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An IT service catalog is a list of technology resources and offerings available from the IT service provider within an organization. This catalog is intended to help the IT service provider efficiently and effectively manage and meet end-user expectations.
The IT service catalog differs from the IT service portfolio. The IT service catalog is a list of technology services available to users. The IT service portfolio is a complete list of all IT services and products, including those in development and those that have been retired, in addition to those currently in use.
An IT service catalog contains information about deliverables, prices, contact points and processes for requesting a service. Typically, a catalog will have two views: a customer-facing view from which business users can browse and select services and a technical view that documents exactly what is required to deliver each service in the catalog.
The customer-facing view of the IT service catalog is typically offered via a self-service portal that allows users to search for needed services and initiate service requests.
Best practices call for designing the customer-facing presentation of the IT service catalog in a user-friendly manner so that customers can quickly and easily find the information they need, such as the name of a particular service, a description of it, who can request it and how to request it.
Some IT service catalogs also provide the user with details such as the service category (i.e., infrastructure, software, hardware, support, etc.), Service-Level Agreements (SLAs), the service owner, the cost of the service, and timelines for delivery.
Some self-service portals also allow users to monitor and track the status of their service request.
The view for the technical team contains not only the list of services offered but also information that enable IT employees to effectively deliver services, such as details about approval processes for specific services.
History and development of the IT service catalog
The IT service catalog arose from the ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library), a framework designed to standardize the selection, planning, delivery and support of a company's IT services.
The IT service catalog is part of ITIL's Service Design publication, one of the five primary publications within the ITIL Lifecycle Publication Suite. The Service Design publication focuses on the architectures, processes and policies needed by the IT department to design services that meet the overall organization's needs.
Experts recommend that if an IT organization is interested in developing an IT service catalog, they begin by taking inventory of all the services they offer. Once the catalog has been created, someone in the IT department needs to manage the implementation, promotion and lifecycle of the catalog. When possible, it can be helpful to have workflow software automate service delivery.
Benefits of a service catalog
A well-designed and effectively implemented IT service catalog allows the IT department to efficiently respond to the user requests that tend to be continuous as modern organizations rely on technology to support or perform increasing amounts of critical business functions.
Proponents of IT service catalogs list other benefits associated with their use, such as providing users and the overall organization with greater visibility into the IT department and the value that technology brings to the organization as a whole. IT service catalogs can also reduce IT service delivery time and costs by improving efficiencies, and can also improve coordination of service delivery personnel and processes. In turn, these business process benefits of using an IT service catalog can improve overall customer satisfaction with the IT department.