10 Tips on how to build an Effective IT Service Catalogue

Technology and Digital


July 13, 2016

Defined as “a database or structured document with information about all live IT services, including those available for deployment”, an IT Service Catalogue can be an incredibly useful tool for an IT organisation. Successfully building and implementing an effective Service Catalogue however can be a challenging, time-consuming, thankless exercise, with many Service Catalogue initiatives being abandoned, or the finished Catalogue gathering dust on a shelf.

We have supported a number of different clients in implementing their Service Catalogue solutions. Based on our experience of supporting clients in this area, some of our key tips are as follows:

  1. Define your vision. It is tempting to roll up your sleeves and get on with creating your Service Catalogue – especially if your organisation has a pressing need for the tool. Set some time aside first to work out the problem you are trying to solve and how your Service Catalogue will help. Once you understand what you want to get out of your Service Catalogue initiative, define the scope, expected benefits and target maturity. Spending time articulating the vision upfront will give the project clear focus and help to ensure you stay on track.
  2. Tailoring is key. The Service Catalogue vision must be appropriate for your organisation. What works elsewhere, may not be practical for you. Start with ITIL and other best practice and then tailor the guidance for your organisation, factoring in elements such as your size, other IT challenges and priorities, customers and goals.
  3. The term ‘Service’ means different things to different people. From experience, this can be the undoing of a Service Catalogue project – even before it starts. What some people understand to be a ‘Service’ can be a ‘System’ or ‘Solution’ to someone else. To address this, spend time upfront defining what constitutes a Service in the context of the organisation’s Service Catalogue. Then use an example of an agreed real-life Service to drive stakeholders’ understanding of the Service definition.
  4. Don’t boil the ocean. Start with a narrow scope for your Service Catalogue project; consider focusing on just one service initially. Limit communications about the initial piece of work. Use this first implementation as a learning opportunity, understanding what works and what parts of your approach you need to tweak. Once you’re ready, widen the scope to other services.
  5. Involve the customer. Ensure your Service Catalogue customer is engaged from the outset. Key to the success of the project is to involve and, most importantly, listen to your customers from the start. Take time to understand their requirements, the terminology they use and challenges with the current ways of working. Without customer input the project will, quite simply, fail.
  6. Simplify, simplify, simplify. If your Service Catalogue is not easy to use, it will not be used.
  7. Build for scale. It is essential to ensure that your underpinning Service Catalogue tool is scalable. Is it straightforward to add additional services / amend existing services? MS Excel may work now but is this likely to become too unwieldy and hard to maintain in the future?
  8. Don’t forget the Management in Service Catalogue Management. Create a permanent role for the management and maintenance of the Service Catalogue, supported by appropriate processes and governance. Depending on the size and complexity of your Service Catalogue, this may not necessarily be a full-time position but can instead be a role that an individual / team performs alongside their other responsibilities.
  9. It’s more than just building a tool. Ensure appropriate effort is focused on supporting communications, training and user engagement to help drive user adoption.
  10. The Service Catalogue is never ‘done’. The implementation of a Service Catalogue should not be considered a one-off project. Instead, it should be viewed as an ongoing initiative that needs continual support and maintenance. If treated as a one-off exercise, it is likely that the Service Catalogue will quickly become out-of-date and worthless. Don’t let all your hard work go to waste.

In summary, building an IT Service Catalogue is not a straightforward exercise. If however you start small, invest the effort upfront and ensure you put the right post-implementation support in place, you will be well on the way to building an effective IT Service Catalogue for your organisation.