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Building an IT Service Catalog

Jun 27, 2007

Mike Drapeau

In most IT shops, this function is needed, though oftentimes ignored. Williams added further, “We are trying to master the customer-facing skills that come second-nature to marketers. This helps us better communicate our services, skills, and plans for the future to our customers who have not typically been aware of what we were doing or realized its impact on them.

"Our goal is for our customer community to able to be aware of our capabilities as well as limitations so that they help us evaluate the tradeoffs we face in delivering IT services: both current ones and those desired for the future. The IT service catalog is our metaphor for doing just that.”

The way in which the IT customer thinks about and interacts with these IT service items is the key consideration when deploying a service catalog user interface. CompuCredit chose service catalog, a software offering from PMG, in Atlanta. Williams stated that, “the reason we bought PMG was that IT’s mission was to fulfill our customer’s requirements. They were paying the bill, not us. They liked the intuitive and recognizable user interface which worked using the shopping cart paradigm and put the user community at ease when trying to understand the concept behind an IT service catalog. It was their input on the purchase decision that made the difference.”

In addition to the Amazon-like ordering approach, many organizations seek other means to educate and communicate with their customer; examples include workflow visuals with automatic status updates when a service item passes from one interim state to another and other self-help features such as queue management, automated escalation, accountability of response/action, and time-driven metrics.

Williams notes: “Our customers had their own responsibilities for interim states in workflow. For instance, they need to perform a ‘Blackberry pickup’ step when notification goes out that it is ready. The transaction will remain in this state until the customer has signed for the item."

By deploying an service catalog that grows over time to encompass all activities of value to the customer, IT can eliminate those activities not specifically adding value to the end user or that cause concern.

Williams also explained that, “our vision was to deploy a fully-instrumented IT/business service with 100% transparency. When bad things happen, and they do, customers will begin to get suspicious if you do not disclose all the reasons why and retain the history of each failure for all to see. For this reason, wherever we can increase transparency we try to do so. In this way, facts, not rumors, can flow through the IT-oriented conversations of IT consumers when they gather around the corporate water cooler.”

One obstacle organizations find in their ability to sell the IT service catalog concept effectively is the need for visual and interactive tracking for each order.

Selling the Catalog

As with any major project, the sponsoring department needs to sell it to the community of stakeholders. This requirement applies with extreme prejudice to the service catalog. Hilsdon notes that “We employed a variety of marketing techniques to sell the IT service catalog to users who started out mostly in the dark. We gathered them in groups with train-the-trainer events. This had some success but did not achieve the results we wanted. We created an ongoing response team that sifts through user comments and feedback and plows them back into the offering. They took the lead in refreshing our front-end, which will soon boast more intuitive names of services items. One example of this re-classification is that we will now refer to ‘Printing Problems’ instead of ‘Bad Print Driver’.”