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Service Offerings and Agreements - Service Catalogs

What is the difference between a Business Service Catalog and a Request Fulfillment Catalog?  One clear way to distinguish the type of service catalog that is required is to ask yourself, who is your audience?  I have found that when a lot of IT organizations say that they have a Service Catalog many are talking about a service catalog for end users.  Another very important service catalog is one that is mapped to your business customer needs.  In this blog I will briefly discuss some characteristics of service catalogs for these very distinct audiences and for the purpose of clarity I will refer to them as Request Fulfillment and Business Service Catalog.

Request Fulfillment Service Catalog

Service providers today are striving to automate the first line support for user request fulfillment by providing self-help and also more importantly self-serve end user request fulfillment catalogs.  This self-serve catalog is the most common and allows users to fulfill requests directly from a web interface or some type of web portal.  Requests could be such things as ordering a laptop, cell phone, app upgrade and more.  The easy part of this type of catalog is configuring the tool or the web interface with all the eye catching and distinct options.  The more difficult and most critical aspect when considering this type of catalog is of course the fulfillment procedures.  To fulfill the request several request models will be required based on the type of request being made and these are a bit more difficult to configure.  A request model would contain pre-defined steps, sequences, handoffs, deliverables and detailed workflow for how this request is going to be fulfilled to ensure delivery in a timely manner.  Service providers will have to ensure that there are clearly defined policies for sign off and authorization based on the type of request or model that is being utilized.  For example, one request might require the manager of the user to authorize a request where other models might require the sign off of both a local manager and an executive manager.

Business Service Catalog

There is another type of service catalog that would be tied directly to business process and business outcomes.  One good approach to defining this type of catalog is to start from the top and work down to the IT elements that support your services.  To start from the top infers understanding what the business process is and what the user profiles are of those individuals who are performing the activities.  In other words we not only need to know what the activities in the process are but who is using them, where they are located and what is the peek time of usage.  Best practice is to start from the top down but also note that we would deliver from the bottom up.  Therefore, forecasting the projected business demand for those activities will also be useful to determine the IT services and components that will be required to fulfill those services.

A service description in the business view should describe the elements of a service in terms of functionality but also in terms of availability and security and possibly other elements that ensure warranty of the service.  Examples of IT service categories could include such things as Financial, Sales and Marketing.  These customers are very different than the end user who wants to upgrade their laptop.  Business services could include such things as Idea to Offer, Order to Quote, Logistics, etc.  It is suggested to determine your business processes, define the high level categories of business services and then define the business service and supporting services.  Starting at the top with the business services ensures alignment for creating or defining IT services.  Examples of IT services that support business services and processes might be services such as Application Hosting, Cloud Services, Support Services, Service Desk, Network Access...  These IT services will, at some point in the maturing and design process, be mapped to the IT components that support them.  These configuration items (CI's) would be the Servers, Applications, Switches and other CI's that support and are aligned with the IT/business services and processes.  Many organizations that start with the IT components and the IT services find that they have a lot of backward engineering and rework to complete in order to later map them to business processes and business outcomes.

The primary goal of IT Service Management is to deliver quality IT services that enable desired business outcomes.  To do this, service providers often face a precarious balancing act of managing customer relationships and requirements, understanding and managing demand and patterns of business activities, aligning internal and external suppliers and maintaining fiscal responsibility and sound IT investments.  Before embarking on any service catalog initiative know who your audience is and the desired business outcomes.  Scope is critical!

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