric about how easy it is for users to find the services they need in the catalog and request them.
# of times a service was searched for, viewed and/or requested - this metric will tell you what services users are seeking, which offerings meet those needs, and where new services may be needed
Current version of the service - service offerings change and your catalog needs to be kept current. This metric looks at whether the published offering of the service in the catalog is the current version.
% of published services ordered within the current time period - many catalogs contain a lot more offerings than users actually consume (that may be okay). If every service in your catalog is being ordered, that may indicate you need to add more variety to your offerings. If only a small segment of services are ordered, it may indicate your catalog is getting cluttered or you aren’t offering the things users desire.
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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