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October 26, 2005

Re-Emergence of the Service Catalog

Boris By Boris Pevzner

I was recently at a meeting with fifteen Fortune 100 CIOs, discussing with them my vision for service delivery management around the Service Catalog.  Most of the heads in the room were nodding in agreement, but the CIO of one of the Big-Five accounting firms took issue with me: “Service Catalogs? – that’s noting new.  We’ve had a Service Catalog for the last ten years!”

After some quizzing, it became clear that what he was referring to was a list of available services, applications and capabilities delivered and supported by the IT organization.  It’s true that such “inventories of services” were quite popular with IT organizations 5-10 years back, as this gave IT shops an illusion of being in control of the services they were delivering.  However, these “inventories” (usually an Excel spreadsheet) quickly turned out to be not maintainable (falling out of sync with reality soon after their initial creation), not actionable (lacking service request and fulfillment mechanisms), isolated (usually merely a point of reference used primarily in the help desk function) – and thus ultimately destined to failure.

Enter the “IT-Business Alignment” imperative of the last three years: the need for IT organizations to become more “customer-centric” by aligning the services IT delivers with the most critical business functions of the organization.  This alignment has prompted a resurrection of the Service Catalog as a means to capture and communicate those linkages.  In fact, in many leading-edge companies today, the trend has been toward positioning the Service Catalog as the central element in the ITIL/ITSM service delivery models.  In the words of the CTO of a large Federal government agency, “The vendors and IT operations alike have recognized that continual state of change and agility are a way of life in today’s IT world and that the Service Catalog provides the basis from which these changes can be managed.”

Service Catalogs are now being offered (by vendors like my company, Lontra) as a robust capability that no longer simply capture a list of services but also facilitates:

  • Operational Level Agreements, Service Level Agreements (internal & external customer expectations)
  • Catalogs of supporting and underlying infrastructures and dependencies (including direct links into the CMDB)
  • Hierarchical service models
  • Process driven modeling and provisioning (workflow). 

This is a long way from the old “inventory of services” spreadsheet!   Unfortunately, the terminology can be confusing… even if you are the CIO of a Big-Five accounting firm!

Posted on October 26, 2005 | Permalink


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Perhaps service catalogs is too simple a name--suggesting a mere inventory of services. What you outline with your bulleted comments is more of an IT services improvement framework. Just terminology, as you say. The proof would be in how well companies actually perform on SLAs, etc., with this sort of thing in place.

Posted by: Roberto Michel | May 27, 2005 8:46:45 AM

Roberto, you are bringing up an excellent point. A few related thoughts:

1) Here are a few analyst quotes that you may find relevant, because they link service management / IT productization / service catalog directly with business value (emphasis added):

  • Gartner: “The IS organization could achieve as much as 48% reduction in its annual total cost of ownership by adopting IT service management principles.” ... “IT service management is a foundation capability for climbing the ‘IS credibility curve,’ and is therefore critical to long-term survival.”
  • Giga: “Companies that have implemented Service Delivery Management tools have saved 30% to 40% of the cost of these services, reduced the time to deliver services by 50% and improved quality between 25% and 40%.” ... “Service catalogs are the heart of IT service delivery; in fact, they are (or should be) the heart of any service delivery organization within the enterprise.”

2) Here are some “improvement metrics data” that my company collected from a customer who implemented a service catalog based IT delivery system (ours, as it happens!):

  • 83% Reduction in delivery errors
  • 30% Reduction in operations costs
  • 35% Improvement in IT Service Levels

3) When talking to CIOs from the manufacturing sector, I oftentimes hear them talking about “assembling” services (e.g. “employee onboarding”) out of standardized “service and resource components” (e.g. equipment, facilities, network services, etc.) using “factory-like workflows” that are measured using “manufacturing-like KPIs” (some have even adapted Six Sigma to IT, “defect” counting and all). In general, CIOs tend to use analogies that are closest to what their business is about. I wrote about this in my blog awhile back.

Posted by: Boris Pevzner | May 27, 2005 7:08:08 PM

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