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Who Owns the Service Catalog? - Part II

Defining senior management's focus is critical the success of any service catalog initiative, write ITSMWatch columnists Ed Rivard and Bob Simmons of Forsythe.
Aug 20, 2010

Ed Rivard,Bob Simmons

The service catalog executive owner should not design, develop or deploy the service catalog in a vacuum. To be successful, we recommend treating the service catalog effort, at least initially, as a project. By managing the initial effort as a project, the service catalog is more likely to have the proper management attention necessary to ensure senior management alignment and support.

In addition, a project approach helps ensure the scope, objectives and boundaries of the service catalog are well defined and understood. Moreover, the resources are more likely to be firmly secured when the service catalog efforts are managed openly as a project.

An effective service catalog is one that is constantly being maintained and is frequently used. As a result, the service catalog requires dedicated attention and governance to ensure the data is relevant, accurate, and current as well as to facilitate its proper use. Many organizations identify the role of a service catalog manager to assist the executive owner in fulfilling these responsibilities. In addition, we recommend establishing an IT service management (ITSM) steering/governance committee to help provide organizational support for the service catalog manager role.

The service catalog manager and the ITSM steering committee are well positioned to aid the executive owner in identifying service catalog successes and benefits. Identifying and promoting this information is essential to maintaining the momentum and support for the service catalog vision and plan.

Creating a sense of urgency

As with any investment, understanding the value of your service catalog is essential to creating an organizational sense of urgency for needing a service catalog. Applying the ITIL concept of the service knowledge management system (SKMS), you can easily depict how your service catalog becomes the glue that integrates your configuration management system (CMS) with your services. As ITIL depicts, this integration enables you to apply the knowledge enabled by your CMS to make informed service-based decisions.

How you identify the value of your service catalog is dependent on your ability to envision its use in the various phases of the Service Lifecycle and to execute this vision in a practical manner. Some examples of the value a well-developed service catalog provides to each phase include:

Service strategy - Facilitates structured discussions regarding the integration of IT strategy with business strategy and lifecycle planning of each service. This is achieved by working with the business to understand current demand and future demand, understand the business's competitive position in relation to these capabilities, and enhance IT’s ability to associate business value with technology costs.

Service design - Provides the foundational focus for assessing current service warranty (fit for use) and utility (fit for purpose) criteria in business terms. This will ensure proper design of newly chartered services for both utility and warranty and facilitate gap identification between existing service capabilities and business requirements. In addition, it can strengthen the relevance and completeness of the business impact analysis and provide the foundation for evaluating and planning the sourcing required for each service.

Service transition - Enhances the IT organization’s ability to properly assess the business risk associated with a pending change, enabling proper coordination and enhancing release management planning and testing.

Service operation - Helps associate individual requests with business capabilities, enhancing the ability to establish meaningful service level objectives for each request type. In addition, the service catalog facilitates IT’s ability to prioritize problems for root-cause analysis and provides the foundation for assessing risk and establishing and aligning access requirements in accordance with risk.

Ensuring use and maintenance

As noted in the aforementioned examples, when properly designed, the service catalog will facilitate IT's strategies, designs, delivery and operations. It will enhance IT's integration with the business. However, this ability doesn't occur magically or overnight. It requires a defined vision and a plan. Because of the service catalog’s role throughout the Service Lifecycle, it can be seen as overwhelming. As such, the service catalog vision needs to clarify the end state while the plan needs to identify what part of the vision will be executed first. In addition, to ensure enterprise adoption, the service catalog plan should consider input from core IT disciplines such as application development and enterprise architecture.

One way to ensure your service catalog enables practical use is to focus on reactive, proactive and value-added ITSM capabilities. It’s good to start with what you already know and build the foundation to enable the core ITSM processes -- Incident, Request Fulfillment, Problem, Change, and Service Asset and Configuration Management. Establishing a strong, foundational use of the service catalog with these core process disciplines will help the IT organization align the definition and organization of services, facilitate timely improvement opportunities, demonstrate commitment to your customers and provide opportunities for a few quick wins. In this way, the service catalog becomes a tool to help improve the organization's visibility into their transitional and operational support processes.

As the organization matures from the reactive stage to a proactive stage, the service catalog is integrated with the organization's service strategy and service design processes, including service level, demand, capacity, availability and service continuity management. During this proactive stage, we encourage organizations to extend their service catalog efforts to other core disciplines including project management and enterprise architecture. The integration and utilization of the service catalog with these processes and disciplines aids the IT organization by aligning them with current and anticipated business needs.

During the value-added stage, the service catalog is applied to ensure the services offered enable the business capabilities in accordance with the business strategies, including the competitive position with select business capabilities. The processes that we consider essential to enable value-added include IT financial management, strategy generation, and supplier management. In addition, maturing your service measurement capabilities to integrate with your business's critical success factors and key performance indicators further enhances the IT organization's ability to demonstrate service value. Incorporating these business measures into your service catalog further enhances its value.

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

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