Service Management Blog

Building an IT Service Catalog: 7 Steps to Success (Part 2)

Mike Roper
8 minute read
Mike Roper
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In my previous blog post, I wrote about the first three steps in building an IT service catalog. If you missed that, check it out first.

Up to this point, we’ve gathered all the relevant information needed to build the catalog using the tools and technology that the business has at hand. Next, we’ll focus on the actions needed to bring the service catalog to life.

Those steps are:

  1. Using the proper tools to build the service catalog
  2. Gauging user acceptance of the catalog
  3. Deploying the catalog to end users
  4. Using metrics for continual improvement

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In our first three steps outlined in part one, we learned about user-specific needs and perspectives. With the next four steps, we’ll be incorporating that data so that our finished service catalog delivers a superior user experience of the service desk.

4. Using the proper tools to build the service catalog

One of the hallmarks of great service catalog software is the ability to quickly and easily build and deploy services to your end users. They should be presented with an easy-to-use interface that makes requesting and tracking those services through to completion a seamless and frictionless experience. Providing multiple channels and methods of interaction—such as email, web, and mobile—allows the user to quickly communicate with those fulfilling the requests. Additionally, the catalog should enable those delivering the services to process the requests that users have submitted in a quick and efficient manner. A good service request application will also have the flexibility to automate the fulfillment process whenever possible.

The service catalog toolset is the enabling technology for the digital workplace to aggregate the required services into one platform. What differentiates a proper tool isn’t just the way it delivers services to the end user, but how it’s intuitive for the business analyst to build services. By allowing the business analyst to step into the role that was once the domain of a developer, the tool establishes an immediate cost savings. And because the tool is so intuitive, after building just a few services from a prioritized list to become familiar with the process, the remaining services could be built in a very short time. Time is money, so accelerating the time to value realization creates a more agile service deployment, which results in cost efficiencies for the enterprise.

From my experience, critical features and functions of a proper tool include an intuitive user interface with easy drag-and-drop functionality for developers. This is important because you don’t need to hire an expensive development team to build services. Plus, an end user should expect the same consumer-like experience that they have with online shopping within the service catalog. One tool that offers all of this is BMC Digital Workplace.

Now that we have an understanding of the characteristics of a proper tool, let’s explore the inputs that allow for the creation of services that will excite your end users. The best practice for building each service that will be offered is to take all of the information gathered from service owners and other stakeholders and use the information to build out the service.

The kinds of information that you’ll use are:

  • Service titles and any detailed descriptions or instructions that will help the end user understand what’s being requested
  • Turnaround time of the service, which is calculated as the length of time from when the service is requested to when the requestor is notified of completion
  • Cost of a service, which may include the cost of equipment or chargebacks from external groups to fulfill a service, and is especially important for complex services requiring multiple groups to complete the request
  • Identifying what application will be used to fulfill the request, and depending on the service, the request may result in a work order, incident, or a change request
  • Questions to ask the user to collect the details that will be used to inform workflows, as the answers to the questions can help route the request or automatically select an appropriate application template
  • Input validation to be performed on user input: This step is important because a user or users may input data in several different ways. This data must be normalized to a standard pattern, which is critical for consistent reporting and ensuring that any data to be passed through external programming interfaces is in a format that is expected.

Once all the services in your catalog are built, it’s important to test each service throughout the lifecycle. It would be disappointing to present services to users that didn’t work and didn’t deliver the capabilities required for them to be productive. After all, there’s only one chance to make a lasting, positive first impression.

Now that the catalog is built, it’s time to present it to a small group of users to gauge the level of acceptance and adoption.

5. Gauging user acceptance of the catalog

Once the service catalog is built, tested, validated, and strategically aligned with business goals, pilot groups also known as focus groups can be developed and engaged to ensure that the planned catalog effectively serves the needs of the organization. It’s best to select a wide cross-section of users to represent the business as a whole.

The focus group is invaluable to the project as it can offer feedback that reflects how the group members experience and interpret the service catalog, as well as portray it to be beneficial to themselves and their colleagues. An engaged focus group will also help drive user acceptance and organizational change in a positive way. If they walk away from the focus group feeling heard and their needs well met, they’ll most likely communicate positively about the service catalog when interacting with their colleagues by displaying excitement about the release of the tool.

When gauging user acceptance of the catalog, the use of focus groups and a method of collecting and analyzing focus group feedback is essential for understanding what the user community is thinking about the catalog. It’s a good idea to keep the collected feedback structured and organized. This means providing the capability to report issues and provide feedback. This may be accomplished through a service catalog entry, spreadsheet, SharePoint site, or even the tool itself. The point is to collect as much information as possible from the focus group during the pilot. You should begin collecting data as soon as the pilot starts. Continue collecting and acting on the feedback until all of issues and/or concerns have been mitigated. This may continue up to the release date.

Key data points to collect in the tool feedback approach are:

  • Who – Identifying the user and what area of the organization that they represent facilitates conversation about the feedback. Being able to engage the focus group members about their feedback results in open communication between developers and end users.
  • What – Tracking the issue or feedback being reported is key to improving the service desk for the users. The major goal is to collect feedback and any issues with the interface or the services presented. It’s wise to collect as much information as possible to understand what the user was doing when the issue occurred and how this relates to what the user was expecting to happen.
  • When – Capturing when an issue occurred is also important. The benefit is that it can be used to diagnose a problem. For example, if a user reports that an error message was generated, the timestamp can be used to match the error in the appropriate log file, which helps for quick diagnosis and resolution.

Now that the feedback and issues have been collected, they can be discussed and analyzed amongst the project team and any changes can be incorporated into the service catalog. Whether it’s a customization, configuration, or an opportunity to better define any training or job aids, the focus group will be invaluable, as they’ll have contributed to one of the most critical areas of the service catalog effort: acceptance.

6. Deploying the catalog to your users

With the catalog built, refined, and put through its paces with the help of the focus group, it’s now time to release the catalog to the user community. On a technical level, this entails bringing services online within the tool by publishing them, enabling the links to the catalog so that end users can reach the services, and finally communicating to your users that the catalog is open for business. Having a strategic communication plan will go a long way in preparing your users for the new catalog. In general, a communication plan will state the goals of the project, have executive sponsorship, and outline communication channels to be used and how to send a solid message for each channel.

A note from the executive sponsor is a critical piece as it shows that the leadership has a stake in the success of the service catalog. Utilizing multiple communication channels that are available greatly increases the chances of reaching as many people as possible.

Those channels should include:

  • Word of mouth – Ask the members of the focus group(s) to share how their input was used and how the service catalog has helped them to do their work more efficiently.
    Email – Using a short series of email messages that lead up to the launch is an effective way to build momentum for the release of the service catalog.
  • Web – Having a short story or blog post on the corporate intranet will help gain visibility and awareness for the project.
  • Signage – Placing quick reference cards, signs, and posters in common areas of the office that advertise the benefits of the service catalog is helpful.
  • Info-sessions – Holding an event where the user community can come to receive information about the service catalog is a great way to accelerate awareness and adoption. It’s common to have giveaways at these events—such as mugs, pens, badge lanyards, etc.—to help get the word out and generate end-user interest. You could go so far as making it an event or party to gain even greater interest and mindshare of the end-user community.

Executing the communication plan happens throughout the lifecycle of the project, but it’s best practice to communicate early and often. This means that you should start communicating the release of the catalog to end users in a few phases. Start with an initial communication that states what is being done and why. The next communication should describe the benefits of the catalog, which will start generating positive anticipation around the service catalog. In the days prior to the release, let your users know that it’s almost here. Finally, on the day of the release, communicate once again using the channels noted above.

The catalog is considered to be deployed when the project moves from the development group to the operations and maintenance teams to handle any ongoing support.

7. Using metrics for continual improvement

Understanding what works and what user behavior indicates a need for improvement are crucial aspects of reporting and metrics. Only what is measured can be addressed, so identifying what and how to measure are critical to achieving clarity around how well the service catalog is performing.

Developing measurements, tracking, and reporting on them are accomplished in a manner similar to how the service catalog was defined and built. Overall, it’s important to outline what needs to be presented to management and when to demonstrate the value of the time and effort put into the service catalog has been realized. Being able to quantify results in terms of savings in money and/or labor is the key point when developing metrics.

Common metrics include:

  • Most and least commonly requested services
  • The number of unique visitors to the catalog
  • The number of services delivered on time and delayed services based on established service level agreements (SLAs)
  • Correlation between user requests to the catalog and those calling the service desk
  • Cost of delivering services to users (before and after the service catalog launch)

Metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) should be reviewed by service owners and the business on a weekly basis at first to determine if services should be added, modified, or even removed from the catalog. This provides the strategic alignment between IT and the business. The frequency of reviews can be modified to monthly or quarterly as the business sees fit once the service catalog is well established.

In the end, presenting a well-thought-out service catalog, which is strategically aligned with the goals of the organization, allows for the realization of value not only to leadership, but also to the user community who benefits the most from the service catalog.

Enabling rapid access to products and services that are not only easy to find and request but also are designed to be easily fulfilled will move the organization towards realizing a digital workplace through self-service. You’ll know that you have selected the right tool when the metrics that are collected show a decrease in service desk calls, shorter response times on delivered services, and fewer re-opened requests that require rework. Finally, using the data gathered to validate the effectiveness of the services being provided will drive continual improvement. And continual improvement makes possible constant innovation within your organization—and the advancements that result will leave a lasting, positive impact on the user community.

If you’re considering BMC Helix ITSM or another technology investment and could use planning assistance to achieve a user-friendly end result, fill out our contact form to speak with someone about our implementation services.

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These postings are my own and do not necessarily represent BMC's position, strategies, or opinion.

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About the author

Mike Roper

Mike Roper

Mike Roper is a Principal Software Consultant with BMC Customer Success Services assisting Federal government clients. He is an expert in the design and deployment of enterprise level solutions, system and data migration strategies as well as custom application development. He has more than twenty years of progressive IT experience that includes a wide variety of disciplines and industries. Prior to joining BMC, Mike was the primary BMC Remedy ITSM Technical Lead at multiple government agencies and commercial organizations ranging from civilian to defense as well as telecommunications and pharmaceutical industries. Mike advises clients from concepts into requirements and well-planned execution. He utilizes a solid and methodical approach that consistently achieves outcomes vital to businesses objectives.