I’ve been meaning to write about service catalog for a year now but I’ve just not had the bandwidth. It’s a common subject for Forrester client inquiries, mainly for my colleague Eveline Oehrlich who has several formal service catalog management outputs scheduled for 2012. Undertaking a recent service catalog webinar with ServiceNow, however, made me realize that I had already created the content for a quick service catalog blog. Hopefully it’s a blog that will help many learn from the service catalog mistakes of others.

What’s the big issue with service catalogs?

Service catalogs (or more importantly service catalog management) really hit the mainstream with ITIL v3 (introduced in June 2007) based on real world use of early service catalogs. So they are nothing new. However, many organizations struggle to start (and finish) service catalog initiatives AND to realize the anticipated benefits. The answer for many lies in that last sentence – they need more than “service catalog initiatives.”

As an aside, I often ask attendees of my presentations: “who has a service catalog?”, “who is planning a service catalog?”, and “who feels they have realized the anticipated benefits from deploying a service catalog?” While the answers to the first two questions can vary, the answer to the third is pretty consistent – organizations are consistently failing to realize the expected benefits from their service catalog initiatives.

So what goes wrong?

In my experience there are four key issues

  1. It’s often seen as a technology project … “let’s buy a service catalog tool” rather than introducing service catalog management and enabling technology.
  2. Service definition is difficult – it’s too easy to focus on the IT.
  3. Aims can be ill-defined, fuzzy, or limited – a service catalog should be more than just a shopping basket.
  4. It’s created in IT’s ivory tower and then pushed out to the business with a victorious fanfare (but minimal uptake).

The result is the proverbial car crash waiting to happen.

So try to follow known good practices …

In vision and planning:

  1. Think service catalog management, not just service catalog.
  2. Service portfolio management should be the precursor to service catalog management. You need to understand end-to-end services.
  3. You need to be clear about the aims for service catalog management. It’s more than a list of services and components. It should be the link between the business and IT. Its content should have specific purposes.
  4. Importantly it is not about the technology. But the right technology will help once the people and processes are in place.

Start well:

  1. Getting the right people involved is key. This is the business’ service catalog not IT’s. IT should not drive the look and feel, or content of the service catalog. The business should.
  2. In setting objectives, you need to identify the issues you are trying to address (sounds obvious I know).
  3. It is not just a data collection exercise. There is a danger that a service catalog is like early-adopter CMDB 2.0 … where service data goes to die. Interestingly, for many organizations, service catalog has reignited the need for CMDBs.
  4. Think ahead – IT should also look at future exploitation in conjunction with HR and Facilities, say. As non-IT services can also be dealt with longer term.

Go beyond the Amazon-like shopping basket:

  1. Other ITIL processes will be needed to get the best out of a service catalog, such as: IT financial management (service costing through accounting), service level management, and configuration management.
  2. Consumption monitoring – allow your organization to make optimal supply decisions.
  3. Automation of provisioning – make IT delivery “better, quicker, cheaper.”

The latter two points are critical in realizing the anticipated benefits. In particular leveraging automation.

So, make sure you benefit from automation

It’s only a quick list (for Forrester clients more can be found in my recent Sustain Service Management And Automation Funding report), but automation exploitation can bring with it a raft of benefits:

  • The acceleration of process execution.
  • The reduction in human errors and the unwanted consequences.
  • The ability to rapidly adapt as both business and IT needs change.
  • Reduction in the cost of IT operations.
  • The ability to proactively respond to the shrinking "available resource pool.”
  • Freeing highly skilled and knowledgeable staff from the repeatable, mundane tasks. 




I said it would be a quick blog, mostly facilitated by the art of cut and paste, but hopefully it offers up some food for thought and gets anyone yet to start a service catalog initiative thinking beyond the technology. It will save so much heartache.

Finally, as always your comments are appreciated. What did I get wrong, what did I miss, and what would you underline for other readers? What mistakes did your organization make?

If you would like to see the original webinar on demand, please visit http://info.service-now.com/LP=518. Please note that this webinar requires registration.


If you enjoyed this, please read my latest blog: http://blogs.forrester.com/stephen_mann