Thursday, April 14, 2011

Service Catalogue Project Pitfalls

One of the most difficult things to do when approached to create a service catalogue for an organization is to help them realize that it's almost impossible to quote them on the amount of work to be done when you don't know where they currently are or where they want to go.

Companies are often rightfully hesitant in engaging consultants in time-and-materials contracts when they cannot quantify the volume of work or the deliverable.  Often they have been burned by consultants who promise high value service catalogues only to deliver worthless documentation.

I struggled with this for a while.  Not knowing what documentation they currently have and not knowing what level of maturity they hope to obtain from their service catalogue makes quoting for a service catalogue creation or improvement project almost impossible.

My solution is to offer a fixed price or capped price project for the initial phases and then depending on the situation at the client, offer a fixed price or time and materials engagement for the production of the service catalogue processes and documentation.

The first phase is always a discovery phase.  Find out where the client is with respect to their service catalogue's maturity.  They always have some form of catalogue, even if they haven't identified it as such.  This phase also involves educating the client in what they could do with a highly functional catalogue and let them decide how far they want to take it and how many of their ITSM or ITIL processes they want to integrate into the service catalogue.  Usually the deliverables for this phase are strategy documents, a road map, SWOT analysis and RACI charts.  This phase identifies where they are and where they want to be and makes planning for all future phases much more accurate.

I am a big believer in the teach a man to fish philosophy so my next phase is for process definition.  Here is where we define the KPIs, catalogue update processes, governance structure, management processes and SLA measurement processes.

The third phase I recommend is for the actual production of a service catalogue entry as well as the education of the managers of the service catalogue processes.  By this point I usually have a good understanding of where the client is and wants to be as well as the capabilities of all the process participants. The client can be fairly confident in the scope of the number of catalogue entries they need me to mentor their staff into producing.

This phase is where we implement the service catalogue management processes and integrate them into other processes like change management, PMO requirements, incident management etc.  This also gives us a chance to implement the governance structure and measure for the KPIs while fine tuning any issues that arise.  This is also where catalogue entries start to get published for their intended audience.  This is also where you ensure that continuous improvement is built-in so that the process evolves as it needs to or as the situation changes.

This hopefully is where the engagement ends.  The client should have the capability to produce all other entries and to maintain a fully actionable service catalogue.  Some clients also prefer to expedite the production of their catalogue entries by extending the engagement to produce a fixed number of services or even their entire portfolio.

For more information on Service Catalogue engagements please contact

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Don't settle for a service list when you wanted a service catalogue

Recently I've been approached a few times by organizations looking to put together a service catalogue.  My first question to all of them is "Why?".

Their answer is very important as it will determine if I will take the engagement or turn it down.  My rule of thumb is that if the person asking for the service catalogue cannot tell me right away the advantages of an actionable service catalogue then the engagement will be an educational consulting engagement.  If the person says "Because my boss told me we need one!" then I will probably walk away.

These engagements will typically fail or will offer little to no value to the customer and if I cannot add value to a client, I won't accept the engagement.  Not knowing what they could do with a service catalogue is a sign that they have unrealistic expectations and even the statement of work will probably be a waste of time for me to produce.

A fully functional service catalogue is a powerful tool for IT service management and can significantly improve your organizations service delivery, help you with the service strategy and service design and can be fully integrated into your continuous improvement initiative.  Not only can it make your IT team more effective, it can also act as a communication medium with your customers helping them understand what IT does and what expectations they should have with your levels of service.

All too often I'm contacted to fix an existing service catalogue.  Someone who doesn't understand the usefulness of a service catalogue has gone down a long and expensive road to produce a 'list' of existing services.  Although this can quantify the services provided it provides very little value.  More often then not, the list is from the viewpoint of IT not the consumer of the service and will become out of date almost as soon as it's published.  If you are producing a service catalogue from the point of view of implemented components then you have produced data that should probably reside in your CMDB.

So what should you keep in mind when producing (or engaging to produce) a service catalogue?
  • All services should be from the viewpoint of the consumer.  When I go through the drive through at a coffee shop I order the coffee, pay for it, receive it and walk away.  I don't care about how many coffee machines they have, how much water they consume, if they have enough sugar, etc.
  • Determine what information is useful in a service catalogue.  What the service is, what the expected service levels should be, cost, how to initiate the service, etc.
  • Determine how the catalogue will be produced for new services or kept up to date for existing services.  It needs to be an integrated deliverable through PMO and change management processes.
  • Determine the KPIs for each service.  Use the consumers experience of the service as a guide.  Was my coffee delivered in a timely manner?  Was my order correct?  Did I get the correct change?  Also base the KPIs on your your service strategy.  If the strategy to be fast, accurate, friendly, high quality or a combination of those things make sure your KPIs reflect the strategy.  If your strategy does not reflect the wants of the consumers then you may need to revisit the strategy.
  • Ensure roles and responsibilities for management of the service catalogue are well documented and understood.
  • Ensure the integration points for other IT service management practices are in place. Incident management, change management, capacity management, financial management, etc.  This is where you will get the full value of a catalogue.
  • Develop the content for the catalogue and publish it.  Use automated tools if costs are not prohibitive and allow self service wherever possible.
  • Once the catalogue is in place, measure it's effectiveness and continuously improve.
Hopefully these tips will help establish a useful service catalogue instead of another document that will sit on a shelf and be forgotten.

For more information on producing an actionable service catalogue, contact