Service Catalogue – The Reality Beyond the Hype

3 min read
31-Aug-2017 17:29:00

This week, we welcome a guest blogger, Barclay Rae, ITSM mentor and ITSMTV host

 Right now in the ITSM industry, Service Catalogue is a hot topic. It’s the missing centrepiece in the ITSM dashboard, the keystone that keeps the bridge standing, and the lost jigsaw piece that brings the picture to life.

 Through a general maturing and progression, the industry is becoming more aware of the whole ‘Service’ and Service Level Management (SLM) ethos – that there’s actually a reason why ITSM includes the word ‘Service’.  Service Catalogues are more than just hype or a flavour of the moment – they help to deliver and demonstrate value for IT.

  In recent years, I’ve worked on a number of projects where we have achieved great results and built some excellent real-life Service Catalogues across a broad spectrum. At one end of the spectrum there are simple ‘presentation’ Catalogues, where the IT organisation has defined its key services – both business and core IT - as a means of getting closer to customers. At the other end there have been projects where we’ve created a model that caters differently for different communities – the business’s customers, business users and the IT people. It has taken time for the ideas and practices to sink in across the industry, but it’s definitely starting to happen. Now, organisations can confidently approach a Service Catalogue project knowing that there is a lot of value to be gained.

 The key to success with these projects is the fact that the organisations involved have sat down with their customers and listened to them. Not just talked to them but really listened. Both parties have started to discuss needs, daily activities, critical business requirements, business outcomes, ‘moments of truth’ and of course issues - with a professional and positive approach and strong mutual desire to improve service quality. As such, a successful Service Catalogue project can help cement the relationship between IT and the business and improve the business’s perception of IT in a big way.

 Of course the tools are now there – tools capable of supporting multi-level Service Catalogue functionality, which is particularly powerful when the Service Catalogue is linked to the standard ITSM processes. But the drive and mandate from business and IT leadership is critical to making it happen. In more and more organizations I see situations where the CIO or IT director needs to be able to manage his/her team and services with a business focus and has used a commitment to Service Catalogue to achieve this. It has also been important and relevant in the context of the mobile/BYOD/social explosion and the consumerization of IT in recent years – where IT has had to get off its back and get out engaging with its customers and demonstrating its value.

 The gap, unfortunately, is still the lack of clarity and practical advice that is in the standard ITIL books and training, although there are more publications and courses now appearing to fill this. But I do find that many practitioners and even ‘experts’ don’t really get where to start and how to build and design services and a decent Catalogue. There has been too much focus on trying to implement SLAs (usually without defining services first) and this has led to rather negative, defensive and frankly poor and inadequate SLM over the years. However I’m pleased to say that this is changing…

 So we are getting there and Service Catalogue is not a hype bubble – or at least it shouldn’t be – but we need more simple practical guidance on how to make this work.  

 Some key points to note in making Service Catalogue and Service Catalogue work:

  • It is vital to get customer representatives involved – they are scared of being dragged in to a big project, so make it clear that this won’t take up much of their time
  • You can achieve a huge amount in a day or so by getting people together to agree the taxonomy of Service Level Management (this can save loads of time later on) and brainstorm the ‘services’
  • Spend time upfront defining services at a high (business) level - think of what your customer would understand – start top down
  • Don’t dive straight into ‘the tool will solve everything’ mode – tools are of course helpful and essential for many functions, but there’s more value in spending some care and time on design and getting the basics right on services and structure before looking for supporting tools
  • It makes sense to split your services between business (the specific work of your organisation) and ‘core IT’ i.e. standard user interfaces and tools that are generic and that everyone now buys (PCs, laptops, tablets, phones, email etc.)
  • Not everyone ‘gets’ Service Catalogue right away – this does take time so don’t expect instant epiphanies. However, it really helps if there is a clear drive and mandate from management to do this

You can follow Barclay Rae on Twitter @barclayrae. To find out more about the assyst Service Catalog from Axios, visit our website at

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