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Service Catalog: A Complete Guide

Service catalog
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As information technology continues to digitize businesses with the latest innovations, the role of IT departments has also evolved far beyond their traditional support function. IT now plays a vital role in streamlining crucial operations and driving growth and innovation – all while creating more value for customers and employees. 

IT departments also focus deeply on providing core IT services across organizations to help ensure the smooth running of business operations. Some of these services include the deployment and provisioning of IT assets, providing access to software applications, troubleshooting, performing repair and maintenance activities on hardware devices, and carrying out replacements for assets that have reached the end of their lifespan. All such services can be managed through service catalog to streamline service desk processes for employees and IT teams.  

What is a service catalog?

Service catalog is a central repository of all the standard IT services that are offered to employees in an organization. It allows users to easily request a hardware device, report a faulty asset, or avail any other service listed on the catalog through a user-friendly interface. Some of the standard IT services offered via a service catalog include new hardware requests, software installation and updates, password resets, access requests, and troubleshooting. 

By providing a comprehensive view and access to the IT services, organizations promote a culture of self-service, improve service delivery, and enhance employee satisfaction. Additionally, having a service catalog in place makes request fulfillment and ticket resolution much easier and faster for the service desk agents as well. 

Let’s delve deeper into service catalog examples, common workflows, components, and benefits to understand how it can bring value to your end users, IT teams, and the organization on the whole. 

Components of a service catalog

Service catalogs vary from business to business based upon how they were created, what components they have, and what the end goal is. Let’s begin by diving into the components of a standard service catalog to get a better idea of what constitutes a service catalog and how these components come together to form a central repository of services and add value to the business processes: 

1. Service offerings 

Whenever end-users open their service catalog portal, they are able to view a list of services offered by the IT department. In most cases, the end-users are employees so their service catalog usually contains service offerings like hardware and software requests, software upgrades, troubleshooting, reporting a faulty device, and more. 

2. Service Categories 

In major enterprises, IT departments have a more sophisticated service catalog outlining a varying number of services. In order to help the employees navigate through these offerings quickly and efficiently, these services are grouped together and sorted into categories. For example, there can be one category for all types of hardware related services, and another one for access requests. 

 3. Service request forms

Whenever a user wants to avail a service offering, they have to fill out a form that outlines the necessary information required by the service agent. These predefined templates are already stored in the system and vary from service to service. For example, if an employee is requesting access to an internal knowledge base, they’ll have to fill out the form, explaining why they need access, and for how long. 

4. Service descriptions

Every service offering comes with a detailed description of what that service entails, how long it takes to fulfill the service request, and details of any additional costs and associated Service Level Agreements (SLAs).

5. Service costs

While some services like password resets or software installations don’t have any associated costs, other services such as new hardware requests, or a software license seat have a cost structure. Most organizations don’t make this component visible to the employees and only the IT team monitors the service costs for better budgeting and procurement forecasting. 

6. Approval workflows 

Every service has a different approval workflow depending upon the type of service request, its designated approver and several other factors. Once a service request is generated, it is passed on to the reviewers and other stakeholders before it is fulfilled. 

7. Knowledge base

Some organizations include a knowledge base in their service catalog to encourage self-service. This aims to decrease the average resolution time and eliminates the reliance on IT team members for every minor service request. Such knowledge bases can include how-to guides, troubleshooting playbooks, FAQs, and other technical resources to help employees solve their minor issues by themselves. 

Service catalog common workflows

Service catalogs are designed to streamline IT service management processes so all service catalogs have some common workflows. Every organization then customizes their catalog for their unique processes to facilitate their employees in the best way possible. Here are a few common workflows that an efficient service catalog caters to: 

Employee onboarding and offboarding 

Whenever an employee joins or exits an organization, IT departments are assigned with several IT processes. During onboarding, the employees are assigned relevant devices, their email accounts and devices get set up by the IT professionals, and they are granted access to relevant resources and the organization’s network. These actions can easily be taken from the service catalog without having to manually assign every hardware and software asset. This workflow is especially useful when several new employees are joining at the same time. A service agent can just pick the services from the catalog, provision devices and grant access, and resolve the onboarding tickets. 

Similarly, IT offboarding involves some crucial steps too. IT departments have to ensure that they revoke the employee’s access to business data and networks timely, deactivate their accounts, and take back assigned devices. They can create offboarding services on the service catalog and follow the instructions while checking off the action items to ensure that they have carried out all offboarding processes effectively. 

New hardware and software requests 

Organizations with a larger head count constantly struggle with fulfilling asset requests on time. With service catalog, employees get visibility on what assets are available to them so they can choose any software or hardware item and put up an access request. The service desk agents prioritize these requests based on need and urgency and fulfill the requests before marking them resolved. Since the employees can only submit requests for service items available for their departments or teams, the agents don’t have to spend time double-checking whether the employee is authorized to request a certain hardware device or a license seat. 

For example, employees in the support or customer success departments would be able to easily request new headsets, microphones, and similar equipment for streamlined and uninterrupted operations. They would also be able to add descriptions pointing out whether the request is urgent, or if there are any specific instructions. 

Reporting a faulty asset 

Reporting a device that is lost or has broken down is a core service management process. Once an employee submits a report for faulty equipment, the service agents have to take prompt actions to ensure that the equipment is either repaired or replaced as quickly as possible to minimize downtime. Managing such requests via a service catalog makes these processes simpler and easier to follow. Service agents will have detailed information on the equipment in question, along with the historical data to quickly analyze the problem and determine their next steps. They would also be able to send it for repair and update the ticket to reflect the actions taken. This provides the end-users complete visibility at every step of the process so they don’t have to reach out to the service agents repeatedly for updates, making the entire service delivery process seamless. 

Service catalog benefits

A well-structured service catalog offers numerous benefits to organizations, employees, and IT departments alike. Here are a few primary service catalog benefits: 

Enhanced self-service

Service catalog allows end-users to request catalog items and service offerings without any assistance from a service agent, encouraging self-service. Most service catalogs also come with an extensive knowledge base containing how-to guides for software installations, troubleshooting instructions for various situations, and more. Employees being able to solve minor problems on their own frees up service desk resources for more strategic tasks. 

Reduced issue resolution time

With centralized information on services and assets, IT professionals are able to resolve issues quicker. For example, if an employee has requested a new headset, an agent would see if the requested headset is available on the catalog and assign it right away instead of checking other sources of asset data. Enhanced issue resolution time can also improve operational efficiency in the longer run. 

Improved operational efficiency

With a well-structured approach to service delivery, employees and IT teams would be able to carry out more efficient service desk processes. Employees would have a helpful medium incase of any query or request, and IT teams will also get regular ticket emails instead of messages from different sources, enhancing productivity. In addition, service catalog automates the approval and fulfillment processes for most straightforward requests, speeding up service delivery, and improving operational efficiency. 

Real-time visibility for stakeholders

Robust service catalogs allow end-users to view the progress on their issues. For example, if an employee has created a ticket for a laptop replacement, they’ll have visibility on whether the concerned resource has approved the request or how much time it would take to fulfill the request and get the new laptop delivered and so on. Similarly, the service agent would also have real-time data on the device already deployed to the end-user, and would be able to quickly assess whether to approve a laptop replacement request or not. 

Standardized service delivery

As we have discussed before, most service offerings, especially the ones related to software and permissions, come with Service Level Agreements (SLAs). With SLAs, end-users know what to expect when requesting any particular service, hence setting fulfillment standards regarding service delivery. These SLAs also help ensure that services are delivered consistently and meet agreed-upon protocols.

Cost optimization

Analyzing the trends of service requests can help IT teams determine which services are more frequently used, and which ones are redundant. They can also generate reports on repairs and replacement requests to get in-depth information on asset utilization, which can eventually lead to more knowledgeable budgeting decisions in the future. 

Enhanced employee experience

By providing a user-friendly interface to self-service portals, service catalogs facilitate employees in various ways. As all services are listed in one place, employees and IT teams can eliminate back and forth interactions and instead, can rely on the catalog for all queries and requests. 

How to build a service catalog?

When implementing a service catalog, some organizations opt for an off-the-shelf option that fulfills their needs while others prefer to define their service offerings and build their own service catalog from scratch. Some service management companies also offer a predefined service catalog with customizable options. However, if you want to build an in-house catalog, here are the steps to guide you: 

1. Define scope and identify stakeholders

Some service catalogs are built to facilitate employees while others are more customer centric. The first step to creating a service catalog is to determine the business value you expect to derive by providing this offering. For example, you might want to focus more on optimized asset allocation or your main objective can be to improve operational efficiency so your service catalog should be designed accordingly. 

Also determine who the end-users will be, which teams would be handling the backend and which users will be part of approval workflows. Identifying these stakeholders will give you a rough outline of how the access and permissions aspect of the service catalog should be developed. It is also a good practice to involve these stakeholders beforehand so they can communicate pain points, identify areas that need immediate attention, and share ideas. 

2. Create a repository of service offerings

Now create a list of all the service offerings you want to include in the catalog. These offerings can include IT onboarding and offboarding, support services, troubleshooting assistance, and more. In addition, you can also plan out what information you want to give with every service offering. As mentioned above, most service offerings include descriptions, SLAs, approver’s information, service levels, and request procedures but you can customize these to your organization’s needs. 

3. SLAs creation

To ensure seamless service delivery and enhanced user experience, it is recommended that you create Service Level Agreements with every service offering. Creating SLAs doesn’t only set expectations for service delivery, but this practice also helps improve end-user satisfaction and overall experience. A set standard for service delivery increases accountability for the IT team, helping ensure that the services provided meet the agreed-upon criteria. 

4. Create approval workflows and request fulfillment strategy

Next step would be to map the approval workflows for all services. Creating individual workflows for every service offering is necessary because every service has its own fulfillment criteria and approval process. For example, putting up a request for a new headset is a simpler process than requesting for a new laptop or any other expensive equipment. Once the workflows are defined, you can assign responsibilities and set up request tracking mechanisms. 

5. Design an interactive catalog 

Designing the catalog interface is a crucial step because it can greatly impact end-user experience. The catalog should be user-friendly, easy to navigate, and visually appealing. While designing the catalog, make sure that the self-service portal is prominent and easily accessible to the users. Also ensure that the templates for pre-defined forms are short and to-the-point so the users don’t have to spend a lot of time raising requests. 

6. Publish knowledge base on self-service portal 

Once the functionalities have been created, the catalog would be ready for testing and deployment. Before you make the catalog go live, you’ll need to integrate the self-service portal with all relevant knowledge base collateral. To facilitate end-users, make sure that the self-service portal contains how-to guides, onboarding and getting-started guides, information on troubleshooting common issues, and other information regarding change management and incident management. 

7. Service improvement 

After deploying the service catalog across your organization, you can then start developing KPIs to track the catalog’s performance. Create custom reports and dashboards to analyze usage trends so you can study end-user behavior and identify areas for improvement. Some of the major KPIs to track are: 

  • Ticket resolution rate
  • Net promoter score (NPS) to measure end-user satisfaction
  • Cost per request 

Best practices for an effective ITSM service catalog

Once a service catalog is deployed, IT teams set up standard protocols to ensure that the service catalog is utilized effectively. Here are a few industry best practices for service catalog management: 

  1. Conduct training sessions across the organization to ensure that your end-users are familiarized with the application. This will help promote the services provided through the catalog and will result in faster adoption. Training sessions and workshops will also give the end-users an opportunity to ask questions and discuss scenarios, which will eventually result in better utilization of the service catalog. 
  2. As discussed above, involving all stakeholders during the creation of the catalog is crucial. This practice is just as important after the implementation phase. Get periodic feedback from your employees and service desk agents on the effectiveness of service catalog to ensure that it is helping the organization achieve bigger business goals. 
  3. Integrate your catalog with the existing ITSM and ITAM tools in place. Doing so will help consolidate data, making service delivery faster and more accurate than ever. 
  4. Cataloging and designing workflows for the service catalog can be a lengthy and tedious process. To avoid delays, build workflows for the most requested services and deploy them during the first phase of the catalog creation. IT teams can then focus on extending the catalog with more service offerings. 

A robust service catalog can act as a key driver in helping your organization reach optimal productivity and efficiency. Implementing a service catalog that enhances end-user satisfaction and improves IT service delivery helps support your key business objectives in the long run. 

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Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is the purpose of a service catalog?

    A service catalog provides and maintains an updated repository of services provided by the IT team. End-users can place requests to avail these services which streamlines service delivery and makes IT processes more efficient.

  • Who is the service catalog useful for?

    Service catalog is usually designed to facilitate customers and employees so they can have a single source of information and communication when availing IT services.

  • Who are the stakeholders in service catalog management?

    Employees (end-users), IT service delivery team, and organisation executives are the major stakeholders in service catalog management.

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