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Critical Role of IT Service Catalogs in Today’s Reality

May 7, 2020 | Service Management

The first quarter of 2020 will be collectively remembered for years to come and the events happening today are now part of human history. In fact, the before and after pandemic are already reference points in time. In less than a week, those who still had their jobs shifted towards remote work. Definitely, all the adjustments to adapt to the situation and preserve our healthcare systems from collapsing have a “butterfly effect” on our lives at work, starting with the fact that our business environment will never be the same. With the lock down progressively ending, the “new normal” is becoming a reality and many things like travelling, face to face business meetings, hand shaking, and corporate townhalls aren’t likely to happen any time soon.

IT Service Management In A "New Normal"

In any case, there is a discernable trend in regard to companies preferring their employees to work from home whenever possible. This will certainly be the chosen and best approach, at least until the COVID-19 vaccine is proven. Leading industry researchers predict that, from now on, an increasingly large portion of the workforce will be working remotely, while around 35% never worked remotely before. On a technology standpoint, this shift requires a strong support in terms of assets, I&T governance, security, etc. Ultimately, the “new normal” implies modern and altered working methods. Hence, rethinking the way IT services are managed is key in ensuring business continuity and smooth-running operations. Now more than ever, IT Users need to have a clear understanding of the services offered by the IT Service Provider. In light of these changes, a well-structured Service Catalog is essential in improving overall performance in today’s reality. It empowers IT Users to self-serve, thereby reducing the risk of overloading the Service Desk which is likely under capacity. Here is what you need to know about Service Catalog.

A Service Catalog Is…

A centralized list of related services offered by the IT Service Provider of an organization. It includes service offerings, which are the stratifications of a service into capability and availability options. There is no unique, or “best” way to build the Service Catalog and it can be vary from one organization to another. It’s also defined differently depending on the IT framework implemented.

The Purpose Is…

Defined from different perspectives. It should be considered from a user, business, or technical point of view. In the eyes of the user, the Service Catalog provides specific means to request a service, in an “actionable” way. From this perspective, the Service Catalog is actually a “Request Catalog” which gives crystal clear guidelines to the user on how to request a service and what to expect. Also, it may offer knowledge articles for users to attempt troubleshooting. Service Catalog is critical in the “shift left” approach, enabling users to be self-sufficient in addressing their technical issues. In the eyes of business customers, the Service Catalog has the value of identifying the details of all service offerings – those that can be requested by users and those which cannot. The Business view of a Service Catalog includes cost information, SLA and also clarifies the roles and responsibilities involved in the delivery of the services. From a technical perspective, the Service Catalog is a source of practical information needed. It may include details related to approval processes, escalation, relationship to other services, etc. Therefore, the catalog presents the services in an organized way that allows users to know what specific services they can request and how, while giving the IT Service Provider clear and easy to understand instructions to execute them. Which perspective does YOUR organization need? It depends on your particular needs and structures. Hence, before you start building the Service Catalog, you need to answer the questions “why do we need it” and “who needs it most”?

It Establishes The Accountability And Scope Of Services

The Service Catalog should include very precise information about the different stakeholders involved in the service delivery and their level of responsibility. For clarity around this matter, some organizations find it relevant to add a RACI chart. This enables users to know precisely who owns the service and who is accountable or responsible for its execution amongst other roles. Moreover, every service should be broken down into Service Offerings if needed. The idea is to be specific about the scope of the services. For each of them, there should be a section specifying what is included and what’s not. In most cases, it’s better to include the Service Level Agreements within the Service Catalog.

What Can I Find In A Service Catalog?

There are many ways to create the catalog, but usually it is built from a set of elements common to all of them:
  • The name of the service
  • A description
  • The Service Offerings if needed
  • Related services
  • Any supporting services and business functions responsible for them
  • Metrics
  • Service Level Agreement (SLA) data and information to set expectations
  • Stakeholders entitled to request and use the service
  • Clear ownership and accountability for the service, RACI chart
  • How to request the service (portal, email, contact information, etc.)
  • Escalation points and key contacts

Think Of The User When Designing The User View Of The Catalog

The Service Catalog should be descriptive and offer relevant details about the services. This will make it easier for end users to make a request and understand what they can expect. The Service Catalog will also facilitate communication and collaboration within the organisation. In a remote working context, the catalog becomes even more important as people can no longer just ask around. Thus, having all the information in one single location is valuable.

An Important Step In IT Maturity

It’s the first step to bigger IT Service Management initiatives, which means it can lead to a maturity growth. In fact, while creating the catalog, the IT Service Provider starts identifying service gaps and redundancies.Then, these can be addressed and the services can be improved. Let’s not forget that digital transformation is not something every organization has achieved. Nonetheless, the “new normal” requires strong support from IT and progress in the maturity levels can make it easier to face the challenges and facilitate business survival.

It Needs An Owner

Once the Service Catalog is completed, it will need an Owner. Someone to ensure it is updated regularly and accessible to all users. There is no point in taking the time to build it if you don’t plan to sustain it. The information provided in the catalog is very valuable and it should be maintained.

What’s in it for you?

As mentioned previously, this pandemic has changed our lives at work in more ways than we can imagine. Even if the need for digital transformation was there prior to COVID-19, it is now a pressing matter for some organizations. For those who aren’t fully prepared to face today’s challenges, creating a Service Catalog a valuable practice that will allow to establish strong foundation to IT Services. It will also provide clarity and improve communication as all channels and key stakeholders will be identified in it. In terms of ITSM, having all services described and presented in a catalog is critical in managing and improving them.
Since the beginning of the lockdown, 45% of people think they are more likely to learn now than before. The impact of the pandemic is making people realize they must invest in their professional development as things are now changing rapidly. Evidently, organizations will also come to the conclusion that they need to adapt their service management tools and procedures in order to ensure efficient business continuity. In this sense, IT Service Management frameworks such as ITIL® 4 become valuable and necessary. Learn more about ITIL® 4 Foundation, IT Chapter can deliver training to your teams and dates are flexible!
Contact us if you need some guidance to implement a Service Catalog

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