How to Develop a Service Catalog: The Service Catalog Workshop

Posted by Amanda Fairbrother Casteel on Jan 3, 2018 5:52:00 PM

In Service Catalog, Service Design, ITSM, ITIL

Let's start with a definition: What is a Service Catalog? I’ll keep it 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.

Why should I invest in a Service Catalog?

You may be thinking, “Calm down, Amanda. This does not seem that important. What’s the big deal?” First of all, don’t tell me to calm down. Secondly, if you don’t have a Service Catalog, your customers won’t have any idea what you offer.

Would you eat at a restaurant without a menu? How would you know what they made and what was fresh?

Would you want to work at a restaurant without a menu? How would you know what to order or what recipes to use?

No thanks!  To both of those if you ask me.

To put it bluntly, without a Service Catalog (or with a poorly designed one) you will undoubtedly have customer satisfaction issues (not unlike the poor Chef at Café NoMenu up there). If you’re still not convinced of how critical the Service Catalog is, here’s a slew of additional reasons.

What is a Service, anyway?

Many people get stuck along the way when designing and building their own Service Catalog, so don’t feel alone if you’re in this camp. When we get called in to do Service Catalog consulting, we often hear things like We tried to do it on our own but lost a few friends along the way.

This is incredibly common, and occurs in large part because so many people must be involved in order to capture all of the services IT offers. It inevitably leads to too many cooks in the kitchen (hooray for consistent analogies!), each of whom have their own opinion on what a Service is. Getting all of those people on board not only with which Services you offer, but how to categorize, group, and display them can be contentious and even divisive. I don’t know where you work, but I can’t imagine fostering contention and divisiveness among peers is in your company’s mission statement.

evil-2.pngWe developed our Service Catalog workshop to address this very pain point. In it, our ITIL-Expert certified consultants provide training around what constitutes a Service and how best to create or revise a Service Catalog. We then build a starter Catalog for you, which you can publish to your customers. As a final deliverable, we help you build a roadmap to institutionalize the knowledge gained in the workshop throughout your organization. We accomplish this in such a short time by breaking the process into three phases:

Phase One: Data Gathering & Analysis

> Gather information around Services currently offered
> Train staff on foundational Service Catalog concepts

First, we collect information on what services you currently have. We do this two ways: by taking a look at the documentation you currently have and analyzing tickets from your existing IT Service Management tools. This allows us to see how the Service Desk is currently classifying tickets. 

We use this information to facilitate further discussion through a two-day, group workshop. This involves getting stakeholders together in a room to discuss and agree on concepts, namely What is a Service. We spend the first part of the morning making sure everyone is on the same page and has a clear understanding of foundational concepts. Then, we jump into building the catalog.  

Everyone is provided with Post-it notes and one wall is setup as a giant, industry-specific sample Service Catalog, allowing us to jump right into practical examples, and looks something like this:


The Post-its allow ideas and Services to be easily moved around throughout the day. We then work through the big buckets of the Catalog and organize Services so they fit for your specific organization. It’s like putting together a huge jigsaw puzzle on the wall, creating an image that’s relevant to you and your customers. At the end of the workshop, we have something like this:


Ready to get started?
Give yourself a headstart with our Service Catalog Template!

Download the template 

Phase Two: Focus Groups & Refining the Catalog

> Create draft Service Catalog to serve as foundation for defining future Services
> Collect and incorporate IT and customer feedback

After the draft catalog is in place we meet with key stakeholders in the IT department, then customers, to discuss and review the Services and Service offerings. Getting feedback from your customers is so helpful because ultimately they will be the ones using the Service Catalog – and they WILL have opinions, strong ones. Gathering customer feedback early in the process helps in a number of ways: It allows for insight into the language they use and understand. It makes clear their preferences with respect to information formatting. It ensures the Catalog makes sense to them (trust me, that’s not something you want to find out six months down the road). And, most importantly, it increases the likelihood they will use it.

What we’ve found to be the best method for gathering this feedback is face-to-face focus groups. These sessions include an introduction to the Service Catalog as a concept, and discussion around how customers use IT Services. Many an A-ha! moment come from these sessions. They play a huge role in dramatically improving the quality of the Service Catalog. There truly is no substitute for getting the voice of the customer.

Phase Three: Deliver Roadmap & Publish Service Catalog

> Deliver actionable and maintainable Service Catalog and long-term roadmap

Armed with feedback from IT and customers, we then develop a final Service Catalog, one you can begin publishing, using, and building upon. As part of this last phase, we also create a customized roadmap for the overall Service Catalog process and other feedback we received along the way. The roadmap helps make sure you are equipped with ideas for keeping your brand new Service Catalog accurate and up-to-date, taking all of your hard work and making sure you have a way to keep the momentum going! 

Ready to start categorizing your Services? This template will save you some time.

 Download the Service Catalog Template