One of the ways to improve communication and alignment between an organisation and its IT service provider is to develop an effective service catalogue.
A service catalogue in its basic form is a document that gives customers a list of all live services offered by IT. However, an effective service catalogue can be so much more! It:
- Describes what the IT department does and how it adds value to the business;
- Manages customer expectations by clearly stating how each service is delivered;
- Categorises services according to business criticality and lets the organisation know that IT understands this; and
- Adjusts IT thinking, expanding focus from just technology to more end–to–end services.
To create an effective service catalogue, we need to first understand the meaning of a service. ITIL® defines it as:
A means of enabling value co-creation by facilitating outcomes that customers want to achieve, without the customer having to manage specific costs and risks.
There is a key message in this – “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. We need a clear mandate for the services that we offer in order to demonstrate the value that IT contributes to our customer’s outcomes.
When considering how to build a service catalogue, it’s difficult to know where to start. It’s 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 possible approach:
- One business goal could be to achieve sales targets.
- What services are required from IT to enable this and enhance the chances of it happening?
- Identify the main services. These represent the customer view of the service catalogue entries.
- Then identify the supporting services needed for each of the main services. The customer just needs to know information about the main services and be happy that they are available when and where they need; 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 recommended sample headings are:
|Service name||A meaningful service name.|
|Status||E.g. Pipeline (planned, in development)/Operational/Retired|
|Classification||The classification based upon the criticality of the service to the organisation, 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 before publication of the service entry.|
|Priority levels||Relevant priority levels, e.g. P1, P2, P3, the expected timings attached to those levels 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 and unlimited other areas can be added as 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.
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