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How to overcome barriers while implementing the Service Catalogue according to ITIL

Service Catalogue… it’s always an interesting, but controversial topic. There are many different ideas and views on the topic. It’s hard to say which one of them is right and which is wrong. And, that’s a good thing, because every organization is different, and so are the services (and the way) they provide.

ISO 20000 does not set many requirements regarding the Service Catalogue, but ITIL is more comprehensive. A lot of “how’s” and “why’s” can be found (you can learn more about the Service Catalogue according to ITIL in the article Service Catalogue – a window to the world. But, despite existing practice, the Service Catalogue Management process (and the Service Catalogue document) put many challenges in front of the organizations and individuals who are involved.

Challenges – What are they?

Based on my experience with customers, there are a few challenges that most of the customers face while setting up the Change Management process or trying to build the Service Catalogue.

What are the services – that’s what comes even before you start working on your Service Catalogue. You have to be aware of what kind of services you have (see the article ITIL Customer-facing vs. supporting services to get help with that), how many of them, and where they come from (learn more in this article Service Portfolio Management – Services, where do they come from?).

Content of the catalogue – OK, so you have your Service Catalogue. Are you sure that data (content) in your Catalogue precisely defines the services you provide? I used to find that customers have several systems where the data about the services are stored (including more than one ITSM tool). This leads to scattered data, which are a common source of error.

Usage – while I was responsible for the IT organization, I noticed that agreements with customers were made without taking the Service Catalogue into account. The point is that in the Service Catalogue you will describe the service, but also some parameters that are important while running the service, e.g., how to order certain functionality, what are the service hours, what is the escalation procedure… etc. I have witnessed situations where sales is usually trying to satisfy every customer need and often promising too much.

Keeping it up-to-date – changes are not avoidable. That’s a fact and, I’m sure, no one is challenging it. What’s important is that all changes that happen with the services are documented in the Service Catalogue. Namely, your services are also subject to change, because of, e.g., changing business requirements or additional functionality. So, it’s important that all changes are included in the actual version of the Service Catalogue.


How to respond to the challenges

Usability of the Service Catalogue is not questionable. That’s the shopping list for your customers, so every effort that is needed to be made to provide an efficient Service Catalogue – is worth the effort. But, as with many other activities in the scope of your IT Service Management (ITSM), it’s important to keep the activities optimized (i.e., not too many of them, or not too few, which will open new issues).

Get a clear picture – meaning, you have to know which services you have and to what category they belong (i.e., supporting or customer-facing services). Or, what are their names and who are the users/customers. Sometimes, it’s even more important to know what to exclude from the Service Catalogue. Use the article Service Catalogue – Defining the service to learn more about how to define a service.

Go into details – now, when you are familiar with the services you have – first, you have to know which information you need to enter into the Service Catalogue (i.e., what is the content). Second, gather the required data (content) and record it. The technical description (important for the technical view of the Service Catalogue) could be a bit easier. If you are having problems with the business view – why don’t you talk to your customer and ask them how they would describe the service? In this way you will get the best description of the service explained in business (understandable by your customer) language. And – don’t include too much unnecessary information (learn more in the article Choosing four main inputs for the ITIL/ISO 20000 Service Catalogue to avoid bureaucracy).

Use a tool – but only one, if possible. Some of the ITSM tools are capable of storing Service Catalogue-related data, but most of the tools do not. That’s also OK, because the Service Catalogue can be created in many different ways using spreadsheets (to collect all data in one place), text documents (usually published as a pdf), a database, web forms… etc. What’s important is that you know what and where it is stored as well as ensuring that information is stored only in one place.

Responsibility and management – just like with most of the other processes, it’s important to have clear roles and responsibilities. That will enable a managed Service Catalogue process and give you a chance to have an up-to-date Service Catalogue. You will also need to interface to other processes (e.g., Service Asset and Configuration Management or Service Level Management) – so you need someone responsible.

One size fits all?

The Service Catalogue is living document, from both a usage point of view and a content point of view. That means that you are never finished with your Service Catalogue. That’s one fact. The other one is – every organization is different. So, it’s not possible to list what’s right for you. But, taking into consideration postulates from this article, knowing your organization, and collaborating with your customers will open a door that will guide you to a usable Service Catalogue. Return in revenue through customers’ ordering of your services is a moment of truth, which will give you direct feedback about the quality of your Service Catalogue.

Use this free  ITIL Service Catalogue from scratch webinar to learn more about the Service Catalogue.

Advisera Branimir Valentic
Author
Branimir Valentic
Branimir is an expert in IT service management (consultancy, training and tools), IT governance (training and consulting), project management and consultancy in IT and telecommunication. He holds the following certificates: ITIL Expert, ISO 20000, ISMS Lead Auditor and PRINCE2.