What is Service Catalog?

Service catalog is a list that outlines the services the IT team offers to end-users.

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What is a service catalog like? 

Service catalogs may have different forms. The simplest one is a list of services plus instructions on how to obtain these services. Let’s look at the Catalog of Technology Services by one of the schools of Rutgers University as an example. In this catalog, you can see the IT department’s services for teachers and students. Service items are clickable and mostly direct users to external resources, like the website of the university library.

In other cases, service catalogs may be more complex, like usa.gov – the official web portal of the United States federal government.

This service catalog acts as a navigating point for visitors. The “home page” lists groups of services. By clicking at any of them, you land at a page that describes the service domain. Rather than giving a way to request a service, the “upper layers” of this catalog provide informational support, including, for example, questionnaires to find out whether you are eligible for a service or not. And you will have to go through multiple “layers” before you can actually request a service.

IT services are typically offered via a self-service portal where end-users can quickly find and request services through a user-friendly interface.

Service Catalog and Service Request Management

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Service request management – key terms

Once a user requests a service through the service catalog, the system creates a service request. ITIL determines service request management as a set of procedures to handle repetitive service requests. The sequence of steps needed to fulfill a service is called service request fulfillment.

The service catalog links the end-user, the service, and the service request fulfillment.

In ITIL,  a service request is just one of many request types the IT team may receive. A service request is a request from an end-user for something new, such as software or hardware access. Service requests can be repetitive, compared to incidents, changes, and problems. This is one of the reasons IT support teams often automate service request fulfillment.

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Service request fulfillment automation

You might have heard that a service catalog will help you automate service request fulfillment. Yet, to be precise, it is merely a list of services and doesn’t automate anything. The IT team needs to go the extra mile to implement automation.

When creating a service catalog, the IT team must previously standardize all services. They will list and group all services they provide.

Then, for each service, they will describe the following:

  1. The steps required to fulfill the request and deliver the service.
  2. The people who will approve the service at different stages.
  3. The information needed to complete the service.

The way to automation might be complex and include multiple steps, but modern ITSM solutions help to streamline this process by utilizing workflow automation tools.

icon of the person connected to the other person and gear via book ( aka service catalog)

Automation plus human work

The so-called request fulfillment automation doesn’t exclude the participation of IT staff. It could be more accurate to say that the automation of routine tasks helps teams deliver services more efficiently.

Let’s take an example: an equipment purchase request. A marketing specialist James is creating a service request to get a new laptop. To fulfill this request, the system will ensure that James’ manager approves of the new laptop and find out the configuration of the desired device. James’ manager is receiving notification in the form of an approval request and can approve or decline it. Once the manager has approved, a warehouse staff member receives an update. His task will be to find the right laptop and arrange its delivery to James. James’ laptop request is automatically added to his task list with a deadline. The closer the deadline, the higher the priority of the task list.

Apparently, people still participate in the request fulfillment process. But the system takes over the coordination of various staff members. Automation allows for a fast process without human error, which, in turn, improves customer experience.

Service Catalog and Support Portal

Self-service portal software is often integrated with a service catalog. The service catalog is connected to the self-service portal software in the sense that the software uses information from the service catalog to display the available services to end-users. The self-service portal software may provide a searchable interface for accessing the services listed in the service catalog, as well as a way for end-users to request and track the status of those services.

The connection between the self-service portal software and the service catalog helps ensure that end-users have easy access to the services they need, while also helping the organization track and manage the demand for those services. This can help improve the efficiency and effectiveness of IT service delivery, as well as the overall customer experience.

Service Catalog and CMDB

A service catalog is often connected to a Configuration Management Database (CMDB), which is a database that stores information about an organization’s IT infrastructure. The CMDB is typically used to track and manage the configuration of hardware and software assets, as well as their relationships to one another.

The connection between the CMDB and the service catalog is that the catalog is populated with data from the CMDB so that it may provide an extensive list of all the services that are available to customers, clients, or workers. If a service in the service catalog requires access to a specific software application, then the CMDB can be used to monitor the health of that application and any other assets it relies on.

Service Catalog and Service Desk

A service catalog is typically part of a Service Desk, which is a central point of contact for IT service requests and incidents. The Service Desk is responsible for managing the end-to-end lifecycle of IT services, including incident management, problem management, and request fulfillment.

The service catalog is an important part of the Service Desk because it provides a comprehensive list of the services that are available to customers, clients, or employees, along with information about how to request and access those services. This helps ensure that end-users have easy access to the services they need, and it helps the Service Desk track and manage the demand for those services.

In contrast, a help desk is typically focused on providing technical support to end-users, rather than managing the end-to-end lifecycle of IT services. While a help desk may offer some basic services to end-users, such as troubleshooting and problem resolution, it is not typically responsible for managing the full range of IT services offered by an organization. You can read about differences between help desk and service desk here.

Therefore, the service catalog is typically part of the Service Desk, rather than the help desk, because it is focused on managing the full range of IT services offered by an organization, rather than just providing technical support to end-users.

The role of service catalog in Enterprise Service Management

The service catalog might be a point of access not just to IT services but to services provided by any other department.

Enterprise Service Management is a process of applying ITSM practices to departments beyond IT. ITSM considers the IT team a service provider for other departments, while the employees of those departments are the IT team’s clients. When ITSM proved efficient for the IT team’s performance, executives started transferring its principles into other business functions. Eventually, other teams like HR, Finance, Facilities, and Sales also deliver services to the rest of the company. And they want to ensure their services are top-notch because that shows their value for the business.

The service catalog is a simple means for departments other than IT to give the rest of the company access to their services. It is especially relevant for departments whose services, like IT services, apply to all employees and can be automated due to their nature. Service catalogs have become a go-to option in many companies for services like onboarding a new employee and requesting days off and sick leaves.

groups of people stand and work at computers on posts that rest on folders of the the service catalog

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What are the benefits of service catalog

In line with ITIL, implementing a service catalog should help achieve business goals. So let’s look more closely at how it helps the business’s main purpose.

What are the benefits of service catalog for end-users

Here is how the service catalog will improve the customer experience of the end-users:

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End-users have better visibility of IT services available to them

With a list of IT services available, your employees won’t waste time googling or asking for a solution. Instead, they’ll sooner come to a place where service delivery is standardized. Eventually, they will solve their problems faster and achieve more in their primary role.

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The process of requesting services for end-users is simplified.

Service catalogs offer convenient ways to request services – often without interacting with an agent. Compared to a process where there is a need to write an email or make a phone call, it is a game changer.

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Shorter times from requests to resolutions.

Because automation is in place and the IT team works faster, the end-users also receive a solution ASAP.

From the standpoint of the IT team, the following things will change with the introduction of the service catalog:

What are the benefits of service catalog for IT team

From the standpoint of the IT team, the following things will change with the introduction of the service catalog:

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IT services for customers are easier to deliver since they are standardized.

This leads to shorter ticket resolution times and eventually decreases costs for the IT team.

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The IT team is doing less routine work.

When service delivery is automated or at least standardized, IT staff can focus on more complex tasks instead of mechanically coordinating the efforts of different people.

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Better task management in the team: routine requests are treated separately from complex incidents.

Service catalog helps segment requests into more and less urgent, separating ordinary tasks from unusual ones, even before the actual work has started. Therefore, internal resources are better organized.

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More data and insights collected with standardized services

With a service catalog in place, performance metrics can be collected with regard to the type of the service. For example, this can be leveraged to display the estimated delivery time of a particular service so that users can manage their time better.

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Last but not least: the IT team gets a tool to promote the results of their work at the organizational level.

With a service catalog, it is easier to illustrate how much the IT team is doing for corporate success.

What are the benefits of service catalog for business

Implementing a service catalog has a number of business advantages that can increase an organization’s productivity, enhance the customer experience, and make better use of its resources.

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Improved efficiency

A service catalog can help streamline processes by clearly spelling out what services are available and how to request them. This can save time and reduce confusion.

More transparency

A service catalog can help a company be more open by clearly outlining what services are available, how much they cost, and how to get them. This can improve communication and reduce misunderstandings.

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Happier customers

A service catalog can make it easy for customers to find what they’re looking for, leading to a better overall experience.

Better resource allocation

A service catalog can help a company figure out which services are in high demand and allocate resources accordingly. By tracking usage and demand, a company can identify areas that need more resources and make sure they get them.

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