Service Catalogs: Avoiding Shelfware

Understand the building blocks – A catalog design shouldn’t be a flat, two dimensional construct. Think of the catalog as having a number of customer facing services that are essentially products the business can purchase. It should also have a number of resource facing services that are the building blocks used to deliver those customer facing services. The customer’s experience should be seamless and end-to-end.

Measure your services – Services should be defined in ways that make them measurable in terms that are important to the business. Can you track how much of something you deliver? How often? At what service level? Can you track how long it takes for you to deliver it? If you can’t, you might want to re-analyze the way you’ve defined that service.

Emphasize cost transparency and demand management – If you’ve documented your units of measure properly, you can start to track and report on the costs of the service. Think ahead about how you can model the cost of the service. This transparency is what allows you and the business to make informed choices based on the cost/benefit of the service provided. This also gives you to ability to use prices to implement better demand management for services.

Relate it to all of your processes – Capacity, financial, change, availability, release and all of the ITIL processes relate back to your service catalog and it makes all of their implementations that much easier. Without a service catalog, the other ITIL processes are navigating without a compass. It is the service catalog that gives them the ability to prioritize and direct their work in a way that is most beneficial to the business.

Implementation: Five pitfalls to avoid during implementation

Even the best designs can be thwarted by a poor implementation. Here are five common traps to be avoiding in the implementation:

The field of dreams – Assuming that if you build it they will come. A service catalog is a living, breathing representation of what IT delivers to their customers. It needs to be a centerpiece for helping customers understand what IT can do, and for helping the internal IT processes prioritize and organize their efforts. A strong communication strategy is a good plan to help implement it in the right way, but continual efforts are needed to keep it at the center of what you do.

It’s all too much – Inundating the client with too many choices. End users need an intuitive service catalog that is simplified and gives them relevant choices. IT can do this by bundling common packages into single choices for customers and by making the interface to the catalog dynamic and context dependent to help users in their selections.

Dazzle them with science – Don”t sell the technology over the value. customers want to buy services that provide value to the way they do businesses. They are buying a service not a technology component. Describe your services in business terms: improved response, less wait time, improved productivity, not in technology terms like bandwidth or fiber optic cables.

Myopia – Concentrating on the now and ignoring the long range. Use your catalog to introduce new technologies to the organization and take into account your strategic directions when building the catalog while encouraging your customers to invest by identifying the value of your enhanced services.

Rocking the boat – Don’t undermine your customer satisfaction by changing the rules every year. Allow your business to chart progress from year to year by introducing stability in terms of services, costs, usage, forecasting and reporting.

Managing: Five tips for effectively managing service catalogs

Finally, good management processes are essential to making the service catalog last and be used effectively. Here are five critical areas to effective management of a service catalog:

Owners and customers are critical – Services don’t magically appear and manage themselves. Instead, it is important the owner of the service be identified and given the responsibility for managing the service’s performance over time. This could include negotiating to update the underpinning contracts that support the service orrequesting the necessary resources to improve it. The customer is needed at the table to determine priorities and ensure they are getting the performance they need.