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The service catalog is an ambassador for IT

If you think you’ve mastered the service catalog, you probably haven’t!

This article is a summary of a CIO guide issued by Devoteam in January 2014, entitled Increased Visibility of IT – a Guide to the CIO, written by Paul Kelsall, Solution Manager at Devoteam UK. It aims to share Devoteam’s knowledge, alongside that of the industry, on how to improve IT visibility through a service catalog as part of a service portfolio management process.

Its core message is: if you think you have mastered the service catalog, you probably haven’t!

Too many Service Catalog projects start with the creation of the catalog, without establishing the service portfolio management process as a structured foundation for the build and maintenance of it. The result is failure that reflects poorly on IT.

Aligning business with IT

With 18 years’ experience of modernising IT, Devoteam believes that an effective service catalog enables IT to deliver business services that are more customer- and service-focused, which results in higher customer satisfaction, greater standardisation and consistency, and increased IT visibility across the organisation.

Business decision-makers often question the investment made in IT because they don’t fully understand the value delivered by IT service management (ITSM), with the result that CIOs are being asked to cut costs, increase productivity, and find new ways to generate revenue and profits.

The guide shows us that the answer lies in transparency. To enhance transparency and demonstrate value, IT needs to provide complete visibility into its costs and services. The guide also pinpoints why trust in IT is lacking and what to do about it, not least advocating the need for a proper understanding of ITIL.

“The service catalog is a business-critical asset.” Ivor MacFarlane, author of ITIL v3 Service Transition.

Common issues

We learn that many service catalogs suffer from one or more of these common problems:

  • more information on the delivery of services than the services themselves
  • designed for IT, rather than the actual consumers of the services
  • too many services and not enough helpful categorisation
  • services that are poorly defined and therefore not understood create confusion.

Importantly, true service management means knowing and understanding the services you provide. This, in turn, means understanding the customer services enabled by functions such as incident and problem management.

The remedy lies with the time-honoured need to identify your internal customers then define their requirements – without making assumptions. ITIL v3 will assist greatly with the process of managing the service portfolio and how to keep it current. This is all part of ensuring IT manages service requests effectively.

However, we learn that maintaining a documented portfolio of services is only part of the story. You also need to communicate this information to the organisation, and that’s where a service catalog performs best. The guide will show the distinction between a business and a technical service catalog, how to build them and in particular where to start. It points out the glitches throughout the exercise. It even advocates which approach to take – top-down, bottom-up or both?

Simplicity means clarity

Valuable advice on all facets of presentation of a catalog even extends to consideration of the user platform with its implications. Above all, simplicity is key. A good service catalog demonstrates service management maturity.

Devoteam helps clients develop a workable service catalog, from establishment to deployment via a working customer portal. To request a copy of this CIO guide or learn more about how Devoteam can help in your improvement programme, please contact