This is a guest post by AIM alum Thomas Failor, 2014, about the benefits and necessity of having an Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) service catalog in your IT or operations department.
Sometimes painful lessons are good ones in hindsight. In a previous life I moved from sales management to operations and one of my first tasks was to write a service catalog for my department’s offerings. Let’s just say my early efforts weren’t a hit, but with a little help I pulled it together. Learn from the error of my ways.
So what’s a service catalog? Service catalogs are just that, a catalog of the services your department provides. Formally identified in the 2007 Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) V3 as a suggested best practice, service catalogs have been used in well run organizations since at least the early 2000s. Most were justified in the return on investment of reducing cycle times and improving outcomes. With the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, service catalogs gained importance as a way to document processes for audits.
Everything your group does is likely regarded as a service for someone or some group in the company. Does your work stream have a service level agreement (SLA) you’re required to meet? If so, your group provides a service and you need a service catalog. The main reason service catalogs are so important is that they provide a vehicle for your group to communicate and negotiate SLA agreements with other groups or customers, both internal and external. Without a document to formalize these relationships, your group will be tone deaf to your customers and likely provide poor service.
Service catalogs have some common ingredients, but overall they are a managed document that describes:
- what you do and what it’s called,
- who owns your service,
- when you do it,
- to whom you provide the service,
- how to request the service,
- how service is delivered,
- what you charge for the service,
- any SLAs related to your service.
More formally, a service catalog is implemented “in a manner that facilitates the ‘registration, discovery, request, execution, and tracking of desired services for catalog users.’” – Wikipedia.
There are many free templates on the web to get you started writing a service catalog, but it may benefit you to produce a high-level diagram listing suppliers, inputs, processes, outputs, and customers of your particular business process to help identify who ALL of your customers are and what teams supply your various processes. You’d be surprised how little agreement there can be about who the customer is. Try it, you may be amazed at what you discover.
An ITIL trade group in the UK provides some detailed Service information on Catalogs on their website.
In essence, a service catalog provides two benefits. It allows you to clarify the services and service levels that you provide and it provides a clear advertisement to your customers as to your offerings. If nothing else, a service catalog is a great exercise in seeing your services from your internal and external customers, and hopefully acting to improve them over time.