Have you ever stopped to think that the service catalog might be one of the most useful things in IT service management (ITSM)? Even though IT self-service and now artificial intelligence (AI) have received much of the “this will solve all your issues” glory. Done well, a service catalog will act as a single, consistent source of information to employees for all of the IT and business services available to them. But how should your organization leverage a service catalog?
Please read on to find out how to best exploit a service catalog as a multifaceted ITSM capability.
What’s a service catalog?
A service catalog should act as the mission statement for an IT department. And it should support everything from day-to-day IT operations (and the handling of issues) to continual service improvement (CSI) – now called simply continual improvement in ITIL 4. For example, it should help with:
- Enhancing your self-service capabilities
- Driving employee behaviors through demand management
- Adding focus to continual improvement efforts.
These are three distinct ways to benefit from a service catalog. I’ll cover each off, in more detail, across the next three sections.
1. Enhancing your self-service capabilities with a service catalog
A service catalog can elevate your IT self-service from basic to awesome. I’ve blogged on the following advice many times before but it’s always worth repeating – a golden rule of ITSM is “Always make it easy for people to use your services.” So, use a service catalog to signpost employees to the available self-help capabilities and to the ability to log their incidents and service requests online.
Here, by taking a service catalog approach and by describing your service offerings in business (rather than IT) language, you’ll make your services easier for employees and customers to access. Plus, if you include additional service information such as availability, costs, and support commitments – and ideally the comparison between similar services – customers will find it easier to know what’s available and what’s best suited to their needs (and pockets).
2. Driving employee behaviors through demand management
Demand management is an ITIL v3 process (but it’s not one of the 34 practices in ITIL 4) that aims to understand, anticipate, and influence customer demand for services. It works with your corporate capacity management capabilities to ensure that the IT service provider – the corporate IT department in many cases – has the capacity to meet the required demand for particular services.
A service catalog gives your IT department a head start in managing the demand for its services – with one of the key activities (of demand management) being the influencing of user behavior by using Patterns of Business Activity (PBAs). Examples of PBAs in action include:
- For retail organizations, highlighting increased usage of certain services in the run-up to significant holidays
- For finance departments, identifying the financial systems that will need increased capacity at the end of the tax year
- Flagging services that need to be at optimum performance during audits.
By layering PBAs into your service catalog, you can manipulate IT service consumption patterns through differentiated offerings, and service packages, to optimize availability and costs.
3. Adding focus to continual improvement efforts with a service catalog
Most ITSM professionals know that continual improvement is a vital part of any IT value stream (especially now given the focus of ITIL 4). But how many can say that they dedicate sufficient time to improving their ITSM practices and outcomes?
Having a service catalog in place helps with the investment of time and effort in continual improvement. Because, thanks to having a definitive list of services, there’s now a central list of business-critical applications, and their associated attributes, such that people know what’s important to focus on.
Example quick wins here include:
- Reporting improvements – a service catalog provides your IT department with an accurate list of services to report against
- Empowering employees in requesting services – for instance, by providing financial and service level information
- Optimally balancing availability and performance against resources – for both current and planned services
- Improving impact analysis capabilities (for all three of incident and problem management, and change control) – because people have a definitive list of services to assess any potential impact against.
Ultimately, a service catalog will allow your IT department to deliver better services and support. It will also make everyone’s life easier! If you have one, how do you use your service catalog? Please let me know in the comments.
Joe The IT Guy is a native New Yorker who loves everything connected to IT service management (ITSM). He's a passionate blogger and twitter addict, and is also the resident IT guy at SysAid Technologies.