As we move towards the end of 2015, businesses have already started planning for next year. IT teams should be well on their way to putting together strategic plans on how to use existing and new technologies to empower their organisations once the new year begins. One thing that is often overlooked during the planning phase is a review of the service catalogue which documents all the services the IT department can deliver.
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A service catalogue is a list of services that IT departments offer to their organisations and is often broken down by what the services can do for users or business units, prices and directions on how to request them. It is generally written in two views: one is end-user focused while the other is more technical and documents what is required to deliver each service. Essentially, the catalogue provides clear definitions of IT services.
By now you might be thinking "Oh great, more documentation". Let’s face it, IT documentation is not exactly fun. But a services catalogue is a bit different and can serve to communicate the value of IT departments and what they do to their respective organisations.
"In essence, most IT departments manage systems, not services. Or if they are they usually can't demonstrate that they are doing so, particularly in business language," independent management consultant Barclay Rae said. "… A service catalogue is seen as a means to define and build the structure of services that all IT departments need to deliver and to demonstrate value."
A service catalogue is not just a request catalogue which many IT departments operate on. It's more detailed and connects IT services to business outcomes. If your organisation doesn't have an IT service catalogue yet, the first step is to take inventory of all the services the company offers along with services that you plan to offer in the next few months.
You will then need to define each service based on what they are, how they are consumed and why they carry a certain price tag. How services are classified and organised will depend on a number of factors including size of your company, business needs and end-user requirements.
For companies that already have a service catalogue in place that has been collecting dust for some time, it's a good time to revisit it now since consumption patterns of IT services have changed a lot in recent years.
"IT infrastructure teams should look at their current service catalog and assess whether it offers the types of services that will most benefit the company and provide the best return on investment," CEB Infrastructure Leadership Council managing director Mark Tonsetic. CEB is a technology and management consultancy firm.
He recommends IT teams ask themselves the following questions as part of their service catalogue review:
- Do our service definitions and service level agreements reflect real customer need?
"The first service catalogues, over a decade ago, were limited to larger-scale, slow-to-change, and fairly uniform service offerings," Tonsetic said. "These core services haven’t gone away, but service demands have also become more diverse, 'experiential', and often disposable — in ways that aren’t captured by highly technical definitions, or gold/silver/bronze-style service level agreement (SLA) categorisation."
He suggests putting the catalogue forward to focus groups that consists of high-priority end-users and see if they can recognise and understand what kind of services they will need to request from IT to help them meet the needs they anticipate over the next quarter.
- Are our costs — and cost drivers — as simple to understand as the price table on Amazon Web Services, or the price tags on Amazon.com?
We're not talking about listing out exact costs here. Justifying costs to the finance team might be important but when it comes to your everyday business user, simplicity is what should be considered. This leads to more questions that you'll need to answer:
- Do I understand how cost differences between services (or between options within a service) relate to “what I get,” without excessive technical description?
- Can I compare these costs easily to external alternatives?
- Do I have a clear sense of what’s behind those costs (e.g., support requirements), and what I can do to improve my total bill of service?
- Are service consumers clear on how they can engage with us? The service catalogue should also include information on how users can engage with the IT team. This can lead to opportunities for IT Infrastructure to educate, take in valuable feedback and provide more consultative services to the rest of the business, according to Tonsetic.