Some years ago, I found myself part of an exercise to create a service catalog for the organisation I was working for. At the time it was decided that the best way to present IT products and services was to create a single taxonomy containing a hierarchical representation of IT’s wares…
If you have ever tried to create a useful taxonomy you would have quickly realised that it is extremely hard. Creating a consistent pattern of naming and categorisation that an end-user can navigate and understand is not a task for the faint-hearted.
What we created was a “menu” strongly influenced by the current organisational structures with naming influenced by vendor products and internal product names. The result was cumbersome, difficult to navigate and quickly out of date as items linked to the taxonomy changed.
The Opportunity – From Menu to Marketplace
Let’s take the example above and see if we can break it down and rethink how, with modern technology and thinking, it could be done differently.
Today, IT typically manages a more complex and diverse set of products and services. The rate of change in the enterprise is getting ever faster, and end-users’ expectations are higher. Unfortunately, it is not unusual for up to 40% of interactions with a Service Desk to be request related, due to a user’s inability to find an item they wanted to request.
While a catalog is still, in most cases, the right place to start, the way it is used must be rethought.
It is essential to move away from a static taxonomy (the menu) to a mindset where the marketplace is managed by the product or service owners at the speed of their business.
So how do we do this?
To get us started let’s think about some guiding principles:
- Embrace abstraction
Abstraction of the user from specific hardware and software is essential if you are driving a service / digital agenda. Once the user is distanced from the details and mechanics of delivery, items can more easily be swapped to improve quality, manage costs and to leverage new technology.
- Ontology not just Taxonomy
An ontology is the attempt to represent entities, with all their interdependent properties and relations. In our case that means not just representing a catalog item in a structure like:
but also including attributes, tags and relationships to other entities to support the end-user finding the right object. For example:
Attributes: GSM, 3G, 4G
Tags (used to make search more relevant)
Network, Wifi, Wireless, Bluetooth, Mobile, Cell, Handy, Cellular, Satellite, Movil, GSM, handphone
-> Related products -> (Charger, Headset, Laptop)
-> Knowledge -> Product guide, User Guide,
-> Community -> Community reviews, comments
An ontology provides more intuitive customer navigation, allowing users to see related items and what similar items other employees requested. It also supports improved search relevance and brings knowledge and user community information together in a single place. This supports both the end-user and the product owner as they work using the catalog.
- Empower the Product/Service Provider
Just as in a market, the person managing their stall should be able to change and adjust their business to suit the customer need. Giving the product/service provider the ability to manage their “wares” in a flexible yet controlled way enables the concept of a true marketplace.
The team at TESM has built an implementation of this digital marketplace capability, leveraging the ServiceNow platform. The Delegated Service Catalog enables organisations to bring the work experience in-line with the consumer experience, to deliver digital transformation and products and services through a user-friendly storefront.