The Case of the Missing Catalog

Posted by Bruce the Dragon on Jul 27, 2017 4:58:37 PM

In Service Catalog

Imagine you’re sitting in a restaurant and someone has just approached you to take your order. You try to consult the menu and discover there isn’t one. You don’t know what to order, or what you’ll get. You only know that things are getting awkward, that whatever you pick won’t be very good, and that you’re going to write a really, really bad review of the place on Yelp.

Sounds horrible, doesn’t it? And yet this is the kind of chaos and confusion your customers are experiencing right now if your service desk does not have a Service Catalog in place. Your customers may not be able to express their frustrations about this on Yelp, but they’ve likely wished they could. Instead, they probably talk about you to each other. (Are your ears burning?)

No doubt you’ve given some thought to creating a Service Catalog because it would give your customers a snazzy single source of information on all available IT services. Or maybe you thought about it because it is beneficial for your team, not to mention your organization, when it comes to reporting and knowing where and how to improve the services you provide. Yet, you’ve probably put it off because it is not particularly easy to create. We get that. After all, if it were, you wouldn’t be reading this right now. You’d be getting vital work done or building a really cool playlist of 90s hip hop on Spotify. (Ours is called Why Does Hip Hop Get Such a Bad Rap?)

But the longer you go without a service catalog, the harder it is for your service desk to demonstrate value to your organization, not to mention the fact that your customers either do not know what to expect of you, or potentially expect everything of you. Those kinds of expectations always lead to disappointment, like discovering sponges don’t actually live in pineapples under the sea. But what if you could develop a killer (in the figurative sense) service catalog in just six easy steps? Would you do it then? The good news is you can, and the even better news is this is how you resolve the case of the missing Service Catalog:

Six Steps to Service Catalog Glory

Step One

Define your stakeholders: This is probably the most important step you will undertake in this process, but it is the one that most organizations skip. For that reason, we’re putting it first in this list to ensure you won’t skip it too. (You won’t, right?)

Stakeholders are the people that use your services, and they want to know what is available to them. If you take the time to understand them and their perspectives, the odds are good you will build a catalog that meets their needs, not one filled with things that IT thinks is cool. Not to say that an IT-driven list wouldn’t be cool, but sometimes you have to be selfless and think of your customers. 

Once you define your stakeholders, it’s time to get RACI (yes, it is pronounced “racy”). I know how risqué that sounds, but it means creating a Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, and Informed model. This is an opportunity to define your responsibilities and get the whole process started by selecting a service catalog owner—someone who will oversee the project and maintain the catalog once it is in place. It could be the service desk manager, or you could assign the responsibility to a team. It’s up to you, as is how you chose who will own the catalog. Just maybe avoid a hotdog eating contest or dance off (although Phil’s got moves, amiright?).

Step Two

Define your lines of services: You know how menus have headers like appetizers, entrees, and desserts? Lines of services are like that, but don’t use those specific headers because grouping services as ‘appetizers’ would be confusing for your customers. Not to mention weird (but yummy).

Speaking of customers, you’ll want to take their perspectives into account as you define your lines of service. After all, they’re the ones doing the ordering, so it helps if they fully understand what you offer before they place an order. That can be tough to do if you have a lot of customers, in which case a survey or focus groups will deliver all the insights you need to get started and save you from a lot of awkward conversations.

Ultimately, the lines of services you come up with may not be the ones you display to your customers when your catalog goes live, but you have to start somewhere, and this is better than a blank page and having people make wild guesses, as that could take a while.

Step Three

Create a Service Catalog Template:  Once you have figured out your lines of service, you’ll need to build the catalog, which will help you define your services and your service level agreements. If the task seems daunting, we have a template you can download because we think of everything. You’ll then be able to determine which services should be customer-facing and which ones should be IT-facing, depending on your business and your customers’ needs.

As you build your catalog, you’ll want to choose a service catalog owner to manage it and identify service owners—points of contact for the catalog owner should any services change. Your service owners may be a little nervous that their contact information will be included in the catalog. But the data you gather is not necessarily the data that will be displayed to customers, so maybe reassure them that no one will call or visit them at their homes.

Step Four

Define and categorize services: Now that your template is in play, it’s time to fill it with services. But before you can do that, you need to define them. And to do that, you’ll need to get your stakeholders together in one room, unless you have, say, 50,000 stakeholders. In which case, we recommend you choose a representative sample of 10-12 stakeholders, otherwise you’ll have to rent a nearby football stadium to accommodate everyone, and they’ll probably all expect refreshments and half-time entertainment.  You could also consult with your IT department about the most common requests they receive, or perform a ticket analysis, but your customers are ultimately the best resource you have to define your services in a way that makes sense to them (remember, they’re the ones who need them).

Once you have these insights, you can start to categorize your services. Now, your killer service catalog is basically done, and it only took you four steps. You should totally celebrate, except you’re not quite done.

Step Five

Publish: Funny thing about a service catalog: you need to publish it for it to have any value, which is why this article has six steps, not four.

You might be reluctant to publish your catalog if you do not have a system in place that enables customers to place orders. But there are compelling reasons to go ahead and do it anyway, even if you just launch with a Word document. For one, it helps your customers understand what you do. For another, it sets expectations. Plus, it enhances the value of IT in your customers’ eyes because they can finally see all the items they want to order. And maybe ones that aren’t available to them. For that reason, consider publishing your catalog based on role-based views so no one asks ‘hey, why can’t I have that?’ That never goes well.

Step Six

Process design, integration, and continual service improvement: A catalog is like personal hygiene; if you don’t keep up with it things get stale and kind of funky. Start by developing a policy that outlines elements such as how often you’ll review your catalog, when to add new services, and when a service should be removed. It also helps to make your catalog a configuration item (essentially, an asset that is tracked) so that no changes are made without a request and approval process.

You should also integrate your service catalog with your IT Service Management (ITSM) platform, which will facilitate automation of your catalog through a self-service portal. This will free up your service desk to take on more vital tasks (none of which should involve Spotify playlists). Even authorizations can be automated, such as a request to access a shared drive. This will not only reduce the number of calls your service desk receives but also enable you to track how many people request a particular service. You can then tie that into your workflows, as if you needed another reason to start building your Service Catalog right now.

Well, not quite right now. There are a few other things to consider first. One is how you will display your services and lines of services. You could just put all of them up so customers can find what they are looking for, or you could highlight your 10 most popular services at the top of the webpage, which will often resolve up to 70% of customer issues, and list the rest of your services below. Think of it as providing both the greatest hits and deep cuts. Also, since customers will be using it, it never hurts to get their feedback on the catalog before you roll it out, because they’ll have opinions on it, even if they cannot post them to Yelp (‘5 stars!! would totally order services from them again!’).

One last thing to consider: as you begin to build your catalog, you may think you have too much information to display, or not enough. Whatever you have, start there; it may not be ideal, but remember that your catalog will evolve and improve over time. So it is better to start with what you have than not get started at all, not to mention better than reading another article in six months or so reminding you that you really should have a service catalog in place.

There, you’ve solved the case of the missing Service Catalog, all without the help of a talking dog and his hippie friend.