ITIL Service Portfolio Management Process Overview

As was mentioned in the previous article Service Portfolio Management – Services, where do they come from?, the main task of the Service portfolio management process is to provide a set of tools for assessing and approval of new or changed services, and to manage the IT services throughout their lifecycles. Since the mentioned article was mainly focused on the initiation of new services, I would like to address a few other features of the process.

Service portfolio management is often regarded as inconsequential by small and midsized service organizations. Nevertheless, it provides some good practices, techniques and mindset guidelines that can be useful during the initial best practice implementation.

Three parts of the service portfolio

In this article, I will try to describe Service portfolio management mainly through the following figure:

ITIL Service Portfolio Management Process Overview - 20000AcademyFigure 1: Services through the lifecycle perspective

Basics first – service portfolio consists of three parts:

  • Service pipeline
  • Service catalogue
  • Retired services

In the mid-section of the diagram are the functional parts of the ITIL lifecycle represented by circles. The size of the circle represents a rough average of resource consumption during the activity/phase.

Resources are engaged from the common pool of service organization resources represented by the lower part of the diagram.

Service Pipeline

Service Pipeline represents all the new services or changes in the existing services that emerge from the Strategy phase, through the Design, and are prepared for the Operation phase by the Transition activities. Also included are the services altered by the continual service improvement. Initiatives for the new or changed services are described well in the previous article.

The pipeline services represent the organization’s ability to address the new opportunities with the existing or new customers, and the company’s will and determination to support the important business processes, adding value to the services catalogue and pushing cooperation between the business and IT to a new level.

It has been shown as a good practice, especially for the external provider, to keep the pipeline unavailable to all customers. Only the customer representatives involved in the development or the implementation of pipeline services should have access to the parts of the pipeline concerning them. Once the new service is fully developed and tested, it will be added to the service catalogue and visible to intended customers.

Frequently asked question: What is the pipeline, physically? Is it a database, is it a document set, or a specialized application? The answer is: It is what you want it to be. You can do with what you have. Since new services are usually created through some project management methodology and/or tool, that’s usually all you need. The simplest way is to keep a folder “Pipeline” somewhere on your network, moving the service documents between folders representing the project phases. If you have a fancy project management tool, all the better. Do not add any overhead.

Just be sure that all the new or changed services are somehow addressed in your Change management process.

Service Catalogue

As represented by the above diagram, the service catalogue consists of the services which are currently in use. Service catalogue is described in these articles: Service Catalogue – a window to the world and Service Catalogue – Defining the service.

The service catalogue represents what the service provider can do for the business NOW. It consists of the services themselves, resources and assets used and business outcomes achieved by the usage of services.

Services from the service catalogue can be available to all existing or potential customers. This is usually the case with the internal service providers. Some external service providers keep some of the services from the catalog visible only to specific users. Due to security reasons, they may even decide to create customer-specific separate catalogs. This adds to the complexity of all processes and should be avoided if it is not explicitly demanded by the customer.

As for the specific architecture of the catalogue, similar remarks are in order as for the service pipeline. We should have in mind that the catalogue introduces a new level of complexity regarding interrelations between the Business and Technical catalogue, and the decision should be steered towards a dedicated application for the catalogue management.

Retired Services

Information from the service catalogue aggregated with key service management processes data can provide knowledge about the service popularity, efficiency and profitability.

During the periodic service review, the organization will decide about the retirement of the less-popular or inefficient services. Criteria for the retirement will vary from provider to provider depending on many specific factors, including company strategy, marketplace, customer profiles and financial ecosystem.

Most often, reasons for service retirement are the following:

  • Service is replaced by a new service
  • Service is seldom used
  • Service is financially inefficient

Here we can notice a bit of the flaw in the above diagram: retirement of the service should be done through the Transition phase.

Retired services can sometimes still be available to existing customers through the defined phase-out period of time. The provider should have a retention policy for the retired services, defining how long they will be in the portfolio after the retirement.


Special attention should be given to a Transition phase between the Design and the Operation. Activities should be firmly established to define the documentation and knowledge handover to the entities involved in Operation processes. Early life support should be generously helped by the design people until the Service Desk personnel is quite confident with the process. This is recognized as one of the most neglected critical success factors.

As you can see, Service portfolio management is a fairly complex process intended for service organizations of a higher maturity level. Smaller, upcoming organizations will naturally be more oriented towards the basic Catalogue management process, but even they will profit from an acquaintance with its basic concepts and techniques. Maybe not so much in the beginning, but for sure in securing a best practice path towards where they want to be in the future.

You can download a free sample of the  Service Portfolio Management process.