As the technology and practices around IT service management continue to evolve, it is important to recognize the investments that can have the biggest impact on IT and on the business. One such investment is the service catalog.

The service catalog is a rising star in the IT organization, and with good reason. A service catalog done well is a very powerful tool—popular with users, quick, convenient, and highly cost-effective all at the same time. How great is that?

The service catalog is the best of all worlds when implemented correctly. Let’s look more closely at five steps to creating a successful service catalog.

1. Make the Service Catalog Easy

Few things in IT today—and more importantly, in IT's exciting future—are as transcendent as the concept of easy brought to life.

We all love what's easy, and an easy user experience inevitably makes us happy. When a user is happy, all of IT (and all the business) is happy.

We could make the argument that there is no greater single goal for the future of IT than a happy user. Think about the implications of this. From this fundamental experience and emotion, anything is possible. It is important that we resist any temptation to pack more into the scope of service catalog, thus protecting our mission of making it easy.

Above all else it must be easy, and no single flaw has doomed failed service catalogs more than a service catalog that grew and expanded to become complicated, slow, or confusing. Easy is wonderful, and we all know it when we see it.

2. Focus on the User Experience

A successful service catalog is only possible when we understand the primary goals of the user experience. A few questions we should consider:

  • What will the typical user of the service catalog need and how can we make them more productive?
  • How can we save the user's precious time?
  • What is critical in the service catalog experience to ensure the user returns again and again?
  • What is the best means to collect feedback in order to continuously improve the catalog experience?
  • How will we measure success?

No doubt, you can think of many other questions, but the key here is to place the user experience front-and-center when planning the design, build, and delivery of the service catalog. Putting a user at the center of this process is healthy for many reasons, and a great model for the future of IT.

3. Speed Is King

Part of the appeal of a service catalog done well is pure speed. The user gets what they want—and exactly what they want—in just a few minutes. No waiting, no messing around, no delays. Seems simple, but speed only comes with careful planning and design.

From the very beginning of making the service catalog a reality, we must focus on an end-result that gives us speed. Think in terms of seconds, then minutes. No such thing here as too fast. And remember this must include the fulfillment process following the user request. Our ability to fulfill what is requested by the user is a critical and necessary part of the process. Our work here is not done until the user has what they need in hand, if you will.

4. Leverage the Power of Automation

The IT organization is fortunate today to have access to powerful and proven automation tools that can help us in many ways.  These tools have advanced tremendously in the past five to ten years, and service catalog is a great example of a model that can benefit from these tools.

In fact, service catalog is a natural for automation and a highly performing catalog can be virtually 100 percent automated. This is good for everybody. This gives us the precious speed we are seeking in number three above, allows us to offer the catalog around the clock, helps to minimize the cost of fulfillment, and allows our talented people in IT focus on our high-touch and uniquely human activities.

Oh, and then there are the benefits of scalability and consistency. The upside of scalability should not be underestimated and the IT organization of today is charged with building solutions that can scale and change with the business. 

5. Reach Beyond IT

As the rebirth of IT unfolds before us, we recognize the opportunity to extend the influence and value born in IT, far beyond the IT organization. This is an important element of IT leadership—aligning with the business, influencing the business, and making the business better.

HR is a natural for the service catalog, offering a range of services to the business. Marketing is another natural, and there are many others. I would argue that this evolution of IT will go a step further and ultimately lead the business and become one with the business.

Let’s embrace the fundamental need and recognize the opportunity to bring real value to the broader organization and that brings us back to service catalog. The service catalog can be a catalyst for IT changing long-standing perceptions and becoming a somewhat unlikely ambassador across the broader organization.

Make service catalog a priority for your 2018/2019 projects in IT and you’ll be glad you did. If you already have a service catalog, it might be time to give it a tune-up or overhaul using these five elements.

Check out Kevin’s book on Amazon: The Practical Guide To World-Class IT Service Management, and follow him on Twitter @kevinjsmith4IT.