That’s not an IT service catalog! – Part Two

In my previous blog, I explained that there are lots of different things that IT organisations call a “service catalog” and I described the user-facing service request catalog and the internal service catalog.

This blog will describe some other things that are called service catalogs, and offer some conclusions.

A customer-facing service catalog

IT organisations should be creating service catalogs to help customers decide which services they want to obtain for their users. This is the only thing that I think should be called a service catalog. All the other types of ‘service catalog’ that I have described in these blogs have other, better names. You can think of a customer-facing service catalog as being like a brochure that you might obtain from a retailer, setting out the options and prices of products that you can buy.

Each service offered in a service catalog could have many different service requests associated with it. For example an organisation could offer customers an IT service called “Office support”, which includes provision of a desktop or laptop computer, with all standard office software, plus use of a service desk with agreed response and resolution times. This might involve many different user-facing service requests, such as

  • Provision of a laptop for a new user
  • Replacement of a laptop that has reached its end of useful life
  • Provision of a desktop computer
  • Installation of an optional software application
  • Re- imaging of a desktop or laptop with a different operating system

But there will be only one item in the customer-facing service catalog. This one-to-many relationship is very common between entries in a service catalog and entries in a service request catalog. The opposite situation can also arise, where one request from a user could trigger the delivery of components from many different services. For example there may be a “New user” service request which the IT department fulfils by providing a laptop, a phone, an email account, and access to lots of other standard IT services.

A supporting service catalog or technical service catalog

These names are used to refer to a catalog that lists services that the IT service provider uses internally, as components of customer-facing services. The latest version of ITIL describes these as “views” of a service catalog, which also has one or more customer-facing views.

It is important to understand that these supporting services are not offered to customers. They are simply ways of packaging and describing internal capabilities, and there will not normally be any service level agreements attached to them. They are simply a useful way of understanding the assets needed to support customer-facing services.

You certainly need to understand these internal services, but please don’t put them in a customer-facing service catalog, they will just confuse your customers.

Know how M&C Saatchi improved it’s service quality using service catalog. 

A vision for your service catalog

A service catalog is an essential tool for helping you to manage your IT services. It helps you present your services to existing and potential customers, and it allows IT staff to understand customer expectations, and therefore to plan to be able to meet these. The service catalog should typically be represented in your service desk tool, so that you can categorise incidents, requests and problems according to the service they impact. This may be essential for prioritising and setting targets, as well as for analysis, reporting and planning improvements.

If you are thinking of creating a service catalog then reading through the descriptions in these blogs and discussing them with others in your team will help to ensure that you are all thinking about the same thing.  Once you have reached agreement on what the terms mean, you can think about your vision.  This will involve finding answers to questions like:

  • How many different types of catalog does your organisation need?
  • Do you actually need a customer-facing service catalog?  If so, what will you use it for?
  • How will it increase the value you deliver to your customers?
  • How will it create value for you as a service provider?
  • What might it look like to customers?
  • How will it impact customer experience?
  • How will you create and maintain this catalog, and how much will it cost in terms of both effort and resources?
  • How should you market the service catalog to customers and to IT staff?

After due consideration, you may decide that you simply want a catalog  for internal use – for example, to help your IT organisation understand which customers are using which service.  But if you decide you want more than that, then ideally you should include your customers in a discussion of your service catalog vision. What do they want? Do they want better service request capability, so that users can request things they need and IT can fulfil these requests quickly and efficiently? Do they want a better overview of the services they are investing in, so that they can review what is available to them and consider how to get best value from IT? Once you have answers to questions like these you can start to feel confident that your service catalog project will be worth the effort.

Have you been thinking about creating a service catalog?  If you haven’t, you need to read this. Take a bit of time to think about exactly what it is that you want, and your vision for how it will create value for you and your customers. The time you spend on this before you invest in any project will make a huge difference to your chance of success.