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Who Owns the Service Catalog? - Part I

Senior management has to take charge otherwise the service catalog stands a very good chance of becoming shelfware, write ITSMWatch guest columnists Ed Rivard and Bob Simmons of Forsythe.
Aug 14, 2010

Bob Simmons

Since the roll out of ITIL v3 in 2007 by the Office of Government Commerce (OGC), the service catalog has grown in both its scope and use. ITIL Service Lifecycle places greater emphasis on services, including distinguishing between infrastructure, IT, and business services. Unfortunately, many IT organizations continue to struggle with the concept of "service" and even more so with the development and utilization of a meaningful service catalog.

Many IT organizations pursue the development of a service catalog, acknowledging the need to improve their communications and integration with the business, only to later question the value of what they have developed. Some IT organizations find themselves asking, "Now what?" Other IT organizations limit themselves to developing a menu of "service requests" that facilitate user-self service but doing little to enhance their understanding of those services or how to integrate them with the business.

These scenarios can be avoided by addressing key factors related to your organization's understanding and management of services and the ITIL Service Lifecycle. It is also critical to establish a vision and execute a plan for using and maintaining your service catalog.

Senior management ownership

A key factor in establishing a meaningful, valued service catalog is executive level ownership. Not executive "sponsorship", "support" or "approval", but ownership. When properly developed and utilized, the service catalog becomes a key instrument for guiding IT strategy and design as well as transitional and operational support. The service catalog is a key instrument for all phases of the ITIL Service Lifecycle. As such, proactive executive IT management ownership is a must-have for designing, developing, utilizing, maturing and maintaining your organization's service catalog.

The executive owner's responsibilities are broad in scope. While he or she may find the need to delegate specific assignments, the executive owner must remain accountable for the execution and fulfillment of these responsibilities. The owner's knowledge and practical understanding of services, the ITIL Service Lifecycle and the role and value of the service catalog throughout all phases of this lifecycle are key to success.

The executive owner should:

  • Align the organization around a common definition and understanding of service.
  • Obtain senior management focus and secure proper resource(s).
  • Create awareness and a sense of urgency around the value and need for a service catalog.
  • Ensure the use and maintenance of the service catalog.

Aligning your organization around a common definition and understanding of the term "service" may be more challenging than many organizations realize. This is because many IT disciplines, including application development and enterprise architecture, use the term “service" differently. Your organization's understanding of these differences and approach to addressing these differences and categorizing your services is essential for establishing a service catalog vision and plan.

The ITIL definition of service is, "[T]he means of delivering value to customers by facilitating outcomes customers want to achieve without the ownership of specific costs and risks." This definition should not be interpreted to mean the customer isn't willing to pay for the service. Rather, they expect the service provider to manage the cost so they pay a reasonable price.

ITIL further distinguishes between "business services", "IT services", and "infrastructure services". A business service is directly related to a business process, such as "order to cash" or "claims payment". A key consideration with identifying and describing your business service is that it needs to be defined in the business context and semantics. It needs to resonate with the business. A business service is often enabled by an organized collection of IT services and infrastructure services. When identifying business services, maintain your focus on the desired business outcome.

ITIL acknowledges that the distinction between an IT service and a business service is blurred. Both enable business processes yet an IT service is defined only as a service provided by IT and used directly by the business. Often, IT organizations will identify the applications they support as its IT services. Examples of IT services may include messaging and collaboration services.

Infrastructure services are those services used by IT in the delivery and support of the business and IT services. These services are not used directly by the business and, in most cases, the general business population has no need to be aware or informed of these services.

The executive owner of the service catalog must determine how to define and categorize its services. This decision will influence all phases of the Service Lifecycle, from service strategy through continual service improvement. In addition, it may also impact the organization's methods of communicating and distributing its service catalog.

The executive owner will need to ensure the entire IT organization understands and aligns with the organization's service structure and categorization. This organizational understanding and alignment is an essential requirement for executing the service catalog vision and plan enterprise-wide.

In Part II, Rivard and Simmons define what senior management's focus should be.

As Managing and Master Consultants of Forsythe’s IT Service Management (ITSM) practice, Ed Rivard and Bob Simmons, respectively, focus on ITSM, ITIL, operations management, process design, IT operations support system development, and IT logistical requirements for a wide variety of organizations. They may be reached at erivard@forsythe.com and rsimmons@forsythe.com.

ITIL, ITSM, Forsythe, service catalog, buy-in