Having spent the best part of 15 years being a consumer of service catalogs and more recently building them, I have come to the realisation that they are by far the most complicated undertaking within the standard IT Service Management suite of Incident, Problem, Change and Configuration.
I can already hear people exclaiming it isn’t, so I shall try and explain why.
The catalog is made up of several interconnecting pieces. To be successful you need to get them all lined up and working in harmony.
Let’s look at why each part is important:
A catalog adds no value to the business if users can’t get to it. That is why a portal is important vital. But as soon as you embark on one of those you get asked to work with the consumer experience team, the colouring-in team, and the ‘which portal should be the portal of portal’ teams. That is enough to keep a few people busy….
If users can’t find things, they can’t request them and that means your catalog adds no value to the business. Or worse they call the service desk and start to cost your organisation more money. But search is only as good as the keywords, tags and associated meta-data that go along with each item, so you need to ensure you are gathering that data. You also need to measure how good the search is and improve it over time. That feedback loop is the key, because people change how they ask for services over time and the services themselves change. In the marketing space search engine optimisation (SEO) is a capability you pay a lot of money for, so it is little wonder that ITSM teams struggle to be good at it.
When a service is requested you need to gather the right data. If you are asking for a phone you might need to know the tariff you require, if you are requesting a server you might need to know how much RAM it has. Simple stuff. Until of course the CX team ask you to make it simpler and frictionless. You start to derive the data you need from the CMDB to shrink the number of questions. You don’t need to ask the user what kind of PC they have because your CMDB knows what they have. The next step is to decide to re-scope your items to match the services you offer so you no longer have one request for a PC with a type field you have three separate requests. Then you don’t need to ask the user anything at all. No one approach is the right approach across the board, so you need to work out when to use each one. It’s time consuming.
The subject of approval is a complex one, so for now I am going to assume that at least some of your items require approval, and that the process of approval is slow and unreliable. At this stage all of the hard work you have put into the portal, search and data gathering is lost because the item is never approved, and the user doesn’t get the service they requested. Worse still, they assume the platform is terrible for “losing the ticket” blissfully unaware that a mere mortal is the cause of all their issues, and it is probably their manager…. To solve this, you are going to have to change the entire approval culture in your company. For those of you that started off thinking change is hard, I agree with you.
Last but by no means least, is fulfilment. This is the part where the work gets done, assuming you have managed to line up all the other items. With a catalog project most organisations view it as an opportunity to introduce automation and to reduce the time it takes to deliver a service. So that means you need to redefine how every team in the organisation does their work, either by handing it off to orchestration, or perhaps pushing it back to the end-user to self-serve. The human element is complex before you consider building all the workflows to deliver the automation and ensure it is resilient. Even without automation you need to be sure each item will be handled in a timely manner and that someone is responsible for completing it. Requests are often seen as less important than incidents and changes and that means they end up languishing at the bottom of people’s queues. To be successful you need to manage and change that behaviour.
So, if it is so complicated to achieve why bother? The answer is that done right it will save you money and improve the perception of IT. It is also a great enabler for the next wave of technology, chatbots and artificial intelligence.
In the next blog I’ll talk about approaches that you can take to be successful.