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Building an IT Service Catalog

Jun 27, 2007

Mike Drapeau

One of the driving obstacles to adoption of a service catalog is the residue of distrust which can exist between the IT department and its customers. Therefore, as part of a deployment, many organizations are choosing to add features to their catalogs that help restore trust as well as establish a new set of expectations for the IT-customer relationship.

These features help demonstrate the value of IT more than any presentation, e-mail, or publicity stunt. Williams noted “That degree of proactivity goes a long way to establishing IT’s permanent value proposition in a new customer’s eyes.”

Some of this customer-centric functionality includes:

  • Enabling customers to comment on an individual transaction while in flight and even after it has been completed (like with an Amazon.com order).
  • Enabling customers to provide a product review of either a service or an item.
  • Report on-time metrics (like an airline’s on-time rate) for each IT service item, so that customers can know ongoing performance at each of the interim states of a specific item and the corresponding SLA metric for that state all while ordering one for themselves.
  • Prompt the customer to do more by using a record of your previous transactions to suggest future behavior. For instance, if a customer has purchased a cell phone, we may suggest some accessories before they complete their request.
  • Educate the customer bit-by-bit on all the various services IT can deliver—some of which the customer is probably not even aware of. Using the catalog interface, initial system log-on, or occasionally e-mail, IT can teach their customers how to use the services they have ordered.
  • According to Hilsdon, “Our goal was to make it as easy to use and customer-focused as possible. IT services are clearly defined, and there’s a shopping cart for ordering services, providing a familiar interface based on online retail catalogs.” The result? Once this approach started the take root, the “users got excited and saw that we were really making a difference”.

    Rohm has seen IT customer satisfaction increase steadily since going live with their offering. After having been stuck at a 3.5 out of 4.0 scale, they recently reached their benchmark target of a 3.8 satisfaction rating with end users. And with the adoption of a self-service model for ordering IT services, the number of calls to their help desk has been reduced by more than 40% resulting in lower IT support costs.

    The Catalog and the Service Desk

    Rohm captures all of internal customers’ requests for IT services through their service catalog as a single point of contact. This includes requests for new computers and security access, new project requests, and application enhancements. Hilsdon noted that Rohm “established a central intake process that encompasses all IT work, from examining SAP requirements to provisioning cables, such that virtually everything done by IT is reflected in some sort of service listed in the catalog.”

    This role of the catalog usually requires integration with the service desk (ITIL’s single point of contact to the IT customer) and other back-end fulfillment systems. Whereas incidents inbound to the service desk use the CMDB as their source for information, the inbound Service requests use the IT service catalog.

    “Our service catalog had to be more than just a Web front end to the help desk," said Hilsdon. We needed it to be the one intake mechanism for all the work we do for the business. By managing all IT requests through this one point of interaction, we can improve end-to-end visibility, for everything from large development projects to day-to-day services.”

    From a demand management standpoint, this approach provides more control over the demand for IT services and helps ensure the IT budget is focused on the right priorities for the business.

    Hilsdon said that, once this "demand-to-delivery" approach started the take root, the users got excited and saw they were making a difference. The work is still challenging. In fact, Hilsdon indicated that Rohm and Haas maintains separate teams that work on process design, metrics, and catalog design.


    IT service catalogs and the larger and related discipline of Demand Management are rapidly becoming the hot topic of IT-specific process improvement. With the demand by the business for improved IT service delivery and IT’s constant challenge of communicating effectively with its customers, the advent and adoption of IT service catalog has arrived none-to-soon.

    For those organizations who have implemented service level agreements (SLAs) or their kissing cousins operating level agreements (OLAs) and still have not yielded the value in terms of improved customer satisfaction and better service delivery, the piece missing may very well be a compelling IT service catalog.

    Mike Drapeau is president of the Drapeau Group, an ITIL consultancy based in Atlanta.