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Building an IT Service Catalog

Implementing a service catalog saves time, garners users' trust and bolsters your internal SLAs, writes ITSM Watch guest columnist Mike Drapeau of the Drapeau Group.
Jun 27, 2007

Mike Drapeau

Organizations are increasingly confronting the legacy of mediocre service level agreements (SLA), which are usually developed and deployed in the absence of an overarching service level management (SLM) process.

This lack of a framework for the creation, modification, and ongoing management of SLAs between IT departments and their customers is not surprising, especially in light of the fact that these SLAs were usually offered without the necessary IT service catalog.

That is like asking someone to sign a contract to buy an expensive vehicle without first having them shop in the showroom. It is little wonder so many SLA initiatives stall or, at best, garner only lukewarm customer interest.

Since IT departments have not given up the struggle to achieve customer satisfaction, they are back at the table with the concept of an IT service catalog, an important aspect of ITIL’s (IT Infrastructure Library) best-practices. IT service catalogs enable internal IT departments to provide Amazon.com-like services to their customers with an interactive portfolio of IT products and services for "purchase." Some analysts have coined the term "demand management" for this attempt to understand, influence, and satisfy the needs of the IT customer and the vehicle they use is the IT service catalog.

Building the Catalog

There are a wide variety of techniques advocated in the industry to help construct an IT service catalog. Differences stem from vendor software capabilities, consulting approaches, and customer culture. Most advocate some form of internal marketing as a means of interacting with IT customers. Each adds something new to the overall methodology on creating a functional, productive, and compelling IT service catalog.

The following is a list of articles which describe techniques for this process of data collection, analysis, software configuration, communication, and publication:

  • IT Service Catalog in 5 Steps
  • Ready to Create your IT Service Catalog
  • IT Service Catalog Toolkit
  • How to Produce an Actionable Service Catalog
  • How to Build an IT Service Catalog
  • World-Class Service Is Within Your Reach – The IT Service Catalog Can Get You There
  • Constructing a service catalog can be a difficult chore from the perspective of IT as it may be integrated with the configuration management database (CMDB), the external marketing product catalog, or the overall internal business services catalog (see the sidebars below for more information on each of these touch points).

    Each of these integration efforts requires technical work—not to mention the need to configure and deploy the service catalog software itself. IT departments can possibly be forgiven, therefore, for losing sight of the critical task of accommodating the needs of their end users when ordering from the service catalog. But forget they do, and the results can damage and often destroy the possibility for a successful rollout.

    To make matters worse, the implementation approaches discussed in this article all address the need to solicit business concerns, issues, and perspectives but they do not indicate how the user should interact with the service catalog once it’s in use; a key factor in successful adoption.

    Service or Item?

    Because the service catalog is a relatively new concept for which there is little in the way of definitive guidance, it is perhaps not surprising that many do not fully appreciate its structure. One of the most common mistakes made early in implementations is to confuse the concept of an IT service with that of an IT service item.

    An IT service is the category name placed on a logical grouping of various activities an IT department performs on behalf of its customers. Examples of IT services might be messaging, data services, telecommunications, data protection, or remote connectivity. Each of these implies a set of hardware, software and people which combine to deliver a number of related offerings.

    Sometimes, it is required to break down these categories further. For example, data services might be further sub-divided into data reporting, data integration, data refresh, and data transfer services.

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