How to create an IT service catalog

An IT service catalog is a menu of services offered by an IT organization. Get the FAQs on how to implement an IT service catalog and automate the service request process.

An IT service catalog is a clearly defined list of IT services. The catalog provides a means for business users to request or purchase any of these services, and for IT to streamline delivery of those services on the back end. Although it's not always used in conjunction with the IT Infrastructure Library framework, the IT service catalog was introduced in ITIL v3 as a best practice for service management.

There are three types or views of IT service catalogs, according to Troy DuMoulin, associate vice president at Pink Elephant, an ITSM consulting group in Burlington, Ontario:

  • The first is for a business customer who is looking for information about a service, including its value and price. The business customer is usually looking at bigger projects and long-term spending. The customer works closely with IT to customize a spending plan and forecast future needs.
  • The second view is for the end user. This type of catalog view features icons with information on what services are available, how to order them and when they will be delivered.
  • And finally there is an IT view, which provides more technical information on the security, disaster recovery and access control information surrounding the service offerings.

In this FAQ, learn more about the process of setting up an IT service catalog, what tools and software are required to get started and how to obtain executive support for this initiative.

  How do you start an IT service catalog? Menu

Taking inventory of all the services IT offers, such as general IT services, email, messaging, storage and hosting, is key to creating an effective IT service catalog. Each service should be listed individually and then within a hierarchy. For instance, ordering a new laptop involves not just the laptop purchase but also virus protection, business applications and other peripheral services.

Once you've determined which IT services you are currently offering, you need to ensure that they meet the needs of the lines of business that consume them. Ask the business units, "Is this a good list or are there other things you want?" suggested Evelyn Hubberts, a senior analyst at Forrester Research Inc. Knowing your customers' requirements will help you determine the schedule for delivering the service request, as well as a fair price tag on how much the service will cost.

All of these requirements should be determined up front before moving on to setting up the IT service catalog or selecting a tool to manage it. "Don't talk about a tool or software till you know what your services are first," said DuMoulin.

   Review a list of available IT service catalog examples and templates.

  What is required for setting up an IT service catalog? Menu

Ideally, you should have a process owner in IT to manage the implementation and ongoing use of the IT service catalog. "The IT service catalog manager should understand what a service definition is and have an ITIL background," said Hubberts. This person should also be able to connect with the business and have some financial understanding of what each service should cost and what the business units can afford to pay. The IT service catalog manager is sometimes one person or can be a group of people in a larger organization.

In addition to having an IT service catalog manager, you should have some workflow software in place before launching the catalog. The workflow software serves as the back end to automate the processes of delivering each service in the catalog.

   Read more about the role of the IT service catalog manager.

  Do you need software to manage a service catalog? Menu

Many vendors offer ITIL or IT Service Management (ITSM) software and/or workflow software that can be used when implementing and managing an IT service catalog. The pure-play vendors in this space include newScale Inc., Digital Fuel Technologies Inc. and Oblicore Inc. Many of the other major IT vendors, such as CA Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Co., also offer ITSM suites and tools for creating service catalog processes.

The various tools are used for provisioning processes, automating the service request for delivery and managing requests for fulfillment lifecycle. Some companies are even using cloud-based tools or Software as a Service offerings to manage their IT service catalog presentation and processes. According to DuMoulin, an online actionable service catalog is a key component to a cloud strategy that supports the ordering, approving, provisioning and billing of cloud-based software and infrastructure services.

   Find out more about using cloud computing for automating IT service catalog requests.

  How does the service catalog help the service desk? Menu

An IT service catalog can greatly reduce service desk interruptions such as calls from users asking "Where's my stuff?" because users can track their requests electronically. That allows IT to focus on more important tasks. "When you streamline the service entry process and there is one way to receive a service request, understand the costs, track who is working on it, it allows IT to better plan for the future," Hubberts said. Using an IT service catalog also helps companies get a better financial picture and lets them go back to the business and show trends in spending and usage.

   Read more about the uses of the service catalog by the IT service desk.

  Do you need a CMDB with an IT service catalog? Menu

No, you don't need a configuration management database (CMDB) to implement a service catalog, but it's a good idea. "Using a CMDB for your IT service catalog should be the goal," DuMoulin said. "Ideally, you'd like to have objects in a CMDB and the IT service catalog will pull from them."

A CMDB and ITIL configuration management help automate the processes for the service requests. A CMDB can support the services. It becomes helpful for service as you define your overall portfolio.

   Learn more about using a CMDB with a service catalog.

  How do you get support for an IT service catalog? Menu

You have to begin with a conversation about how IT is adding value to the business, suggested Hubberts. An IT service catalog provides the vehicle for IT to add value to the business by identifying services, aligning costs and streamlining processes.

An IT service catalog will make things more efficient for IT and for business users. It provides a place for business people to go, order and monitor the delivery of their requests, and for IT to bring together disassociated procedures. "What you'll find out is that when you begin defining your services, you have redundant services," said DuMoulin. "You're living with a lot of waste, and not many executives will want to live with that."

   Read more about the importance of an IT service catalog.

  How often should you update your service catalog? Menu

An IT service catalog should be updated as often as new services are introduced or updated. That's why it's important to have a dedicated IT service catalog manager or group that continuously monitors the service offerings on a monthly basis or more often, if needed.

Regularly updating and reviewing your IT service catalog also makes it easier to meet various compliance and governance requirements.

   Find out more about how an IT service catalog can be a central component for IT governance.

Read more on Regulatory compliance and standard requirements