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The IT Service Catalog - Daunting Task or Silly Fad?

By Michael W McGaughey As more organizations are jumping on the IT Service Management bandwagon, does it mean that the decision to implement ITSM is a simple one?
May 31, 2005

ITSM Watch Staff

By Michael W McGaughey

As more organizations are jumping on the IT Service Management bandwagon, does it mean that the decision to implement ITSM is a simple one? No, not every aspect of IT Service Management is as easily quantified and tangible as the others. Some are familiar, others may be new, and thus less easy to grasp. One of those disciplines is the IT Service Catalog.

For many organizations the questions regarding an IT Service Catalog can be relatively fundamental. What really is the IT Service Catalog? And why should we implement one? After all, IT has been offering "services" to customers all along.

Is this just the latest silly fad? If we decide to implement a Service Catalog, how do we go about it? And once we have a Service Catalog, what do we do with it.

Fundamental as those questions may be, they shouldn't keep an organization from implementing a Service Catalog. In fact, these are the very questions that should be asked to help an organization consider what they want from the Service Catalog before they even start.

    For example, does the organization want the Service Catalog to help;
  • Facilitate communication within IT and with IT's customers?
  • Manage the expectations of the client regarding the service they are buying?
  • Allow clients to create customized service portfolios?
  • Help IT translate service offerings into supporting product and infrastructure requirements?
  • Provide a basis for business impact analysis?
  • Serve as a key component of an IT Portfolio Management & Governance strategy?
The design and implementation of a Service Catalog is not a decision that should be made casually, especially if it will be used as an externally facing document. The impact on the organization - both internal and external to IT - should be carefully considered before any design effort is initiated.

The impact of the Service Catalog
The impact that a Service Catalog can have on your organization will obviously vary depending on the purpose, nature and use of the Service Catalog. The important point to consider in the design of the Service Catalog is the impact you want to have and how it will be used.

If the requirements to support the successful delivery of the service are intentionally considered and designed in conjunction with the service definition, the Service Catalog can help drive improvements to operational effectiveness and efficiency because care can be taken to ensure that operational processes, technologies, roles, policies, etc. are specifically designed to meet business requirements.

For organizations trying to stay as close as possible to ITIL®, the Service Catalog can simplify and incorporate the otherwise difficult concept of Operational Level Agreements (OLAs) because operational interfaces and requirements are defined as the service is.

If the Service Catalog sufficiently details the services offered (including the features, commitments, conditions, metrics, etc.) the Service Level Agreements (SLAs) can be simpler and more standardized. SLAs can then be used to document the agreement between IT and the customer to deliver services, and to detail only those aspects of the agreement that are not specified in the Service Catalog or which differ from the standard definition in the Service Catalog. The downstream effect is the minimization of variances in service agreements and customization of support requirements.

If the Service Catalog defines the customer-based metrics that IT and the business customer have agreed accurately reflect the performance of the service, the Service Catalog can provide a starting point for the development of - and ensure the applicability of - IT performance metrics.

If the Service Catalog was designed and implemented as a customer-oriented document, with the customers' input, the Service Catalog can be a key part of an IT Governance & Portfolio Management strategy because it offers a starting point or baseline to measure the appropriateness and value of key initiatives in terms of how they support the delivery of the agreed-upon service.

The key to the impact of the Service Catalog lies ultimately in the purpose you want it to serve and how you intend to use it.

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