Imagine walking into a restaurant for lunch only to find there is no menu available for you to peruse. How will the staff provide you with information about what options are available to you? How will you know what ingredients and items are included with each meal? What will the price be of those meals? What about drinks or other items? Even if you manage to be served by a very efficient waiter who can recite everything to you flawlessly, how will you manage the large influx of information in such a small time and be able to choose what you want?
While this example may be far removed from the running of an IT organization the principles remain the same. A restaurant is in business to provide dining services to customers and through the use of their menu and the knowledge and skills of staff, customers can understand what is available to them and make effective choices in a simple manner. As an IT Service Provider we are in the business of providing IT services to our customers, but what mechanisms do we use to make these transactions simple yet effective for all parties?
For most IT organizations the Service Catalog provides this mechanism, and in many ways it serves as the foundation for much of the work involved within the scope of Service Offerings and Agreements. Without some agreed definition of what services we offer, what those services provide and which customers we provide them to, the development and management of Service Portfolios, Service Level Agreements, IT budgets and other related items become all the more difficult, and things only get worse as time progresses.
But it is not enough to simply have some form of Service Catalog. We must also seek to ensure that the Service Catalog is continually maintained and updated to contain correct, appropriate and relevant information to assist communication and transactions with customers.