The Case of the Missing 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.

In Service Catalog

You Will Hate Your ITSM Tool if You Don't get Your Service Catalog Nailed Down First

The demos always look so great. Such a gorgeous, shiny new tool! Vendors are fantastic at this. What they're less good at is giving you the hard truths around what has to be done before you should even think about implementing that gorgeous, shiny new tool. The reality is this: Your tool will never look like their demo database if you don’t get your Service Catalog squared away and have a clear understanding of what a Service is in the first place (this article will help you with that).

In Service Catalog, Process Improvement, ITSM Tools

Why a Service Catalog Workshop is Worth the Investment

Let's start with a definition: What is a Service Catalog, anyway? I’ll keep this relatively brief because we have
roughly one thousand (lie) other blog posts on the matter. A Service Catalog is one place to store all information about all IT services. Be it a database, a website, or a document, the key here is to have ONE location where everyone – IT staff and customers - can access it.

In ITIL, ITSM, Service Catalog, Service Design

Service Catalog: You're Doing it Wrong

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.

In ITSM, Service Catalog

How to Design a Service Catalog Students Will Actually Use

Like any Service Catalog Workshop worth its salt, ours includes a series of focus groups with each user demographic. Focus groups are a fantastic way to gather information, as the group setting tends to open up dialogue and (hopefully) healthy debate. We highly recommend them.

One crucial demographic to include in these focus groups when designing for schools is of course, students. We’ve conducted a number of student focus groups at major universities throughout the US over the past several years, and as a result have learned some fascinating things about their priorities and preferences. We’ve found ourselves surprised more than once. Let’s see if you are, too. Here’s a look at a few things we’ve picked up.

What do students need from IT?

This should be one of the first questions you ask in a focus group, as it helps illuminate the top reasons students interact with IT. Here’s what we’ve learned from this one. Students typically contact IT when they need/have:

// Password issues
// Internet access issues or questions
// Assistance with Antivirus software
// Advice on purchasing a new computer
// Access to applications or software updates
// Training or general How-To information

Why is this important? It gives you a better understanding of what students look for in a Service Catalog - what is important to them - and of course, what isn’t.

How do we get the word out?

This, to my surprise, is often one of the biggest concerns students have. Most students agree having an IT Service Catalog is a great idea, but they have concerns about distribution of the information. Doing all the hard work to create, develop, and publish your Service Catalog will go unnoticed if you don’t tell anyone about it. The most successful educational institutions have well executed marketing and awareness campaigns, so their customers know the Service Catalog exists and where to find it. The following ideas for spreading the word come directly from university students:

// Email campaigns
// Feature on the university website
// Heavy focus at Freshman Orientation
// Resident Assistant outreach

Without spreading the word, all of your efforts will be wasted! That’s not fun for anyone.

How do we make it usable for students?

Students care a lot about style. If your Service Catalog comes out unsightly or difficult to use, we can guarantee that students will not use it. Your students are coming from a wide range of backgrounds, and they are not all Computer Science majors. They want things in easy-to-understand, plain language . They also want it to look nice and neat, without a lot of clutter. Surprisingly, the students we spoke with asked for a clean look, even if it took more clicks to get to what they needed .

One MUST HAVE: Students want to know when they should expect a response to their request. Anticipated response times should be clearly listed. The last thing they want is to submit a service request through the service catalog only to have it disappear into a black hole, requiring them to call to the service desk for a status update. Students expect frequent and clear communication – both of which are key components of any service catalog.

Now for some miscellaneous feedback (both pros and cons) we’ve gathered from students:


// Students really love being able to submit requests after hours, versus having to wait for the Service Desk to open.

// The consistency of information provided by the Service Catalog is a huge pro for students and IT departments alike. Specifically, IT departments love having a single resource to which they can send students for information. An extension of this idea is the One Stop, which are (rightly) growing more popular on campuses, as they provide one central place to go for assistance.

// A Service Catalog can take out the guess work; we found out that students often call the wrong place for assistance and end up wasting time.


// Some students who were unhappy with the current level of support provided by IT saw the Service Catalog as another opportunity for IT to disappoint them. If you have an unhappy customer base, a Service Catalog can definitely improve customer satisfaction. However, it’s important to find the root cause of the dissatisfaction. You may find opportunities for improvement.

// Students were adamant about not wanting to see services they don’t need. Items relevant for Faculty or Administrative Support shouldn’t be listed in the Student Service Catalog, for instance. Role-based permissions for viewing are key to mitigating this.

As you can see, a lot of work goes into creating, maintaining, and enhancing a Service Catalog students will actually use. If you need assistance getting started, or assistance making improvements, our Service Catalog Workshop and coaching can help create one (or many) catalogs customers will get excited about!
In Service Catalog, Higher Ed

Service Catalog 101

Building a Service Catalog is one of those things you probably mean to do, but keep putting off (like going to the dentist or calling your mom). But imagine if you opened a restaurant without a menu? How would your customers know what you serve? How would you know which ingredients to order for the kitchen? That scenario is exactly what's playing out for organizations without Service Catalogs, except without the outraged Yelp reviews (that they know of).

A Service Catalog is an easy way to bring value to your organization while demonstrating the value you bring to it. All the more reason to have one in place. But, you’re probably wondering, where to start? We’re glad you asked, because we needed a way to introduce the following list of suggestions:

In Service Catalog

Service Catalog...Take One

A lot of the clients we work with struggle with their Service Catalog.  It can be a daunting task to come up with a menu of service offerings for your Service Desk.  But we know all too well how quickly productivity, customer satisfaction, and morale will plummet without defined services.  It is inevitable.  But where do you start?

In ITIL, ITSM, Service Catalog, Process Improvement