One of the ways to improve communication and alignment between an organisation and its IT service delivery unit is to develop an effective service catalogue.
In its simplest form, a service catalogue is a document that gives customers a list of all live services offered by IT – but an effective service catalogue can be so much more! A service catalogue could achieve any of the following:
- A marketing tool to describe what we do in IT and how we add value to the business.
- Manages customer expectations by clearly stating how each service is delivered.
- Categorises services according to business criticality and lets the business know that IT understands this.
- Adjusts the IT thinking from just the technology to focus more on the end-to-end service that the business benefits from.
To create an effective service catalogue we need to first understand what a ‘service’ is. ITIL® defines a service as:
A means of delivering value to customers by facilitating outcomes customers want to achieve without the ownership of specific costs and risks.
The core of this definition is: “facilitating outcomes customers want to achieve”. We in IT often think we know what the business should have, but without engaging with or listening to our customers to really understand their needs. We need a clear mandate for the services we offer in order to demonstrate the value that IT contributes to our customers’ outcomes.
When considering how to build a service catalogue, it is difficult to know where to start. It is important to realise that you don’t have to do the whole thing in one go; start simply, with the most visible services, but remember to start with the customer outcome and work from the top down.
The following example shows one approach we might take:
- One business goal could be to achieve the sales target.
- Identify the services required from IT to enable this and to improve the likelihood of it happening.
- These services represent the customer view of the service catalogue entries.
- Identify the supporting services needed for each of the main services. The customer just needs information about the main services, and will be happy that they are available when and where they are needed. The supporting services are generally of no interest to the customer so can be much more technical in nature.
Every service catalogue is different and needs to fit the organisation, but some sample headings that we recommend for each main service would be:
|Service name||A meaningful service name|
|Status||e.g. Pipeline (planned, in development)/Operational/Retired|
|Classification||The classification based upon how critical the service is to the business. E.g. Business critical, Business operational, Administrative, etc.|
|Description||A description of the service in business language, making sure this is linked to the relevant business objectives.|
|User group||The groups of users that this service would apply to.|
|Agreed availability||The hours that the service is available. This will have been agreed with the business before publication of the service entry.|
|Priority levels||Relevant priority levels, e.g. P1, P2, P3, the expected timings attached to those and examples of a typical P1, P2 or P3.|
|Backup and recovery procedures||An overview of frequency of backups and continuity measures.|
|Supporting services||A list of the main supporting services only. A more detailed view would be part of the IT view rather than the customer’s.|
|Reporting||Standard KPIs against this service.|
|Review dates||When this service description was last reviewed and when the next review is scheduled.|
This list is by no means exhaustive; any number of other areas could be added where relevant to your organisation.
Remember: start simple, you don’t have to do it all at once, and always start from the organisational goal and work from the top down.