The 7 Habits of Highly-Effective Service Catalog Managers

IT service catalogs can make a big difference to IT organizations wanting to improve the end-user, or customer, experience. But it’s not just a technology “thing.” Instead, those involved in making the IT service catalog a success need to ensure that they think from the customer point of view.

In essence the service catalog, or service request catalog, is a menu of all the services available to the business. It can be a big asset to both IT service providers and end users, helping beleaguered IT departments to demonstrate the value and innovation they deliver to the business, and enterprise users to access the right services at the right time – ultimately allowing them to do their job more effectively.

Done well, an IT service catalog will make a big difference. So please read on for seven ways those responsible for the service catalog can become more effective in making their IT service catalog helpful to all.

Tip 1: Change Your Mindset

Far too often, a service catalog is seen as a “box-ticking exercise,” something that needs to be in place “because ITIL/a consultant /the CIO says so.” However, the reality is that if you enter into a service catalog initiative with a box-ticking mindset, and a focus on the technology rather than customers, then you risk missing out on the benefits of a well thought out catalog.

In IT, there’s often the temptation to think about the technology – but your service catalog is about so much more, and attention to detail in both the people and process areas is key. So, understand that business services are not just code, pieces of tin, or network cables, but living breathing capabilities that are potentially mission critical for the business. Thus, talk and – most importantly – actively listen to business colleagues to understand their needs from both a services and user-experience perspective. Because, if you only focus on the technology and not people or ways of working, I guarantee you’ll miss something important.

If you’re only just getting started with service catalog, then please take a look at this webinar A Practical Approach to Getting Started with Service Catalog, hosted by Greg Sanker, for more helpful advice.

Tip 2: Know Your Customer

Understand business wants and needs – remember, it’s their service catalog. Find out what they want from a service catalog. And when you capture their requirements (for the service catalog), make sure that you have the real voice of the customer. Why? Because I guarantee that when asked the question “What do you want from a service catalog?” the customer answer will definitely not be “A list of technical services.”

You might need to educate people on the role of a service (request) catalog, but it’s a worthwhile investment of time and effort to get a service catalog that truly reflects business needs.

Tip 3: Have a Plan

It sounds obvious doesn’t it – but it’s important not to create a service catalog on a whim, working on it as and when time permits.

So, have a plan with a clearly defined scope for your service catalog. Be clear about the objectives for the overarching service catalog management process(es) and not just the service catalog tool. Otherwise you’ll potentially be left with a piece of underused technology and the project scope will creep.

As part of the planning process, it’s important to identify the issues and opportunities you’re trying to address. It’s not just an exercise in implementing a service catalog; having a service catalog not only gives your IT organization the ability to showcase, and “sell,” its available services – it also provides the opportunity to deliver a better service experience and hopefully save costs.

Tip 4: Be Service-Focused

When building your catalog don’t just look at hardware or software, look at the end-to-end services offered. Think about it – when email goes down, your customers don’t care if it was an Exchange issue, a hardware failure on the host server, or a networking glitch – all they care about is that the email service is unavailable.

It’s the same principle when mapping out and building your service catalog. Capture supporting and onward services so that you and your customers get the full picture.

Tip 5: Be Consistent

It’s all too easy to get carried away when building a service catalog, so remember this – the more complicated you make your information, the more difficult it will be to maintain (and for end users to use).

Start with the basics and capture them consistently for all services. Elements to consider capturing for a basic catalog could include the following:

  • Service name and description – what the service is in easy to understand business language
  • Service levels – agreed hours, availability, and performance levels ideally codified in service level agreements (SLAs) and operational level agreements (OLAs)
  • Support details – every service should describe how the business user should report incidents or make requests, and have the service desk contact details clearly visible so it’s easy to get help quickly
  • Functionality and benefits – a brief description of the functionality of the service
  • Related services – links to other services that a customer might find useful or that form part of a core service package, for example linking email and instant messaging services

Tip 6: Keep Things in Perspective

The more mature your service catalog tool, the more options you will have for tailoring information and providing custom views. As a minimum, you should consider having three viewing options:

  • Business service catalog, which contains details of all the IT services delivered to the business. This view should contain the relationships with business units and business processes that are supported by each IT service so it’s clear and easy to understand what services are needed to support particular roles or tasks.
  • Technical service catalog, which expands on the business catalog with relationships to supporting services, shared services, components, and the configuration items necessary to support the provision of services to the business. The technical service catalog focuses internally on defining and documenting support agreements and contracts (OLAs and contracts with external providers or third parties).
  • Service request catalog, a view of the services’ information that’s made available to end users to buy (subscribe to) the IT services they need.

Tip 7: Make It Useful

Okay, you’ve done it (hooray!) You have a shiny new service catalog, you’ve made a plan, mapped out your services with the business, and documented them appropriately.

Now for the hard part – how do you get people to use it, particularly the service request catalog?

The easy answer? Make it actionable. Actively drive people to it and incentivize them to use it. Make it the easiest option for end users to log service requests, as part of a self-service capability, rather than having to navigate complicated telephony systems.

Then automate provisioning where possible, and align your service catalog initiative with your licensing and purchasing teams to drive efficiency and prevent duplication and rework.

Ultimately, make the service catalog the central point for information, be it service levels, system status, or planned change windows. The more useful you make it, the higher the level of interaction you’ll generate.

So, that’s my seven tips for being a highly-effective service catalog manager. What are your top tips? Please let me know in the comments!

Posted by Joe the IT Guy

Joe the IT Guy
Joe the IT Guy

Native New Yorker. Loves everything IT-related (and hugs). Passionate blogger and Twitter addict. Oh...and resident IT Guy at SysAid Technologies (almost forgot the day job!).


2 thoughts on “The 7 Habits of Highly-Effective Service Catalog Managers”

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