By now, most of you out there (especially those who are business owners or managers) should be clearly aware of the effect that technology has on any profit-driven operation.  The growth potential of certain technologies affects not only the outwardly perceived services that a business provides to its customers, but also those provided internally to employees.  Growth in terms of technological capability isn’t something that can really be avoided.  The simple fact of the matter is that new developments are always taking place and if you’re not adopting these capabilities then it might be hard to keep up with the competition.  But the real question is, why would any business actively rail against keeping their technological know-how up-to-date?  Likewise, why would some organizations feel that keeping their services organized is of low priority or of minor concern?

Perhaps a more fitting analysis would be that most businesses simply don’t realize that their service catalog needs to be managed in the same way that other areas are supervised?   As one might expect, it’s impossible to verify that an IT operation is sound, under most circumstances, if there are “rogue elements” within the system that are unmanaged or not fully labeled / organized.  Likewise, if the goal is to take an inventory of all available IT assets and ensure compatibility across the board when multiple services are tapped, it’s going to be a much more difficult task if there is a lack of order present.  This is especially true when it is critical for certain individuals or groups to have access to certain services while others might not (perhaps for security reasons).

In a nutshell, this is what service catalog management is all about; keeping available and active assets / services organized so that they can function independently and as part of an interrelated infrastructure.  Needless to say, once you start adding multiple services to your IT roster it quickly becomes apparent that some form of managerial approach is needed in order to simply provide basic access (over any length of time).  Also, maintaining the functionality of these services depends on the ability of the IT workers to understand how the system is set up and how users are accessing specific services.

But just what is a service catalog anyway (you might be wondering)?  Basically, a service catalog is a facet of ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library) that seeks to provide a reference containing all the active services an organization offers.  As previously stated, a service catalog may also pertain to those services which are used by either customer or employee.

For each service listed in a catalog, the following information is presented:

  • An explanation of the service and/or it’s capabilities
  • An outline of the service level agreement and/or any related timeframes dictating restrictions on said service
  • Access protocols (who has admittance to use the service)
  • Expenses
  • How to use or execute the service

From an outward perspective, this information helps those who actually use these services to quickly grasp their basic capabilities and quickly determine if they have access to them or not.  Let’s imagine that we have two companies; company A and company B.  Both organizations happen to have an extensive number of services available to their customers; additionally, both tend to get a lot of daily site visitors / users.  In this example, company A has a perfectly managed service catalog in place while company B neglected to create one.  Because of the service catalog, many of company A’s users were able to determine what each service does and if they can access it.  The same couldn’t be said of company b however, their users flooded the organization’s call center and customer service department with thousands of calls, complaints, concerns and questions.  In other words, because company B neglected to consider service catalog management, they inadvertently jeopardized another one of their departments as well as the integrity of their IT infrastructure.

The previous case in point is of course just one example of how service catalogs help to ensure a smooth IT operation.  More recently, service catalog management has become very vital in the world of Cloud Computing.  In fact, service catalogs are now used during the building stages of private cloud construction to let users define their own services instead of having to rely on the vendor.  Generally speaking, service options might be split up into various categories, like inherent latency, costs, as well as performance.  In this way, service catalogs can be used with cloud computing infrastructure options to present users with self-service portals that let them build their own clouds.  So you might say that service catalog management for the cloud helps to establish sets of automatically deployable options that are clearly defined.

In summation, service catalog management is able to help ensure efficient and organized IT operation both internally and externally, with employees and customers alike.  Armed with a definitive list of services an organization can better serve their consumer base and maintain order (both short and long-term) with regards to their available IT assets.  Conversely, businesses that completely neglect service catalog management are actually opening themselves up to additional problems and decreasing the overall efficiency and usefulness of their IT resources.

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