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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Key Activities in Service Catalog Management

In the previous two chapters, we saw What a Service Catalog is and its purpose & Objectives. In this chapter, we are going the learn the key activities that are taken up as part of Service Catalog Management

Service Catalog design

The Service Catalog, which is a key part of the Service Portfolio, is a central source of information about the services delivered or about to be delivered by the IT service provider.

However, because it is customer facing, the Service Catalog must include information that is important and of direct interest to the customer. Most importantly it must be in a language that the customer can understand. If too much technical information/jargons are used in it, the customer may not be able to appreciate it, not to mention understand it well.

The Service Catalog will include information such as:
• Details of Service and product offerings
• Availability
• Support services
• Support arrangements
• Key policies
• Terms and conditions
• Service Level Agreements
• Charges and prices
• Ordering and cancellation
• Future plans (e.g. where there are existing plans to phase out, replace or change a service).

The Service Catalog as a whole serves two purposes. First, it provides information on services to the customers of the IT service provider in a way that enables the customer to understand and make decisions about the services it uses or might wish to use. Second, it is a primary source of information for the IT service provider on the services it offers to its customers.
In many organizations, this dual purpose is reflected in the structure of the Service Catalog, which is divided into two main parts: a Business Service Catalog, which describes services in terms that are helpful and useful to the business, and a Technical Service Catalog, which describes services in terms that are useful and helpful to the IT side.

Where the Service Catalog is designed in this way, the Business Service Catalog is the part that is made available to the customer. The Technical Service Catalog may be shared with customers, but it is primarily intended for use internally by the IT service provider.

The Business Service Catalog

As a primary vehicle for communications between the IT service provider and its customers, the Business Service Catalog should be as easy to use as any good mail order Catalog. The Business Service Catalog will serve its purpose best if it meets its users’ requirements and this means engaging with the user community in requirement gathering and design. If the Business Service Catalog does not meet the customers’ needs, they will be unlikely to use it. Among other things, it is important that there is a common understanding of what the word ‘Service’ means.

What is often a source of confusion is that what the customer sees as a single service is most likely to be seen by the IT service provider as a mix of services, with a core service underpinned by supporting services.
The actual information included in the Business Service Catalog will vary from organization to organization, but most will contain information similar to below:

The design of the Business Service Catalog is always a balance between too much and too little information. There is sometimes a tendency to include information because it might be useful. The key point is to remember who is going to use it. Some customers may have the time to plough through hundreds of pages of fine detail, but most will have neither the time nor the inclination to do so. The answer is to be short and sweet, avoid jargons and acronyms and aim for ease of understanding rather than trying to impress the customer with technical brilliance.

The Technical Service Catalog

The Technical Service Catalog holds details of Services from an IT perspective, including a service description in IT terms along with details of the key components or Configuration Items (CIs) that make up the service and the relationship between them. It describes in technical terms the supporting services listed in the Business Service Catalog and explains the interrelationships and interdependencies between them. It should also include, if only by cross reference, details of relevant Operational Level Agreements (OLAs) and Underpinning Contracts (UCs). It will ideally include information on key personnel who are either responsible for or provide some kind of technical authority in respect of the service. The Technical Service Catalog is neither intended for nor usually made available to customers.

As with the Business Service Catalog, it is easy to put too much detail into the Technical Service Catalog. The important point in its design is to have a clear understanding of how the Technical Service Catalog will be put to use, remembering that more information generally means a higher maintenance and management cost. Listing all the technical staff who support a service might have some use, but people come and go, change roles, get promoted and so on, and this kind of detail easily gets out of date.

Prev: Purpose & Objectives of Service Catalog Management

Next: Service Catalog Manager

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