7 minute read

Service Catalog Best Practices: 7 Questions to Ask Yourself

Making the initial investment to create a Service Catalog can be difficult, especially if that investment isn’t seeing any return. The ROI for Service Catalogs can take time to realize – and maximizing it often requires interfaces with other ITIL processes. There are a number of reasons why Service Catalogs fail (and, thankfully, some pretty straightforward ways of fixing them). If you suspect your organization’s catalog may be underperforming, start by asking these questions to determine whether it needs an overhaul:

  • Do our customers rarely use our Service Catalog? 
  • Are our customers calling the Service Desk instead of using the Service Catalog? 
  • Are our reports inadequate because tickets are often mis-categorized?  

If you answered yes to any of these, keep reading. Below, I’ll cover some ways to pinpoint where your issue may be, and help you get started on the path to finding more value in your Service Catalog.

1. How many Services or Service Offerings do we have listed?

One common mistake that can make a Service Catalog confusing is having too many Services or items listed. In short, it’s too granular. The more choices you give someone, the harder it will be for them to make a selection. Having too many services listed is usually a symptom of another problem, so let’s do some digging to find out what you might be doing wrong.

2. Do we have Service Requests listed instead of Services?

  • A Service Request is a formal request for something to be provided.
  • A Service is a means of delivering value to customers by facilitating outcomes customers want to achieve without the ownership of specific costs and risks

Here’s an example: “Reset your Active Directory password” or “Reset your Windows password” are Service Requests and shouldn’t be listed as Services in your catalog.To put that in context, you might structure your service catalog thusly: A Service like Account Management may be tied with a Service Request called Password Reset, which may then bring a drop-down for a specific system.

Some additional tips to keep in mind: Not everything everyone does will be a Service! When first defining your Services, some departments’ work may not show up in your Service Catalog. This doesn’t mean those departments aren’t as important as others, it only means your customers may not need visibility into them.

Talk with your internal teams – and your customers – about what Services you provide to them. Keep the list simple and straightforward.

3. Do we have applications or systems listed as Services?

See question #1 above, your Service is not Skype, it is probably video conferencing. Skype is the tool you use to achieve the outcome of video conferencing. Remember, the Service is the outcome to your customer. In this example, the Service may be Video Conferencing and may have a request called Live Web Streaming or Audio/Visual Support.

4. Do we often hear our Service Desk saying, “You don’t have permission to make that request.”?

If so, you don’t have permissions set correctly on your catalog.

Imagine sitting down at a restaurant, reading the menu, and placing an order only to be told by the wait staff that you don’t have permission to order that item. This can cause confusion when placing orders for IT services and will most definitely reduce customer satisfaction with IT.

If you support multiple customer groups, each of which using different services, you should consider implementing a role-based Service Catalog view. For example, if there are several services only available to your HR department, do not show them to everyone. Sit down and hammer out your roles and identities – define who should see what.

5. If we did an impromptu quality check, do our reports show our operational efficiencies, or would we find a lot of mis-characterized tickets?

Services should not have multiple ways to be categorized. This can make it difficult for technicians to figure out how to categorize the ticket, and can also increase call and resolution times. Talk with your IT teams to define the appropriate categorization of tickets created by the Service Catalog. For example, “Printer setup” should be categorized as a Service Request whereas “Log a printer issue” should be categorized as an Incident. Just like with your services, make it simple and less error-prone for everyone.

6. Does our Service Catalog interface with other Service Management processes like Portfolio Management and Asset & Configuration Management?

Every Service should be defined as a configuration item (CI) in your Configuration Management System (CMS)? This will help the service desk better troubleshoot and route tickets. It will also help IT better execute root cause analysis. If yes, are you categorizing all Incidents and Requests by the Service? Are you relating all of your RFCs to your Services for monitoring?

The Service Catalog should be the base for everything that happens in Service Management so all reporting and all process should tie back to the Service it is supporting.

7. Is our Service Catalog Web-based?

This is not a deal breaker, i.e. putting up a version of a Service Catalog, even if it is not interactive, is better than nothing.  But obviously, your customers will prefer the Amazon style shopping that the ITSM tools currently offer. If your current tool cannot do this for you and would like to talk to one of our Cherwell experts about an affordable, but slick tool for your customers, you know what to do.

Got it. Now what?

Understanding your current services, processes, and categories is the first step toward finding improvements. Once you have well defined and refined processes in place, there are lots of ways to automate your catalog to become even more efficient. After the basics are figured out, don’t forget about the policy and governance – Do we have a Service Catalog policy? If yes, does it contain:

A lot of work goes into creating, maintaining, and enhancing a Service Catalog. If you’re stuck, ask for help. Our Service Catalog Workshop and coaching exist for exactly that purpose.

Ready to get going?

Our free template is an excellent place to start.
Download the template

Originally published January 01 2018, updated December 12 2019