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  More often then not, the list is from the viewpoint of IT not the consumer of the service and will become out of date almost as soon as it's published.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

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