Service catalog management is an ITIL process designed to facilitate a quick-reference look at available IT services (both operational and preoperational) within an organization.

The concept of a service catalog has been around for decades, but no one really talked about it too much until ITIL v3 came out in 2007.

V3 fleshed out the service catalog concept and introduced some best practices for its maintenance and updating. Soon after, leveraging service catalogs became a main topic of discussion of the IT community as more IT organizations resolved to get better use out of their existing offerings.

The service catalog is an output of another ITIL-defined tool called the service portfolio.

This portfolio incorporates a backlog of yet-to-be-developed services (known as the “service pipeline”), operational and preoperational services (the “service catalog”), and services that have been permanently taken out of operation (“retired services”).

The service portfolio is a key organizational component of service catalog management. It includes the yet-to-be-defined services in the service pipeline, the current service offerings that exist in the service catalog, and services that are no longer offered in the form of retired services.

The service portfolio encompasses the service pipeline, service catalog, and retired services.

The initial service portfolio is developed during the first ITIL LifeCycle Phase (Service Strategy). At this point, your IT organization should already be forming an idea of which services will be placed immediately into operating and operation-ready status.

These ready-to-go services will be revisited during the service catalog management process of the next ITIL LifeCycle Phase (Service Design).

The service catalog may appear in the form of a structured document or database and, like any catalog, includes ordering information, pricing, and descriptions of services provided by the IT department.

Here are a few key tips for getting the most out of your service catalog and developing unbeatable service catalog management.

1. Make sure your service catalog is aligned with business capabilities.

Don’t make the mistake of creating a service catalog that centers on technological capacity.

The name of the game is business capacity. What can the business, via IT, do to meet the needs of its customers?

2. Don’t lose sight of the “process” element.

The reason ITIL introduced service catalog management as a process is because there was a need for IT professionals to take a strategic, managerial approach to building and maintaining this asset.

A service catalog is not an exhaustive listing of the many capabilities of your IT department. Instead, it is a regularly updated service capability guide that provides IT tools for current business interests.

An outdated catalog that has dead entries and incorrect information is next to useless. Frequent audits and updates help ensure that the offerings within the service catalog are truly aligned with the needs of the business.

3. Create an internal definition of service.

If your IT company is supporting naval logistic supply chains, then come up with a service definition that reflects that mission.

If your company keeps tabs on inventories for an international makeup and cosmetics retailer, then, again, make sure your definition of service fits the business objective.

Defining your service in a detailed way will keep your service catalog from drifting into a tech capacity focus. Remember, the name of the game is business capacity.

4. Apply the work of other ITIL processes beyond service catalog management.

There are a multitude of ITIL processes that should be consulted when building your service catalog.

For instance, the financial management process, under the Service Strategy LifeCycle Phase, will ensure that you don’t pursue a service catalog that your organization can’t afford.

Importing some wisdom from the demand management process will ensure that you don’t pour money and man hours into a service that no one will use.

If such services exist within a service catalog, see number two within this list. Continually updating the service catalog will ensure that services that don’t have a direct business function are nominated for retirement before being decommissioned entirely.

5. Distribute your service catalog.

What good are your IT services if no one knows about them? Your service catalog can be formatted as a quick-reference tool for your help desk.

It can also be used by business developers and salesmen who are attempting to match the company’s offerings with prospective buyers. The service catalog should also be accessible to executive level management as they plot out the next big steps for the organization.

An important note about access however: elements of the service pipeline and retired services aspects of an organization’s service portfolio should not be visible or accessible by customers.

The Bottom Line

The most important aspect of maintaining an unbeatable service catalog is to focus on business capacity. Avoid thinking of your service catalog as a checklist of technical capabilities.

Stay focused on the idea of IT services as tools of business utility. Stay on the lookout for new ways to purpose and repurpose your service catalog, and schedule routine reviews to consider possible updates.

Think of your service catalog as not only a feature of the larger service portfolio, but also as a process that requires regular audit.

This article is sourced from the AXELOS-approved ITIL® guide ITIL For Beginners: The Complete Beginner’s Guide To ITIL now in its second edition. Published by ClydeBank Media, 2016. Bryan Bonwich is a staff writer and regular contributor to the ClydeBank Media Tech and Finance blogs.

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