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The IT Service Catalog - Daunting Task or Silly Fad?

May 31, 2005

ITSM Watch Staff

By Michael W McGaughey

The contents of the Service Catalog
The Service Catalog should be as specific, clear and complete as possible - for the express objective of managing the expectations of the customer regarding what they get from IT. To that end, the Service Catalog should be written from the customer's perspective, and should include whatever is necessary to effectively describe the services, including (for each service):

  • the features of the service - the specific deliverables or tangible offerings of the services that answers the customer's question "what do I get out of this service?"
  • the commitments made for the delivery and quality of the service - for example, commitments associated with service availability, incident resolution, request processing, etc.
  • the conditions under which the service is offered - policies or processes that must be followed, requirements that must be met, limitations the customer must understand, etc.
  • the metrics that are accepted by both IT and the customer and will be used to measure the successful delivery of the service - including how they are collected, calculated and reported.
  • the pricing model that will be used to charge customers for the services (if a charging arrangement is in place).
Organizations can extend the value of the Service Catalog by including other information, for example:
  • "Customer use" guides, FAQs, etc. - for example, guides for using the Help Desk, On-line knowledge base, etc.
  • Descriptions of how the relationship between IT and the customer will be managed, including the objectives, role and day-to-day work of the Account Management function, monthly report packages, etc.
  • Descriptions of the organization's process or framework for Portfolio Management & Governance used to manage the organization's IT spend and prioritized initiatives.
  • Descriptions of operational management frameworks or methodologies used to ensure IT success, such as the service management framework or a CMM-based solution development methodology. Just make sure it is relevant to customer.
Considerations for implementing a Service Catalog
Before the effort is initiated, organizations considering the implementation of a Service Catalog should consider a few key questions.
    Does the culture of the organization support the development of a Service Catalog? In answering this question, four considerations are in order:
    • First, the extent to which "services" offered by other support organizations (HR, Finance, etc.) are standardized versus customized, and the extent of toleration and/or support for variances from those standards.
    • Second, the organization's comfort with packaging and "productizing" services, for example with the concept of platinum / gold / silver level service tiers.
    • Third, the perceived role of IT within the enterprise. Is IT viewed as an order-taker to do whatever each customer asks? Is IT a controller of key business assets and thus able to determine policy, architectures and best-practices? Is IT a service-provider that defines its own services and offers those services to customers who may or may not buy them?
    • Fourth, the comfort level in IT and in the overall organization with sales, marketing and customer relationship management.

      What is the intent, content and use of relevant associated operational components? For example, consider your Service Level Agreements. What role do you want them to play? What are the contents of your SLAs? How are SLAs used within the organization?

      The content and use of the Service Catalog should be designed as part of a broader framework that includes the SLAs. Other components to consider include governance & portfolio management frameworks, performance reporting metrics, etc.

      To what extent are IT services specifically the responsibility of a single service "owner"? The revelance of this question relates to the single point of accountability and focus on service definition, design, monitoring, measurement and improvement.

      For example, are desktop support services consolidated under a single person or entity? Or, are desktop support service offered in various units across the organization, possibly differently, with different levels of commitment, and measured in differed ways?

      The extent to which service "ownership" is consolidated directly impacts to the opportunity to define, manage and realize the success of the services described in the Service Catalog to IT customers.

    Implementing an IT Service Catalog might at first blush seem to be daunting task or even a silly fad, but a Service Catalog can offer many benefits to IT, to IT's clients and to the overall enterprise. The determination of whether or not to implement a Service Catalog should be based on what benefits you want to realize. The simple questions of "what,why and how" can provide you an excellent starting point.

    Michael W McGaughey is the Service Management Architect for TXU. He is responsible for designing the IT Service Management Framework and other business process-based frameworks for IT business management. Michael has 15 years of experience in business process design and management, organizational development and knowledge management, including executive-level management experience. He is a member of the IT Service Management Forum, and has his Manager's Certificate in IT Service Management.