Imagine you’re at a restaurant. When you arrive, there is no menu. You decide to order what you feel like, however, every time you place an order, the response back from the kitchen is that they don’t serve what you’ve asked for.

After several attempts, you finally order something the kitchen says it can prepare for you. Yet, when your order arrives, you discover it looks and tastes nothing like what you imagined.

By this point you’re frustrated and angry, the waitron is exhausted from running back and forth, and the kitchen is pointlessly apologetic.

You are now faced with a choice: eat the food you have received and remain unsatisfied at not receiving what you want, despite having your hunger fulfilled; take your business elsewhere, causing yourself inconvenience, additional expense and dissatisfaction; or go home and make your own dinner.

The same applies to IT service delivery. If there is no “menu” of services, or Service Catalogue, there will be an inevitable disconnect between what customers need – or think they need – and what IT services the business is able to provide.

Unable to properly define what they want, customers will end up receiving mismatched and unsatisfactory solutions from an IT Service Provider, with the Service Desk as the single point of contact.

Conversely, the Service Desk will frantically try to meet requirements but will typically struggle or fail.

Without a proper list of the services that they offer, and what they comprise, Service Desk agents are disempowered to offer solutions which will answer the requirements of their customers.

Edward Carbutt, executive director at Marval Africa, says: “Service Catalogues standardise the communication between the Service Desk and the customer, creating a common language for better understanding of what’s available and how it’s delivered. It describes the services available, while enabling the service provider to know how to deliver a service in alignment with business objectives.”

According to Robert Hall, support analyst at Marval, Service Catalogues are becoming increasingly popular as businesses begin to recognise the need to develop a defined collection of technology-related services which helps Service Desks to deliver services more accurately, cost effectively and with fewer resources.

The benefits of having a Service Catalogue in place are many, advises Carbutt. Customers know what to expect and how their services will be delivered, and Service Desks, through understanding the business requirements, are able to better define which services to offer.

In turn, this helps to improve customer confidence in the capability of their Service Desk while reducing the likelihood of Shadow IT, where users engage their own services to cover gaps where their service requirements are not being met.

From a Service Desk perspective, an understanding of what services they have the capacity to deliver and how to deliver them, leads to a better ability to manage their service provisioning and provide a better customer experience.

They are able to reduce the strain on their resources by allocating resources based on requirement, drive down costs where money is leaked into unnecessary services or inability to meet SLAs, and improve their service delivery times.

“Furthermore, Service Catalogues help set the right expectations,” says Hall. “The customers can refer to the Catalogue to check what services are available, what the expected resolution time is, and how much it will cost them.”

This level of transparency engenders a measure of consistency, therefore creating confidence in the service provider that it can reliably meet their requirements. The entire value chain benefits when services are standardised to be delivered in a specific way, within set time frames and with an understanding the business objective.

“Despite gaining popularity, adoption of Service Catalogues still need a bit of work,” says Carbutt. “Many organisations either overcomplicate the process, or abandon the concept altogether, due to the perceived complexity.”

However, there are frameworks defined by Information Technology and Infrastructure Library (ITIL) that simplify the process and aid businesses by easily identifying key services required by vital business functions to support the business.

Says Carbutt, “The frameworks enable the business to set up a rules-based Service Catalogue which underpins the business’s operational goals. A step-by-step approach ensures that IT teams understand the business impact of the services that they offer, so that they are able to work in a minimally impactful manner. It further enables the business to select the right tools to manage their environment – tools which offer the required transparency and instill the right measure of confidence in their ability to deliver.”

“Much like restaurant menus, Service Catalogues are becoming recognised as invaluable tools for improved communications and interactions between customers and Service Desks, resulting in optimised business operations. It is a good start for consistent service delivery,” concludes Carbutt.


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